I used to cook. That is, before I moved to Peru, I thought that I cooked.
I was wrong.
Now I know that what I was doing is “California Cooking”. Probably it is typical of many parts of the U.S., but since I am from California I will call it so.
This is what I did that was mistakenly called cooking. Periodically, it was my turn to prepare the meal. For dinner, I would take the frozen vegetables from the freezer and zap them in the microwave. Then, I would take the prepared salad mix and toss it into a bowl and pour some salad dressing over it— maybe, as something extra, I would slice some tomatoes and cucumbers.
For the main dish, I would usually take some frozen goody from the freezer and again zap it in the microwave. On days when I felt particularly ambitious, I would stoke up the barbecue and grill some salmon. All of this frenzied activity probably took me ten minutes of “hard work”. Then after the meal, I would toss all the dishes in the dishwasher and take a rest from my labors. Needless to say, I felt very virtuous in doing the cooking.
Of course, all this effort was only on the days when I didn`t order “take out”.
It is not like that for us in Peru. In cooking, this is the major leagues, and I am an unskilled amateur. Thus, for all practical purposes, I have been retired as a cook. Now I am only allowed to do very simple tasks like set the table and wash the dishes.
Cooking for us in Peru, then, is just not the same as in California. A small number of people here may cook as I did in California, but it is not common and certainly doesn`t happen in my house.
First of all, I should point out that here lunch is the big meal for us, and we have a very simple supper which we call tea.
Here is what happens in our kitchen. It all starts with huge bags of vegetables from the local market that we tow upstairs to the kitchen. Then the cook starts chopping, and this seems to go on all morning. Big pots are on the stove boiling the chopped vegetables. The blender whirrs away. There is more chopping. We have stocks of frozen meat that are then cooked and often more chopping occurs. As you can tell chopping is an important skill in the Peruvian kitchen.
It takes all morning to do this and the cook is often stretched to have the lunch ready at 1:00 PM as is required. All this effort brings forth the following: a beautiful salad, a tasty vegetable soup and a main dish of meat or fish with rice or potatoes.
Although I have been banished from the kitchen, and no one appreciates my culinary skills, you can tell that I am not suffering all that much.
Excuse me, I just heard the bell for lunch.