Where Did I Put the Xanthan Gum?
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Bob Deakin
I do a lot of cooking, with a particular zest for Asian cuisine in the past year. With that comes the need for online recipes, and it is convenient but wordy.
I remember the old days of cookbooks though I never owned one. I was fortunate enough to work in restaurants in my younger days, read recipes and receive training from actual chefs.
Don’t be misled into thinking I was wearing whites, being drilled on the five French mother sauces, or immersed in fine dining. I worked at a couple of small restaurants with chefs who had trouble showing up for work, mainly because they were still up from the night before. Therefore, I had to be the chef at any given moment.
I was reliable and had a good touch but never intended to take it beyond that. What it did was improve my cooking at home. I started the day I moved into my first apartment and continue today.
It’s fun, economical, and healthy knowing what I’m eating. I spend more time discovering little things that make dishes taste as good as at my favorite restaurants. This requires ingredients not easily found in grocery stores, making it occasionally frustrating.
For instance, I’m making this great Asian wheat berry salad the other day and thought I had everything. I bought the wheat berries online, knowing that would be a tough find. Fine enough, but then I get to the vinaigrette, which is essentially hoisin sauce.
Rice vinegar? Miraculously I have some. Molasses? They still make that stuff? I thought that went out with The Beatles. Turns out it’s still made, and the bottle I bought looks like it was on the shelves in 1970.
I love ice cream and made homemade vanilla but can’t get the right consistency. The recipe calls for xanthan gum to thicken. Sure. Let me just grab that out of the cupboard. It sounds more like a sealing agent for a paved driveway. I hold off on the ice cream until the next trip to Home Depot.
African peanut soup is excellent if you have the time. I thought I had all the ingredients lined up a couple weeks ago, and then I get to the spices: Indian coriander and a teaspoon of grains of paradise. Can’t seem to find these. Grains of paradise? Sounds like something you put in a tea and spend the next 12 hours to find inner peace.
I came that far so I made substitutions, but it’s not the same as it was at that place in New York last month. Get ALL your stuff together before the next recipe, Bob!
I keep learning my lesson. One of these days I’ll learn to learn my lesson.
Speaking of recipes, when did they become novels? Time after time I find the title of one I like expecting to scroll down a half-page and find the list of ingredients. No. I have to read about the history of coconut milk going back to dates that end in BC.
Fortunately, many online sources have adopted the “Jump to Recipe” button that cuts to the chase.
The last hoops to jump through in online recipes: Pop-up ads. It’s like dodging raindrops to get where you want. The only worse websites for pop-up ads I’ve seen are song lyrics or music charts. Is this effective advertising? Maybe it is. I’m here. I didn’t click on anything, but someone now knows what year I was born, what car I drive, and my social security number.
What’s the name of the Julia Child book? I bet I can find it on Amazon.