中国日报网 2014-07-14 15:38






By Leo Luo 祝平 注

Thunk, thunk, thunk. The knife moved in a blur, slicing up the green onions into tiny morsels. Their sharp fragrance wafted through the air, teasing my taste buds. Turning the blade at an angle, I scooped up the green onions into my hand and deposited them beside the pile of chopped tomatoes and the bowl of egg yolk. Rushing over to the sink, I rinsed the knife and leapt right back to the cutting board, this time with an eggplant in hand. Snick. Snick. Snick. The soft flesh of the eggplant gave way to the blade, giving resistance only at the rubbery deep purple skin. Once all the ingredients were prepared, I fired up the stoves and began to heat up the oil. Moving only by habit, I waited 5 minutes before pouring the egg into the wok . The heady aroma brought a smile to my lips as I threw in the tomatoes. The wok responded with a satisfying sizzle. After stirring the tomatoes and eggs around a couple of times, I let them sit and turned my attention to the other pan. Just as the eggplant hit the oil, a friend walked into the common room and breathed in. “Yum! Smells great Leo! What are you cooking?” I grinned as I added garlic and soy sauce to the eggplant: “Just some stir fry. You know, a taste of home.”

Perhaps the most common complaint at American universities, other than the horrendous torture of having to wake up for morning classes, is the grumble about the food the school serves. Of course, this is only a generalization, as I have heard of many institutions that ensure that their students receive top-notch meals. Take the Rhode Island School of Design. My hometown friend who attends that institution always comes back with tales of how the dining staff ensure that the students receive all vegetarian meals, with the addition of some fish and chicken to satisfy the craving for meat. His cheeks were rosier and he burst out into laughter even more so than usual, despite frequently sleeping at obscene hours of the morning in order to complete his projects. But when he asked me about my dining situation, I could only roll my eyes and groan : “Just imagine your worst nightmare about food.” He looked back at me with disbelief. I was always the least picky eater out of everyone he knew. How bad did the food have to be in order to make even Leo cringe in disgust?

I will stop here about my school’s dining hall. Just to be clear, I have no complaints against the cooks, for they are simply doing their job. Many of them are quite friendly, and always have a riveting backstory to tell. But that is for another time. After all, this is not an article about slandering my school, but about the magic of cooking. The old saying goes that necessity is the mother of invention. There are various problems to this theory, but it definitely applied to my decision to begin cooking for myself. After a whole semester of gradually losing hope in the quality of food at my school’s dining hall, I resolved to take my health into my own hands and start making my own meals, at least for dinners. I ventured into this lifestyle unbeknownst of the challenges I would face, or the joy that I would experience.

My first encounter with cooking for myself actually took place the summer before I was a student at Georgetown University. I was staying at my parents’ apartment in Beijing. My mother had stepped out for the evening and left me to, shall we say, experiment with dinner on my own. Granted, I had already made a meal once under her supervision, so I knew how to cook, at least in theory. “Okay.” I thought. “Eggplant, garlic, and soy sauce. Shouldn’t be too hard right?” The next two hours would prove me wrong in every way possible. When I began to cut the eggplant, the knife wobbled to and fro. It was arduous work for a neophyte like me. At times, the blade would slip and glide along the skin of the eggplant, missing my fingers by a hair’s breadth. I kept trying to emulate mom’s deft technique when chopping ingredients at breakneck speed without even blinking an eye. My attempt left the eggplant in jagged shreds. Not so much luck with the garlic either. “Well, I’m only cooking for myself, so things don’t have to look pretty. As long as they taste good right?”That turned out to be a pipe dream as well. While stir-frying the eggplant, I gazed out of the window for a little too long at the Beijing summer sunset, only turning back to the wok when I started to smell something charring. Panicking, I grabbed the soy sauce in one hand and the salt in the other. Whoosh! In one broad sweep, the salt and the soy sauce splashed into the wok in a grand arc. Before I had even registered the ridiculous amount of sodium I had added to my dinner, I began to mix everything together. Finally, I had my meal: blackened eggplant soaked to bursting with salt. Beside me was a plate of flatbread, ready to mask any taste I would encounter. I took my first bite. Every drop of moisture in my mouth was wrung out as the eggplant touched my tongue. It was more like eating eggplant flavoured salt. Not even the flatbread helped. And there was still the entire plate to go. The rest of the night I squirmed on my bed, feeling miserable as I clutched my bloated stomach. The verdict: absolute failure.

But there is another old saying that goes hand in hand with the ideas of invention and experimentation: “Failure is the mother of success.” That could not be truer with cooking as well. The next day, I tried making eggplant again, taking extra measures to ensure that I added just enough salt and soy sauce. Although it didn’t taste just the way mom made it, the dish was actually quite appealing. After all, there was no way I could screw up worse than I had the other day. Until now, I have made nearly all of my dinners in the kitchen of my dormitory. On more than one occasion have I wanted to kick myself for being so stupid as I cooked. But throughout the entire process of trial and error, such as using water instead of chicken soup to boil cabbage, or using week-old fish whose pungent odour lingered on the floor for days, I have developed a mentality of simply bouncing back and trying again the next day.

Now as I enjoy feasts not only myself, but also with my friends, I barely needed to think while I prepared the food, my movements built upon memories of the grimaces that I’ve had to pull or the stomach aches I’ve endured for the sake of the perfect meal. Perhaps that is one of the more exhilarating aspects of cooking: the idea that risks are the only guides on the path to mouthfuls of heavens.


(来源:英语学习杂志 编辑:丹妮)


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