It is a dangerous world in my house right now, and I am not talking about Covid-19. My kitchen has become a war zone and I am on the attack against boredom at the dinner table. We have been in a rut recently, only making the same family favorites on an almost predictable rotation. And I have been unhappy. My tastebuds longed for variety, my senses for a new world to explore, but I didn’t know where I wanted to start.
I have always been open to trying new foods. My mother was always excited that she could take me anywhere and I would be able to get by, while my brother would only survive if there was a fast food burger place nearby. I know that there are certain foods that I have absolutely no interest in even trying, such as escargot, frogs, octopus, or crab. I also know that if someone asks if I like Brussels Sprouts, I will not say no, because I have yet to try them and I may find that I love them.
My husband and I love watching shows together in the evenings and recently we have hit upon a few different series on Netflix that have caught our attention. We have very different tastes in shows, but we can always agree on cooking shows. That being said, a few weeks ago we watched a series titled “Restaurants on the Edge” which is about restaurants around the world that need a bit of a make-over to bring life back to them. It was amazing to see the different places and watch the professional chef help them work local culture and cuisine into their menus.
Then we found “The Chef’s Line.” This is what I now consider the ultimate cooking competition show. The premise of this Australian-based series is that they start the week with 4 home cooks who are proficient in a certain cuisine. They then face off against representative cooks from a restaurant which is known for that cuisine, starting with the apprentice chef and working up to the head chef on the final night. It really gave me some ideas for foods to try in cuisines I have never experienced, and sparked a craving for eggplant.
The past two nights we watched the 4 episodes of “Salt Fat Acid Heat” which teaches about the purpose and uses of each of those four components in cooking. I learned some really interesting information that I am excited to work into my daily culinary undertakings, as well as some recipes to try.
So yeah, with all of these influences, I have been trying all sorts of things on my poor family. LOL. Actually, my kids and husband are quite good about at least trying new things and giving me feedback. (Parents of small children, here is a quick tip, if you expose your children to lots of different foods from an early age and expect them to at least try things, they will not be as finicky as they grow up.) Meanwhile, my kids have even been stepping into the kitchen to learn fun new things and help out with meals even more than ever, since the menu is not the same old stuff we had fallen into the rut of making recently.
Today I made Moussaka. It is very likely that you are not aware of Moussaka even if you remember the scene from Disney’s Hercules where Hades references this lovely dish. And as fancy as it seems, it was pretty easy. It is layers of fried eggplant (I breaded mine though most recipes don’t do that), Parmesan cheese (Spoil yourself and get a block of cheese and shred it), meat sauce (I made a huge pot of sauce that I used for this and for spaghetti sauce for the kids who try a lot of things but don’t care for eggplant and are kinda sick of it), and topped with a bechemel sauce (which sounds intimidating but is just a basic butter, milk, and flour sauce). All in all moussaka is like a lasagna with eggplant instead of noodles and it turned out heavenly. I had no idea what to expect but I gave it a go and was not disappointed.
Basically, what I am saying is that it will not hurt you to try new things. If you are unsure, look at a bunch of recipes, find one with lots of positive reviews, and give it a go. You may find new dishes or even entire cuisines that you fall in love with. Or, you may find that you truly don’t like something. Either way, you have expanded your horizons and learned more about yourself. After all, if you are not willing to test your limits and try new things, then life will remain in that rut and you will miss out on some amazing dishes. (But if you put your foot down about Greek Twice-Cooked Octopus, I will be right there with you. No thanks! LOL).
If you avoid trying to cook new foods because you are overwhelmed and intimidated, just know that cooking is not as hard as people make it out to be. There are plenty of websites, books, and YouTube channels that exist to share cooking styles, tips, and techniques. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask here and I will do my best to help you learn what it is you desire to know about cooking. That is, after all, why I am here.
And I will continue to share my exploits with you, so you can see the good and the bad and hopefully find some recipes that will help you on this journey.