March 30, 2010

Does anyone remember the movie Starman?

I saw it when I was quite young and may not have fully appreciated the real plot/subtext. So perhaps this analogy is off base (or unfair to Jeff Bridges' Oscar nominated performance), but nevertheless: I feel like Starman. I look like an adult human, but standard daily tasks keep giving me pause …sometimes long pauses - almost gratuitous pauses, like I’m exploiting your willing suspension of disbelief.

But here’s Exhibit A) A dinner I cooked for us and an archaeologist friend of The Archaeologist:

It’s not a fancy nor complicated dinner (and the above picture doesn't make it look too appetizing even). I’ve made it numerous times before, often as a last minute meal. But enter Starman. Starman circles the grocery store over and over as if mesmerized by the many aisles and raw meat. Finally deciding on chicken and peppers over rice, Starman is pleased with herself – she’s found food to make for dinner. She’s feeling more like a regular adult human until she realizes that the dish needs spices, and it turns out that very few of the spices have familiar names – return Starman. Let’s stare at spices for a while alternating between expressions of dumbfounded unfrozen caveman and Sherlock Holmes trying to glean some obscure context clue. Meanwhile, Half-O is oblivious and/or unsympathetic to the Starman syndrome – she hasn’t seen the movie and is sick of sitting in the grocery cart. So she decides to knock a bunch of little dishes to the ground so I could look like an awkward and apologetic mime in front of an unfortunate store employee who thankfully was willing to participate in a game of charades. Here’s the dish we took home:

It was only mildly chipped – unlike the other four that were smashed to smithereens. They were like $0.75 a piece. But convert that to the going rate for dignity, and it was kind of expensive. I’m the idiot that spends near an hour at the grocery store – a good chunk of that time staring at 5 shelves of spices – and has no idea what her child is doing. But also – who places a random stack of breakable dishes at the height of a child buckled into a shopping cart? Also, why did the U.S. have to go with pounds instead of grams? I think the Declaration of Independence, the subsequent wars/victories, the Louisiana Purchase et al, and prior to 2008, a dominant economy are enough to prove that we’re our own man. Having our own weights and measures just seems haughty at this point and is currently a bit of a hassle for me.

Oh – and as for the spices, I was hoping I got garlic, pepper, and ginger. I got garlic, pepper, and cinnamon. In my (re: Starman’s) defense, I don’t think the store had ginger. But, I figured ginger and cinnamon are kind of similar – both can be sweet but also have a bit of heat – so I used it anyway – just not very much.

Alright, now it’s time to cook the food. There’s some more pausing as Starman debates how best to clean the peppers – do I need to use bottled water? Is that a waste? Does the oil get hot enough to kill the germs? Then there’s the stove:

I don’t mind that it’s small. The height is a bit of a worry as Half-O can reach it, but she understands hot and steers clear. What summons Starman is that it requires that I light a match and hold that lit match near flowing gas in order to get a burner going. I realize this is not a problem for most people. I, however, have a slight fear of fire. Fire bad (sorry, I can't find the actual clip). I don’t think I lit a match until I was a teenager. But I did it, and then had to do it like 10 more times before the chicken and peppers were done as I kept turning off the gas when I was just trying to lower the heat.

So Starman made dinner, and it was good (we just had ice cream for dessert). I guess I should be glad that I didn’t have to begin my journey of discovery in the buff like Starman – customs would have been a bit more interesting. Do you think we would have been flagged, or moved right through since I clearly had nothing to hide?


Melanie W. said...

Wow, you guys made it there! Your experiences bring back many memories of our first days in Quito! Not a lot of fun, I must say. :) But hopefully you'll feel more settled over time. Your stove reminds me a lot of the one we had. And why could we only find the smallest, most flimsy matches?! We ended up buying one of those lighter torch things with the long end, and it saved my life. Plus, Josh no longer had to light the stove every time I cooked. :)

Seymour Chase said...

The lighter torch is a great idea! Thanks. I'll go look for one after Semana Santa.

Chou said...

I'm a big fan of the lighter torch, they save my life, too. Way to conquer cooking! My sister-in-law had many a similar experience when they moved to France.