The wok and the tagine had never met before. They came from world’s apart. The tagine found the wok too fast and hard, while the wok found the tagine too slow and fragile. This weekend they sat side by side on my stove-top. The meal was an assemblage of reworked leftovers, more like a mini potluck where two different sides of myself showed up. The butternut squash had been sitting on the counter for two weeks. It needed love. And, the left-over baked haddock wasn’t getting any fresher in the fridge either. So it came to be that a pumpkin beef curry was slowly simmering, as I was frying up haddock fish cakes. I admit, it wasn’t the best combination of dishes. But, the contrast brought out the flavors in unexpected ways. The soft sweet cinnamon pumpkin and flaky cubes of beef cooked in a onion, garlic, tomato sauce felt very different from the fast fried crispy breaded and flaky haddock cake held together by herb flavored buttery potato. Both were rich, hearty and flavorful dishes. As if they arrived at the same winter weekend meal conclusion through different paths. I could taste the slow of the tagine and the fast of the wok. Both will make good leftovers for a weeknight meal, separately or together.
Hmmm….what can I make for another fast and slow meal….a wok and tagine menu…..or with a pressure cooker and slow cooker, a grill pan and a steamer….an open pit fire and a microwave? Can I make Steak and potatoes, on the grill, in the oven, in a steamer, in the microwave, in a tagine, in a pressure cooker, in a slow cooker? (This is beginning to sound like a Dr. Suess story.) What might be the most contrasting flavors, techniques, ingredients or culinary traditions, I can imagine? How might I design a meal inspired both my Bengali food tradition and Jim’s southern food tradition? Chicken n’ dumplings in a curry pot? Ahhhhh….the possibilities in diversity.
We see this strategy of prompting creativity by introducing surprise, contingency and unfamiliarity, in Food Network, cooking competition shows like Iron Chef, Chopped, Cut throat Kitchen, Sweet Genius, Cupcake wars etc. It is poignant that the condition of creativity and conflict is the same. Difference. We eat what we make of it.
What have been your moments of confusion cuisine?
For now the wok and the tagine need to be washed and readied for the next time on the stove. Maybe even together again.