Kitchen Chemistry

No one likes to be the one who accidently buys diet version of a food product. This afternoon, we narrowly avoided purchasing "Kosher Chicken Broth. no fat." Luckily we caught the small print. No fat? How do you make no fat chicken broth? Horrible.

The above diet cream soda was a stow away. I am certain that the individual who has my regular cream soda enjoyed the taste of real sugar. It's uncanny how stevia tastes exactly like aspartame or whatever fakery is in diet Pepsi and Coke sodas. Again, horrible.

Sometimes things go well in the kitchen and other times... I confuse baking powder and baking soda while making breakfast. Into the compost bin goes the last of the maple syrup, drizzled onto somewhat burnt pancakes that taste like an automobile battery. All that's left on our plates is a slice and a half of bacon each.

Tonight's dinner featured a couple of those elements. I abandoned Jared who was working on a Vietnamese recipe, kind of. Does anyone of eastern European descent have over 50% of ingredients required to make any Asian recipe, unless it is in Betty Crocker's cookbook? Regardless, the chopped cilantro from our garden smelled great, and we had dried Asian mushrooms. It was a start.

We've already established that I have a tough time reading labels and distinguishing one white powder from another, so I'm not a great cook. Jared is. I often help by chopping vegetables and filling pots with water, or doing the dishes. Tonight, I did the last two and meandered off to write about Indiana Dunes and Cheesequake State Park.

"Could you put on a cup of water for the mushrooms?" Jared asked. "We'll make a tea and then use the mushrooms for dinner also. Is that ok?" Jared's been reading Mycelium Running, a book about using fungi for ecological restoration and cultivating them for food and medicine.

I'm not a big mushroom person, but I'm trying. Last night when Jared asked, "What would you give someone who spent a couple hours leading a nature hike in the cold and had to shout to be heard by 18 hikers?" "Chamomile and honey," I replied and put water in the kettle. I added some reishi (medicinal mushroom - very popular in Chinese medicine, I believe) that my mother in law had given us awhile ago. I thought it might add a soothing and mucilaginous angle to the tea. It worked - no sore throat.

When I returned to the kitchen after my writing was done, and said "Mmm, smells really good." Jared stated, "I've made a meal that you probably will not like, and I may not like either." I had detected a mild burning aroma while typing, but was too selfish to see if he needed help.

"The noodles are not rice noodles, but tapioca, so they're somewhat stiff. The label just said 'vermicelli.' "

"Did we get them at the Asian market?" I asked unnecessarily as Jared pressed the noodles down into the skillet with the spatula.

"Yes, so I put them in the skillet to try to make one of those fried dishes." I saw an image of a golden deep fried noodle dish--Bird's Nest--that my family once ordered at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Phillipsburg. I glanced at Jared's spatula mashing the greyish noodles. He continued,"The dried mushrooms are rubbery, too."

"Well, the pieces are small," I said cheerfully. "I tried to chop them up."

"Well, it smells really good. How about a cream soda?" I replied with even more cheer.

"OK! How about you add some milk?"

"Of course!" The soda idea worked, I thought, for both of us.

I picked out a couple special glasses and poured half the soda in each and added a bit of milk. I put them on the table while Jared dished out the food.

I took a sip. "Mmm. Oh yuck, this is diet!"

"What! How could they sell that? It doesn't say that on the box!"

Some dirty dog had slipped one Virgil's diet cream soda into the four pack. Like Russian roulette, I chose the one clunker soda in the box.

Who did this to us?! Who ruined this meal?! Who hates us?! we shouted.

The meal actually tasted good, and I dumped the stevia soda and refreshed our glasses with real sugar soda. [Our neighbor made cookies with granulated stevia and reported that they were unacceptable for even the compost].

Happily, we chewed on the noodles and meatballs and Brussel's sprouts (my addition to the meal).

I asked, "What happened to the mushroom tea?"

"It's smell didn't recommend it."

"What did it smell like, Jar?"

"Wet pets."