“It’s not fun to be in the kitchen,” an old friend told me recently. He was explaining why he was eating frozen TV dinners every night. His wife was out of town, and he wasn’t willing to employ cooking skills he learned in college to feed himself.
A lot of people apparently feel that cooking is drudgery, so the aisles of frozen meals have multiplied at the grocery store. People still want to eat at home yet haven’t realized that cooking can be great self-entertainment.
I’ve had times when getting dinner on the table felt like drudgery, but I’ve also had my share of frozen TV dinners. I would rather make a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, an Omelet or Spaghetti—all easily prepared with ingredients on hand. By the time I’m eating what I’ve made, I’ve forgotten that I wasn’t in the mood to cook.
Cooking calms me. Whatever worries I have disappear because I’m in a different zone. Of course, if I’m trying a new recipe and something isn’t working, I can get irritated. But my focus is on the food in front of me rather than the work problem I haven’t solved. Some people might prefer to play Minecraft or Pokemon Go, but I’m quite happy melting chocolate or frying potatoes. The trick is to cook dishes you like.
Sizzling Pork Noodles – serves 3-4 (adapted from “Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen”)
1 pound lean ground pork
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup chili sauce (or 7 tablespoons ketchup and 1 tablespoon bottled horseradish)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar (any kind)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces vermicelli
1/2 large cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 scallions, cleaned and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Without using oil, brown the pork in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring frequently to break the meat into small clumps. This process takes about 10 minutes. After the meat has browned, drain away any fat by covering the pan with a lid and carefully pouring the liquid into an empty can. Discard.
Add the onion, garlic, chili sauce (or ketchup and horseradish), water, soy sauce, vinegar and black pepper to the pan and stir. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.
Cook the vermicelli. Before draining it, fill a 1/2-cup measure with the vermicelli water and set aside. Then drain the noodles and transfer them to a large bowl or platter.
Add the hot water to the pork sauce and pour the sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle with cucumber and scallion pieces and serve.
For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"