I cannot see the future. But sometimes I think I know just how people will response to life. For a sample of my prowess: I know that anytime I say “penguin,” people will smile.
But not everything is as simple as that. About a year ago, I decided to make kashie, also called buckwheat groats, and told Special Correspondent Perel just how I foresaw it:
me: I also really want to make kashie, or kasha varniske as Ellen calls it. But Ellen said that groats are expensive.
Perel: Ohhh yum.
me: Is there truth to this?
Perel: Do they still make groats?
me: Yes, Perel, people are still farming buckwheat. Some of them in your home state.
Perel: I thought groats were a kind of goat. I guess that’s wrong of me.
me: It’s a rather odd position to take. Well, if it’s a reasonable price I’ll call Bubby and have her walk me through the recipe. Then I’ll call my Dad as I make it in a panic, knowing it won’t be as good as Bubby’s, but instead my Mom will answer the phone and she’ll give me good advice about groats – and how to make them Indian-style.
Perel: And there you have it.
me: Well, that only gets you to the making-it stage, then I have to report back. That’s when Bubby tells me that mine must have been better than hers; at which point I say that it was the same, meaning delicious, or that I ruined the dish. If I ruined it, she’ll tell me I didn’t. Then I’ll try to convince her I did – only when I tell her how much I had to throw out will she believe me. Then she’ll repeat her very vague instructions, and I’ll agree to having done all of them. When I tell my dad he’ll either congratulate me, if I did well, or lament with me if it came out poorly. If it didn’t come out well, he’ll tell me not to blame myself – it needed more gribines which they just don’t carry in the stores anymore. When I tell my mom she’ll break out in her “I Love Kashi” song, but she’ll probably hold off on the dance moves.
But that’s not how it turned out. I bought all the ingredients, and called Bubby. She didn’t answer. She was out of her apartment, doing something more exciting than waiting by the phone. I called again, and she was still out with friends. I tried a third time and when there was no answer I gave up.
I called my parents instead, and my dad picked up. I explained my dilemma and he reassured me that it was no problem; there was a recipe on the box. I checked, but my kashie came in a bag without a recipe. So, my dad poked around in the cabinets until he found a box of kashie, and read off the following recipe:
2 c broth
2 tbsp margarine
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 c kashie
Heat broth and margarine to a boil, add kashie. Stir in salt and pepper, simmer for 8 – 12 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. My dad explained that the egg was optional. I quizzed him about it, and he thought it added nothing. So out it stayed.
Separately, fry 1 onion. Upon consultation, I fried three.
To make my kashie just like Bubby’s I cooked bow-tie noodles – that came in a box with instructions – and then stirred together the kashie, onions, and noodles.
It was good, but not as delicious as Bubby’s.
I called and told her – this time she answered – and that part of the conversation went exactly as anticipated. She told me I was wrong, and that it had been delicious. She insisted, until I caved. Finally, I admitted that it had been fine – but not as good as hers. That got her thinking, so Bubby had me read her the directions my dad had dictated.
“Well,” she said, puzzled, “that’s right.” I interrupted to say that I’d left out the egg, because my father told me it was fine. “I use the egg,” replied Bubby, though she voiced doubt that an egg could cause a difference in flavor. However, I was satisfied and left it at that. I did resolved to call her the next time I made kashie so that she could walk me through it – just as I’d originally planned.
But I didn’t plan for the fact that I can’t see the future. Before I made kashie again, Bubby passed away. In the year since, I don’t think I’ve made any of her recipes. It was just too discouraging to know that I couldn’t call her for help when something didn’t taste right. I was convinced that Bubby’s version would always be better.
But the truth is that Bubby was convinced that anything I made would be better than anything she could make. While I might not have agreed, Bubby was the more knowledgeable cook. So who am I to argue?