Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew (as my hubby reminded me of yesterday as he rescued me from my own cooking). I’ve been finding a few difficulties as I start to cook more, and maybe its a mix of being in Sweden and “Meg…you don’t know how to cook.” For now though lets ignore that small personal detail (Which I am getting better at – I have yet to kill anyone or have any major complaints) and talk about why Sweden is making my cooking even harder than it already is.
I thought it would be a great idea to make chicken potpie, something different and it seems easy enough… if you have the ingredients. Chicken: Check. Peas, corn, carrots, string beans, mushrooms: Check. Chicken broth or soup or condensed soup...Eh? No check. Okay…Pie crust, Don’t see those...lets make it simple and throw some biscuit mix like Bisquick or Jiffy on top to make a pie topping. Huh? Where IS this stuff? Okay, I’ll substitute. Condensed mushroom soup instead of chicken broth and croissant sheets for the pie top. Thankfully hubby stepped in once he knew what I was planning on cooking and helped out, because my substitutes weren’t cutting it and I was in over my head. So together we made an awesome meal, I love cooking together.
Tangent - Its great to have a Swedish husband- they know how to cook. No, seriously. Everyone in Sweden is required to take Home Economic classes, both boys and girls. Which means that men actually have a basis for cooking, cleaning, and sewing (for example). Now, I speak only from my own experience and knowledge but I haven’t heard of a high school having home ec except in T.V. shows (or at least NYC, or at least the schools I’m familiar with?) [also based on not knowing many/any guys who cook] I remember being told that it’s no longer taught in high schools, and I’m pretty sure those classes were 90% female students. – End Tangent
Getting back to Sweden messing with my cooking. It’s so hard to find what I am looking for. I understand translating the ingredients, that’s expected. But some of the things that I am so used to are no where to be found. Most of which are very insignificant, but sometimes I do find myself walking in circles desperately searching for something that either doesn’t exist or is packaged and categorized so differently there’s not way for me to find it. (The second obstacle being easily remedied over time). I have found myself looking up recipes to ingredients of the main recipe that I would normally find in a can or a box, like corn bread or creamed corn. I know, I know – that’s not Sweden’s fault. Its a personal preference type of issue that I’ll adjust to. HOWEVER it is partially the U.S.’s fault. There I said it! I am so used to everything being instant! Nothing is from scratch anymore, which is a great convenience but the knowledge and know how is also fading fast throughout generations.
What do you mean I should make the pie topping out of flour and butter? (“You can do that?” “Yes…” “Well I never had to..”) But I have these handy dandy croissant sheets! Yes, a lot of this just showcases my cooking ignorance, but the point remains that there are more quick/instant substitutes in the States. I know a lot of my friends in NY would have the same issues.
Going to the store to buy oatmeal (Havregryn), and not understanding what to look for. “This isn’t oatmeal! This is just a bag of grains.” “What do you think oatmeal is?” “Well, ours is instant.” “So is this.” Yes, of course I know that this exists, I have some in my pantry N.Y. (That I used for a Swedish desert recipe one time…), but it’s not what I think of when I go shopping for oatmeal. I’m used to individual serving sized packages perfectly flavored for you. Easy Peasy! Now I’ve learned to add my own sugar and fruit and/or jam and a lot more milk than I’m used to.
I am not writing this as a complaint about missing rice-a-roni or mac-n-cheese (of course there very well might be all these things and more in Sweden, I am only referring to the local grocery store in a smallish town). I hate reading forum discussions of people badmouthing their new country because of its differences and things they “lack”. I just thought it was a cultural difference worth sharing.
On a food related note, last week I made sauce (from scratch, which came out good, but not great) for the first time and while shopping for the ingredients I picked up a fresh basil plant. It was so tempting, I thought how nice it would be to have growing on our window sill. A small plant to brighten up our apartment, something to cook with and smells delicious. What a bad idea! Little did I know only a few hours later it would be seriously dying because it couldn’t survive leaving the store and being in the cold for the 5 minute walk. And so I used what I needed for the sauce, tried my best to keep it alive longer by watering it and keeping it away from the cold windowsill during the night and in the sunlight the next day. It was no use… BUT I did find that you can grow basil from clippings being submerged in water. So, a week later and my baby basil is still alive and kicking! Looking 110% healthier and maybe even growing? But it still hasn’t formed roots, so we will see!