Heat in the Kitchen

I thought that there wouldn’t be too many people at the grocery store on a Thursday morning, at the end of the month. Boy, was I wrong. Fortunately, I got to talking with a nice lady in the line and it helped pass the time.

She noticed a box of couscous in my cart and wanted to know all about how I prepared it, telling me about the one and only time she attempted to make it and miserably failed. After explaining how to cook it, she asked, “What do you eat it with?” and I replied “All sorts of saucy dishes, even rougail saucisses! When she heard that, you would’ve thought, by the look on her face, that she had swallowed a fly, no wait, maybe more like a hedgehog.  I was ready to catch her had she fainted, but she managed to squeak out “You eat rougail saucisse with couscous?” I sheepishly said yes, and even that it was a delicious option to change things up a bit. She nodded and smiled but I could tell she thought I was crazy.

I feel like this example of utter bafflement pretty much sums up my relationship with Creole cuisine. I love to cook, take pride in constantly trying new things and pushing my culinary limits. I love the food here, so naturally I have tried to recreate it at home. Even though I am well aware that I do not have one Creole bone in my body, the numerous cookbooks I have invested in don’t make it easy either.

One of the books has the recipe, a picture with all the ingredients, and step-by-step pictures of how to make it. But what do you do when the recipe says 3 eggs and there are only 2 in the picture? Or what about when a recipe calls for shallot but then talks about an onion instead? I mean, I’m used to, and now enjoy improvising after years trying to find certain American ingredients for some of my beloved recipes. But when you’re using a local cookbook, written by a local person, using local ingredients, why can’t the final outcome taste like the melt-in-your-mouth vanilla duck at the hole-in-the-wall down the street?

Maybe that’s just it. I have often been disappointed with the Creole food I make, but rarely when I buy it from a shack or eat at a restaurant. After only a year of living here, is it already time to throw in the towel, retire my mortar and pestle and get out of the kitchen? I think I’ll invite my supermarket friend to come over for lunch; she’ll make the rougail saucisses and I’ll make the couscous.

Vocabulary

grocery store = supermarché
line = fil d’attente
cart = caddie
to swallow = avaler
fly = mouche

hedgehog = hérisson
to faint = s’évanouir
sheepishly = timidement
to nod = hocher la tête
utter = total 

bafflement = confusion
recipe = recette
beloved = cher
outcome = résultat
hole-in-the-wall = boui-boui 

disappointed = déçu
rarely = rarement
to throw in the towel = jeter l’éponge
mortar = mortier
pestle = pilon

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