I wasn’t even aware there was that particular hole in my life. Looking back I can say that it was definitely not a chasm of a gape, all echo and need to be filled, but more like the spot left after a book is withdrawn from a shelf. There is evidence of a departure, but in itself the action quiet and therefore of seemingly little relevance. Nonetheless- and this may be a bold statement, I feel as though a subtle dimension has been added back to my life expanding the colors of my Crayola pack from 96 to about 102. What is the commotion, the sizzle to my wizzle, the Blizzard Blue to my Carnation Pink? It is what other folks besides me have been talking about since 1995, namely the formidable and affordable George Foreman Grill.
Now I like food related gadgets and gizmos, doo dads and wing-dings as much as the next cook. But two moves later, with my ever reducing kitchen-- truth be told, the last accessory I acquired was a Microplane in 2001. There was also a very nice rice paddle made from coconut shell in 2005. Simple compact efficient niceties that make the food prep a bit more pleasurable. For the moment gone are the hours of elaborate cooking in the kitchen. With the realities of having four other people with varying knife skills prepare my food; my culinary adventures are curbed a bit. There will be no pizzelle making, no homemade pâté wrapped in caul fat, no interpretive dance in spun sugar, in fact nothing that requires the attention, adept precision, or sequins of a Cirque de Soleil acrobat.
But similar to the sentiment expressed when a friend mused over how shocked he was when he donned his first pair of glasses and realized that trees weren’t just round lollipops, but were actually made up of individual leaves; I too realized that over time my cooking had become somewhat generic and flabby the result of a multiplicity of shortcuts. With the first auditory sear of poultry on heat, a satisfying amalgamation of primal fire, the thrill of the hunt, and immediacy; my heart quickened a little. In the attempts to create a cooking process which would not befuddle any caregiver regardless of whether they had ever cut a carrot stick, heard of an avocado, or baked brownies from scratch, I have unwittingly manufactured a defensive style of cooking- anticipating the lowest culinary skill set and simplifying every aspect of the process. In the absence of nuance and feel, at the worst my food has become ponderous and removed from its source. Aliveness, spontaneity and panache sacrificed to the gods of ease.
Sent from up above, the lean clean grilling machine is a dream when it comes to efficiency coupled with the ability to approximate the sensatory experience of barbeque. Over high heat, food is quickly seared driving moisture in, ensuring a moist and flavorful convincingly grill-marked product. Yet there is no danger of smoke inhalation or teary blood shot eyes, no sunburned necks, or the tempting ingestion of charred carcinogenic bits. Short cooking times and that clever clamshell design mean that doneness is easy to check and difficult to overdo. Perhaps secretly best of all the non stick heating plates are effortlessly wiped clean rather than hopelessly accruing an additional layer of grime to be ignored until later, which is perfect coming from a gal who admittedly feels that food mess interferes with eating pleasure. Save the white molded plastic design which is more postmodern convenience than rustic outdoor charm and the absence of lingering wood flavor which could be ameliorated by a drop of liquid smoke, this accessory fits that unnamed space left behind.
The creative process at best takes one further than point A to point B; it also creates a story, a place to inhabit more fully. I am slightly embarrassed to say, but my GFG of infomercial fame does just that. After weeks of excitedly formanizing chicken cutlets, tofu steaks, veggie burgers, mushroom caps, ham and cheese Panini, and my latest mu-shu eggrolls, I was not surprised to read about the grill’s popularity in an NPR article on hidden kitchens. The cooking accessory has filled an unexpected niche amongst college students, inhabitants of shelters/single room occupancies and those that are homeless. Like a Murphy bed, this easy to use invention becomes a working kitchen which can later be conveniently stowed away. In a different way yet similar to me, this tool has opened up the cooking experience to those who have intentionally or unfortunately been quietly removed from the hearth. Listening to the crackle and sizzle of my modern day Promethean Fire I am enfolded into the heart of community, back into the warmth and the glow of that which I love best.
Mu-Shu Ham Thing: Formanizing has inspired a flurry of ideas tossed onto the grill and served up fast. There has been little time to assess whether or not the ideas ultimately pass the so-what test. This creation is nod to an impressive ham sandwich eaten at the Everson Museum long ago. It is also homage to hoisin sauce, mu-shu pork, and finger food served up hot. Authentic it is not.
Mung bean sprouts
Slivered green onion
Sliced shitake mushroom
Directions: Take up a large pan and heat it up good. Add a little oil, toss in some shredded veggies and ham until desired doneness is achieved. Crack an egg or two over the top and vigorously stir until golden webs appear. Do not overcook. Stir in a small dollop of hoisin sauce. Cool off mixture. Heat up Foreman grill. Place one eggroll wrapper on a clean surface, pointy side facing your bellybutton. Spoon veggie filling into a log shape in the center and wrap envelope style or eggroll style (there are diagrams on the back of the package to assist). Lightly brush the packages with oil, place on the grill and press the top down. Peek every once in awhile to get the gist of how fast it is cooking. The wrapper will get golden brown and crispy. Eat up with some more hoisin sauce drizzled on top or dunked in a quickie soy- vinegar sauce. Take that Rachel Ray.