Whatever foodies call non-foodies, that's what I've been. An anti-cook. Having grown up south of Red Lion, I could have, by age 10, told you how to stuff a pig's stomach and helped you bale your hay. But the only "capers" in my life were those that ended in punishment.
We were meat and potatoes, mostly mashed, the amount of salt and pepper and butter deployed being the only variables.
But I've always been fascinated by higher cooking and have recently, with the support of friends who know about pine nuts and stuff, started to stretch my grocery brain. Over the past two months, my receipts include tahini and coconut juice. I actually had a lime in my refrigerator the other day when a friend requested one.
This is all still new to me, and my exploration into better eating has involved some degree of folly. Folly and, unfortunately, fingernails. There's perhaps no better illustration than The Chicken Salad Story.
My best friend, to whom I have in less achieving days fed That Yam Thing and The Three-Meat Dinner, said it was the best chicken salad he has ever eaten.
The idea for the unusual mix of ingredients just sort of came to me, which I saw as a sign that I was finally growing that "These Things Can Be Paired" portion of my brain. I cut up a mango and an onion. Threw in some fresh mint and cucumber. Raisins. I put a bunch of stuff in there.
Halfway through preparation, I felt a slight tugging on my thumb.
I looked down at my cutting board. No blood. Baffled, I surveyed my digits. This actually would have been the second time I had cut off the tip of a finger, but all that had been excised this time was the top quarter-inch of my left thumbnail.
I never did find the little keratin castaway, and so decided there was no way this awesome chicken salad could be served to my colleagues. It's not socially acceptable to be caught chewing on one's own fingernails, let alone someone else's.
I imagined a confused colleague, having palpated something unusual, pulling the thing from his mouth and examining it the same manner in which people do when they find a bone in their fish.
None of this would have happened if I knew how to use a knife.
I heard a friend's dad's voice in my head, replaying from weeks earlier as he stood in his kitchen watching me destroy a bundle of herbs, telling his daughter she should teach me to chiffonade.
Expecting to dance, I was surprised when she grabbed a knife. I had imagined the chiffonade as an elaborate French dance with dramatic hand movements, and suspected the drinks and the warm air were wooing him.
Yes, I do the mashed potato. Oui, je chiffonade.
Chris' Kickin' Chicken Salad
Five cooked chicken breasts
11 cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of cucumber, diced
Handful of yellow onion, diced
One mango, in chunks
A cup or so of raisins
Mint, mint, mint.
One dollop of Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise
Dice up the chicken and mix the rest of ingredients in. Yup, it's that simple.
**I don't measure. Just play with the proportions and be creative. It's different each time I make it, and people still say they like it. Also, please don't drown all of these awesome ingredients in mayonnaise. I hate mayonnaise.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.