About 4 or 6 months ago, I moved into a personal apartment and began living on my own. This meant learning a new skill – cooking. Now, in-spite of having lived for over 20 years, my character never invested any level-up points to the “cooking” skill. Barring a certain incident, … it might have been about … 7 or 18 years ago when the cauldrons in the kitchen first beckoned me. After some trial-and-error, “instant noodles” became a recipe I could safely cook on my own. Which was all there was to my “cooking” skill for many years to come.
A unique opportunity presented itself to me as I began to study the prospect of living alone. It could be the chance of a lifetime for me to answer the age-old question of; “Can a man live on bread alone?”. Not knowing how to make bread, the question had to be … modified … to fit my situation. The new age-old question became; “Can a man live on instant noodles alone?” Answering this, would forever carve my name in the annals of Philosophy! And I wouldn’t even need to eat the same food everyday either. With so many brands of instant noodles in today’s market, it would be child’s play if I wanted a change of taste. Taking the idea even further, it wouldn’t be just taste, but the cooking formula as well! Undercooked? Overcooked? Anything in-between? A golden opportunity, if there ever was one!
Unfortunately, mistress common sense barged into the room, grabbed me by the neck, threw me on the bed of reason, stripped me of all the above philosophical ideas and proceeded to have her way with me. A guy can’t really say no when confronted in such a manner, so I asked Lady insanity to hide under the bed and wait until we could get some extended quality time together. Which would probably happen sometime in the unknown future, but fortunately insanity is very patient.
The drama aside, I needed another way to feed myself to appease mistress common sense. As in any good RPG, the answer was obvious – my character would need to level up and invest a few skill points in cooking. Again, as with any good RPG this means to ask the local expert for advice. There’s only one such expert I know of – my Mother.
Usually, I wouldn’t have any issues with approaching my Mom for anything. We like to consider ourselves as a nice loving family and keep no secrets between each other. At least, that’s the official story. I used to own a personal stash of internet porn which went missing and it’s too embarrassing to ask family for help in searching for it, but … that’s another matter entirely.
Coming back to the issue of cooking, there is another … aspect … which I haven’t mentioned so far. In my 20+ (or so) trips around the sun thus far, I have subjugated my family to the horrors of what anyone with 0 skill points invested in cooking would produce – burnt, crisp, charcoal quality toast was fed to my only brother; instant noodles were cooked for so many consecutive nights that both my parents grew sick; a nameless something was created one fine day and fed to my cat. I could go on-and-on with a more examples, but the end result is that my Mother became very leery of permitting me to do anything associated with cooking in the kitchen. There have been times when she would get a certain, strange look in her eyes as I approached the stove.
It wasn’t a hopeless situation. I was still her child after-all, and so, did what any other child would do when wanting something from their parent. No, not bawling tears – it doesn’t work against my parents and besides, that’s a baby’s tactic. We’re not looking to get breast-fed here people! Oh no, it was the other thing. Anyone with a loving parent knows what I’m talking about. It’s too embarrassing to mention.
Fortunately, it worked and I convinced my Mother to teach me cooking. The first few attempts were … well … not-so-great. Eventually, after weeks of practice (and eating my own gunk) I was able to make rice!
The rice I make can’t really be called good or even tasty, but at the very least it can be considered edible. With so few points invested in my cooking skill, a full course gourmet meal is out of the question, but I am capable of making simple dishes and other small items. Which brings us back to the topic of this post. Considering the state that I was in, my Mother gifted me with the following piece of advice – “do NOT attempt to deep-fry anything without someone around to help you”.
So like any good cooking student, without anyone around to help me in-case things go wrong, I decided to try out the dark arts of deep frying anyway. Now, I’m not stupid enough to just walk into the kitchen, dump oil in a pan and set it ablaze (Though, now that I mention it, think it would be fun to try out. Just once!). Instead, I decided to approach the matter as an engineering problem. Those are a variety of puzzles that I’m pretty good at solving and, surprisingly enough, the tactic helped put things in a better perspective.
When solving an engineering problem, the first thing to do is research – books, youtube cooking videos and what-not. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t understand it, which meant that I wouldn’t even start until I had all the theory firmly ingrained in my head! Next is the matter of preparing the workshop and tools. Or in this case, the kitchen, ingredients and utensils. The local supermarket was most helpful in this endeavor. This, being a new kind of problem, meant that the solution would have to be as simple as possible. What does that mean from a cooking perspective? It means that only those “ready-to-cook” items from the supermarket’s frozen section would be tried out. I decided to go with a packet of chicken fingers and french fries. Once all that was setup, I was ready to begin my first deep-fry style cooking!
First, a non-stick pan was taken out and about 400ml of vegetable oil was poured into it. Next, the induction cooker was set to “deep fry” mode. It was fascinating to watch as the oil warmed itself in the pan and began flowing around. The flow isn’t easily visible and I had to turn & squint my eyes from the side of the pan to see it, but once the oil appeared to be … well, hot, it was time to start the main show!
A few frozen french fries were taken out of their plastic bag and slowly dipped into the hot oil. This had to be done very carefully. The fries started sizzling as soon as they touched the oil, which in turn caused some of the oil to leap out onto my bare hands. I think it was a minor miracle that I didn’t make a bigger mess of the situation. After that, it was a waiting game. Eventually the fries in the pan changed their color to the tasty golden-brown shade. Using my plastic spatula, I rinsed out the cooked fries and added in the next batch. This second set cooked a lot faster. From then on, it was a fairly repetitive procedure. Occasionally, a bit of salt would be added to the cooked fires. Not sure how long it took but in the end, I think the results speak for themselves. Here’s a picture of what I made,
Not bad for a first try, even if I do say so myself!
Up next were the chicken fingers. This too was cooked in a similar fashion. Oddly enough, they cooked a lot faster than expected. Perhaps it was because I had already used the oil to cook the above fries, but first few chicken pieces that were put in? They got over-cooked. After playing around with the heat settings on my cooker, the problem was no more. Here’s a picture of my second deep-fry dish,
Can you guess which were my first batch? (hint: the 3 black ones on the left)
Let me tell you folks, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that you successfully did something others more experienced than you, told you not to. At this point all that was left to do, was to settle down in front of my computer, play a video and enjoy the meal!
Speaking of enjoying the meal, I decided to do it with the show We Without Wings. Surely, something with such a nice name and cute cover picture would be a wonderful romance/drama story, right? Sadly, such was not the case. The show is so full of … questionable … fan-service, that I could neither enjoy the plot (if there was one) or the fan-service itself. Now, I like the latter as much as most folks, but this particular show does it with such an arrogant “In YOUR Face” attitude that you can’t help but cringe in agony!
Which in retrospect, is probably a good thing as it prevented me from over-eating. Tells you a lot about the show, doesn’t it? Seriously folks, do NOT watch it!
Especially, if you are eating something you cooked yourself. The food deserves better.