I can foresee a new Food Network show now that my kitchen has become an international cooking center. Here’s how the show would work: I invite good cooks from different countries to my kitchen to prepare dishes they love, while a few others participate in the food preparation, either by bringing ingredients, chopping up ingredients, stirring pots of bubbling ingredients, or bringing side dishes and desserts. The chef and assistants all talk at once to make the kitchen scene more realistic for a television audience. After they finish preparing the food, they sit down to a delicious meal (the smiles and ah’s are caught on camera), and eventually leave with a reasonably good idea of how to prepare it themselves.
The idea of inviting other people to my house to cook is not a new one, especially since we have a friend who is a chef and we’re not likely to put ourselves in the embarrassing position of inviting him over to observe our culinary skills. But in the last few months, three friends and I have baked Christmas cookies here, and about 15 Asian students in another friend’s English conversation class came over to bake Valentine’s treats. Today, three of us had a lesson in making paella, a traditional Spanish dish, under the direction of a fourth friend who was excited to share her father’s family recipe. These friends are from Mexico. When I was working I used to speak acceptable Spanish, but since I’ve retired I’ve had fewer opportunities to practice. The four of us met for lunch at a restaurant last month, and they gave me a hard time for forgetting so many Spanish words. Consequently, we decided to get together more often, allegedly for the sake of my linguistic improvement. I cooked the first lunch two weeks ago and that day Hortensia described her paella, causing Claudia, Yolanda and me to drool — even as we were finishing up one meal — in anticipation of the meal to follow. In addition to cooking and eating, the plan involved our speaking Spanish again, but this time, given that we were eating a dish that originated in Spain, they informed me that I would be expected to use the lispy Castillian “th” sound in place of “c.”
The photo tells the story best. We had a wonderful paella loaded with clams, chorizo, pork, chicken, squid, peas, pimiento and green beans, accompanied by a glass of Merlot and followed by chocolate pudding. Just before the guests arrived, my husband told me he didn’t feel well and was going upstairs to rest. His disappearance lasted only until the first cooking scents wafted upstairs, down the hall and through a closed door into the bedroom. At this point he came downstairs and told us he “would really like to join us for lunch.” In addition to enjoying the different flavors of the paella, the beauty of eating a heavy meal in the afternoon is that we could avoid the normal evening meal altogether (anyway, we’d probably still be napping by then). The promised exercise in using the “th” had been forgotten, luckily for me, since I couldn’t remember if you used it in place of an “s,” a “z,” or a “c” and only learned it was the “c” when I looked it up a few minutes ago. Next month we’re going to test Hortensia’s fabada, “the second most famous Spanish dish after paella.” (See someone else’s recipe here.) There is an underlying theme of cooking as a social event in the stories of cookie-baking and assembling a paella. I’m sure the Food Network will be calling soon. I wonder if they will wash the dishes and clean up the stove after filming.