quinta-feira, 18 de setembro de 2014

À la minuta - english

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At first the main idea for this blog wasn't to be a culinary blog. But ideas change, and when one has something important or relevant to share one doesn't care and shares it, even if it is about cooking. That culinary can be something important or relevant is, as a matter of fact, an idea that still amazes me, and was one of the many surprises of this year. But let's face the facts, against which there is no arguments.

I was feeling kind of blue in the past few days. I have read a lot on internet about sadness being part of life, and not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes it is important to feel sad. The problem is when we don't know the reason for the sadness - then it is a pain in the ass. If you know the bad smell you are feeling is a gas leak in the kitchen, you just have to go to the kitchen and end the leak; but what happens if you don't notice the source of the bad smell and tries to purify the air lighting a perfumed candle?

Anyway, I was feeling kind of blue, and decided to do some physical exercise and see some different places, in the hope that that would help to enlighten my mood. I took my favourite bike (because now I have 3, never ever again I want to be in the situation of having a bike stolen and being left on foot) and hit the road. The idea was to try to get to the North Sea in the shortest time possible. (For register sake: even though some people told me it would take almost 2h to get there, I got there in 1h15). I got there, found a comfortable spot in the grass atop the dyke protecting The Netherlands from an eventual rise in the sea level and spent some time alone with my thoughts. Then I came back.

Chilling in the end of the world. I am lying in the dyke, a huge man-made protection against the sea, stretching apparently forever in both directions. Very impressive.
Physical exercise and seeing different things inspire me to do more different things. And besides that, I was hungry enough to eat a cow by her leg (sorry, this makes much more sense in Portuguese) with what all the effort of pedalling the 25km and back always trying to go faster. And somehow going there and spending that time alone reminded me of the past, playing in the courtyard of my house and stuff. The logical answer was then making a dish I never tried before, which is very brazilian despite the name being kind of french: à la minuta.

On the way home I dropped by in the supermarket and talked to the butcher until I was completely convinced that beef he gave me was the same my mother used to cook when I was a child. And here a parenthesis about the price: two little pieces of beef costs 6 euros. That is more or less 22 euros by kg. This is R$67,00(!!!). In other words: I could not by any means screw anything up and in the end have to throw it all away. That is why I called the specialists.

I talked to my mom via Skype for 15 minutes so she could explain to me and to Iris - my friend from Spain whose assistance I requested in order to decrease the chance of failure and according to whom the Portuguese of my mother is much easier to understand than mine - how to make à la minuta. Instructions given, we started the actual work.

For those of you interested on my mother's receipt, it is as follows (and this time there is no chinese girl laughing of the fact that I eat cereal for dinner, because I don't do that anymore; there are, however, one argentinian guy who gives napkins and one indian guy who approves the french fries):

First of all put in a plate the beefs to be prepared. If they are not beaten up (to be softened), do yourself the job. Chop two cloves of garlic and spice the beefs with the chopped garlic as well with as much salt as you think is ok. Let both pieces of dead cow waiting in the plate.
Peel some potatoes off and chop them, in such a way the pieces are not too much smaller than a healthy littlefinger. After preparing the potatoes you can start cooking the rice and heating up the skillet. When the oil in the skillet is hot enough, put the chopped potatoes there taking care to not let them burn.
In paralel (paralel cooking is a very recent acquired skill) put a tad of oil in another pan, with a pinch of sugar (to give colour to the thing). Put the beefs in it and keep turning them, being very very careful so you don't have to sell your kidneys to buy more. After 4 to 5 minutes (according to the butcher) the beefs should be ready. It is time to add the half an onion you forgot to chop beforehand. You chop it at the speed of light and put it together with the beef. Let the onion have a good time with the beefs and then it is done. By now the french fries are already in the plate (properly covered with the napkin of the argentinian and properly approved by the indian). The rice too, or maybe it will take some more minutes.

After all that, we prepared the table, I took some pictures because it was too beautiful to miss the opportunity, and we started to eat as if eating were a thing that keeps us alive.
I don't usually boast about my cooking skills, because fried chicken and rice are easy, my pasta with chicken and tomato sauce has some unfortunate gastrointestinal side effects and my lentil has so far 50% success rate, but this time, with the help of the mentioned people, I did it right. The dish in my humble opinion was 2 salt pinches from culinary perfection. That was not a meal, that was a spiritual experience transcending palate, it was a time travel back to the peaceful times of my childhood, when the morning cartoon was over and I knew the lunch was about to start, and suddenly I am at table with my father and my mother, it is noon, the light enters through the window reflected in the brickwall of the school beside my house and filtered by the plaid curtains with knitted borders that my mother knitted herself, the tiles in the kitchen also feel like childhood, a warm wind lazily enters through the open door in the laundry following our dog Tasmania (she were named by my father, who liked exotic names; we also had another one named Pretoria), in the background it is possible to hear the high volume of the sound of my grandmother's television, perennially tuned on Silvio Santos or Raul Gil, the television and my grandmother, who at that time already couldn't hear very well, and also was possible to hear the children playing and running in the school, and the neighbour's parrot randomly shouting curses, and at the table there was the fluffy rice, the beef with onions and the french fries, crunchy outside and soft inside, and everything is so perfect and peaceful that I go as far as to tell Iris I am about to cry. And all of a sudden I am back to the present, the plate is empty and I have the sensation of having been transported very far in at least 4 dimensions.

Small tomatoes, the green thing that I don't know the name in english, rice, french fries, beef. To be a complete à la minuta still would be necessary fried eggs and black beans, but it was awesome like this anyway.
It is likely I won't be able to repeat the experience, because the whole thing depends on my state of mind. I can only say that cooking not only is funny, but also sometimes can be very therapeutic.

Tot ziens!

PS: a message to Me From The Past: fuck you with all this bullshit about the juice from the meat. The fact is that the juice you like to put over the rice is not something easy that depends on the person cooking, it is a personal matter between the cow and the pan, there is nothing much to be done about it. This time the juice was there, but how my mother made to have those luxuriant amounts of juice is still among the Inscrutable Mysteries of My Existence. Best regards, You In The Future.

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