Beer and water to drink
raspberries and chocolate covered pretzels for dessert
A relatively simple meal, cooked and consumed under somewhat unusual circumstances. Unusual for me, anyway. Maybe other people live this way, but I don't think so.
A cold, wet Saturday in early December cries out for comfort food. Add the weather and the season to a house-sitting gig at a bachelor pad (a former boyfriend's), a minuscule income and a lot of driving and living out of the car, and you have a rough idea of the unusual circumstances. And probably more justification for the comfort food.
What made me decide to cook up a pot of chili and make corn bread from scratch in a kitchen that usually sees canned soup on the electric stove and frozen pizzas in the toaster oven as its most complicated cooking events?
The challenge? The need to flex my cooking muscles? Something else?
I like to cook. I haven't cooked in my own kitchen for months now. It's over 500 miles away. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner at my sister-in-law's house with kids milling about and a family dinner at stake. I was unusually calm and it turned out okay, but there were a lot of short cuts.
Here in the bachelor pad, I am cooking for myself with no time constraints. I can cook and eat or not eat. No one is watching. I did go out and purchase a nice pot to cook this chili in. The bachelor pad kitchen has one old enamel pot that, as I found out the last time I cooked something in it--spaghetti sauce, I think--has a tendency to chip when I knock the side of the steel spoon against the side as I have a habit of doing. I tell myself that all the nifty kitchen equipment I'm collecting now will go to furnish my own kitchen in the place I'll get once I land a full time job.
Yesterday, I collected scraps of food I had at my other 'place'--my sister-in-law's house, where I live in the basement and sometimes watch the kids and cook meals--and brought them here. Sliced red and green pepper from the Thanksgiving crudite (it was only a week ago), onion halves, herbs and spices, things I use regularly that the kitchens in my current orbit don't have in stock. I included flour, baking powder, pretty much everything I would need to make anything, knowing that the bachelor had next to nothing, and if he had anything, it was probably at least two years old.
Today, I went shopping. Again. I did some shopping yesterday, too. It somehow made sense to go to the Fresh Market close to the bachelor pad where they have a very nice butcher shop to get some things. I got some other things today that were either not available or way overpriced at the Fresh Market.
I don't know where the time goes. I get lost in all these unfamiliar stores with their strange layouts and selections. Today I went to the "Jewish 'Giant'" in Pikesville, where they have several Kosher aisles.
In between poking around the interwebs, practicing a Brahms symphony for a sure-to-be-dreadful concert tomorrow and I don't even know what else, I cooked and baked in a tiny little ill-equipped kitchen.
In order to bake in this kitchen, I have to empty the oven of the sad pots and pans that reside within. This leaves little counter space on which to work.
Before getting to the chili and corn bread, however, I thought I'd make some focaccia. Not regular focaccia, but something "healthy" with quinoa and flax meal and oatmeal, and some of those herbs I grabbed yesterday (I also grabbed my last envelope of yeast). I also used most, if not all of the olive oil the bachelor had on hand.
Then I made the chili. Browned the ground chuck I got from the very nice butcher shop, chopped up the onion halves and pepper slices, mashed and minced some garlic, drained the can of diced tomato, drained and rinsed the pinto and black beans, dug out the spices.
It all went into the nifty new pot along with some tomato puree, some bittersweet chocolate chips, some beer and some salt. The ground chipotle pepper got away from me a bit, but I don't mind the heat.
I made some cornbread, too, in my nifty new 9" round cake pan, with some smoked cheddar and the last of my first jar of maple cream (I have one left). Me with no money and I splurge on kitchen equipment and smoked cheddar. The maple cream I bought before I left New Hampshire, when I still had some income.
As the chili 'festered' and the cornbread baked, I scratched away at the Brahms half-heartedly. It's been a while since I've experienced a Maryland December--were they always this dreary? I must have been too busy to notice before.
I ate the chili and the cornbread but decided against trying to throw together a salad, even though I bought salad things at the Jewish Giant today. I just wasn't into it. I wasn't into clearing a space at the tiny kitchen table to eat, where I would be in close proximity to all the mess I had just made, so I took my bowl into the living room and watched the Brahms symphony on YouTube while I ate. (It's not going to sound like that tomorrow).
Hey, there's some beer left!