22 August 2010

What you do when you're not in Hungary

It occurs to me that most of you have some inkling of what a person might do, if a person were not in Hungary. You yourself have likely been that type of person on more than one occasion. But I think that we could all benefit from another perspective, another voice in the growing body of literature on this topic. And I'd like to be that voice. So I'm going to be that voice.

When a person doesn't go to Hungary, his friends often go on vacation. So he resigns himself to being alone in the city. And he drops this ridiculous third-person story-telling style.

Anyway, I went to IKEA to buy a knife. I love that store. I went through the self-checkout, because I thought it was weird that I went to a furniture store and bought nothing but an enormous knife. And I didn't want to get a weird look from a cashier. Anyway, now I can cut things. Like my fingers. I only have two visible scars at the moment, but production is ramping up, and the five-year plan involves the accidental amputation of 1-2 fingers. Either that, or the learning of better knife technique. I'm open to both possibilities.

The entire complement of knives in my life, pre-IKEA.

After that, I went to ethnic grocery stores. You kind of need to, in order to get ingredients that make things taste good. The Turkish supermarkets in Neuk├Âlln (which is where I'm living) are particularly cheap and excellent. After the ethnic supermarkets, I still needed a carrot. So I made one last stop, at Real, which was a pretty unimposing building. Except when I went inside, it was huge! It was like a store in America! There was even an international foods section. I bought a carrot, but then I went a little crazy and also bought fleur de sel, which nobody really needs, and which is really expensive. I also bought coconut milk, because I'd forgotten to get it at the Asian supermarket.

Then I started cooking in earnest. I first made chicken stock. Mark Bittman said it wasn't hard, and I believed him. So I cut up a whole chicken and cooked it in water with some onion and carrot and a couple of bay leaves. I had to split it into two pots, because I didn't have one big enough. I used a tea-strainer to scoop off the foam.

The chicken with my new knife

Ingredients for stock (excluding water)

In my cooking, I am using Mark Bittman's book "How to Cook Everything." I recommend this book to all and sundry. Mark Bittman is so helpful and encouraging. He stresses the importance of good ingredients, and believes that everything can be made from scratch, often without much extra effort. He also is always telling me to use a food processor. I guess I'll buy one? I am keeping a food diary, wherein I record what dishes I have made (there are four entries already!), and what I would want to add or subtract the next time around. For instance, when I made chicken soup, Chinese style (with homemade stock!), I decided that it would have benefited from some radishes. Next time, I will remember to add them.

I froze the rest of the stock in an ice-cube tray, and now I have little stock cubes. It's great.

Anyway, the result of all this cooking is a kitchen that looks like this:

If this post was a lot more culinary than you expected, you're not alone. But it's too long, so I'm cutting it off. The next post won't be so much about food.


  1. Speaking of food, just came across this site:
    it seems to be good for Russian recipes, if you're interested in making anything Russian :)

  2. Dustin! I can't wait to get a place and start cooking!