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There are always dishes I don’t really like to cook, simply because I am not comfortable doing them. One is turkey, I always found that a difficult thing, I think it has more to do with the mythology around turkeys and cooking them. The other is Prime Rib Roast Beef, this is a piece of meat I would not want to make a mistake by over cooking it. I like my roast beef rare or at most medium rare. I also am not comfortable making dough for pies or for any other dish. Basically though I can cook and prepare meals and time them properly so everything is ready at the same time. I am comfortable pairing meals and wines correctly. I know how to prepare pre-dinner drinks and learned that the only 3 drinks acceptable prior to a meal, if you follow the old classic approach, a glass of sherry, Bacardi and soda or Cinzano (red vermouth) on the rocks.

I remember in 1986 Christmas in Mexico City, I had arrived on posting in July of that year. I made enquiries from colleagues about where to go to buy a turkey. Thing was in those days, few people in Mexico ate the birds, though they are indigenous to the country I was told. So one of the embassy garage mechanics said that the local butcher probably could get one for me. So I placed an order and the bird, was a wild turkey, dark plumes and all that. It was brought to the Chancery by someone, I got a call to come downstairs for a delivery, on the sidewalk in a plain cardboard box was the bird, plucked and ready to cook. Since I lived just one bloc away behind the Embassy I took it home right away to put in the fridge. Will came from Ottawa for Christmas and he cooked it. Remember Mexico City is at an Altitude of 5000 feet above sea level and nothing cooks the same as if you would be at sea level, but that is a story for another time.

As for roast beef well though we have it now at home, in a previous life it was something I usually had in dining rooms of hotels, a great show of carving etc, with lots of silver trays.

But if I may digress for one moment, when I was serving in Mexico, we could not bring our cars from Canada. There was some kind of strange rule the Mexican government had instituted on importing cars, it only applied to diplomats. This was the period of the K cars by Chrysler. So we all had K cars, awful and simplistic cars. I did not want to buy one and so when I needed a car I would borrow from a colleague. One such night I went out with my colleague’s car and stopped for a few minutes at another colleague’s house for a drink and then we all went out for dinner in Los Insurgentes area of the D.F. I had to park the car and at the entrance of the parking lot the attendant pointed out to me with alarm that the whole front portion of the car was missing, the grill, the mountings around the lights and the bumper. I had been a victim of one of the many auto part rackets in the city. I was mortified given that this was not my car. The next day at the Embassy I went straight to speak with our car dispatcher and the fellows in the garage what could they do to help me. Not to worry Senor leave it with us, a few hours later the car was returned all was in order and it cost me $50 USD. I had no idea how the guys did it. I later learned that they knew who had done this and went to see them and got the parts back. I was relieved and could return the car to my colleague, I told him what had happened and we laughed about it. In any Embassy the local staff can be very helpful.

To return to my cooking story, I saw my mother cook a lot and in those days it was from scratch, no process food and no frozen whatever. Later in life we always had someone prepare meals when I lived abroad or went out to dinners etc. So I became very dependent on help at home who would do pretty much everything around the house and garden.

We have a friend who makes wonderful cakes and great pastry, he has the eye for it and every year for the last 44 years has given us one of his wonderful fruit cakes. Now Will makes bread and all manner of pastries and cakes. I am still not comfortable with pastry dough making.

Today my dear friend Dr Burrito was asking about turkey cooking, I suggested the method of Sous vide which means that the bird is cooking in the oven in a bag, it makes the most excellent turkey and so juicy, fool proof.