As many of you know, I hate to grocery shop. The mere idea of walking into a big, well-lit place teeming with all sorts of food is overwhelming. I typically fall into a routine and follow the same aisles and purchase the same types of food and cook the same types of meals. Bland, boring, and predictable. Part of the problem is I live by myself, so I don’t have to get creative or feed a warbling brood of kids or a hulking beefcake of a husband. The other part of the equation is that I have Chron’s disease, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract. It’s an inconvenience for sure, and therefore I have to choose my food wisely and take medicine so I don’t have an episode or make a current symptom worse.
My Chron’s has been flaring up lately so I knew it was time to take action. For years now, I’ve been religious about practicing yoga and even more conscientious of what foods I’ve been ingesting. I’ve also been drinking lots, and lots of water to quell the burning sensation but to no avail. This week, I began researching a diet plan for Chron’s, and I even checked out the Eastern medicine known as Ayurveda. These on-line tips (from Dr. Oz to Dr. Deepak Chopra) gave me great suggestions. I consulted my Vegetarian cookbook (which I use only when I know that turkey sandwiches and grilled chicken are getting to be too predictable and boring) and found a recipe for “Chickpea Patties”. It is a Mediterranean / Middle-Eastern fare and I love that food. The spices matched the doctors’ suggestions and it would be bland enough to eat, but tasty enough to savor. Off to the grocery store I went to get a few of the ingredients that I didn’t already have.
By the time I got home, it was well past lunch time. I didn’t mind. From consulting my own doctor and from the research, I know it is best to eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day. So, I took time to prepare it lovingly. I got excited and washed up all the dishes I needed and cleaned off my counter. I opened my cookbook to the following page. The meal, if prepared right, would look like this:
I smiled and turned up the music so I could get my “cooking mojo” going. I set out all of my ingredients, chopped the small amount of onion and pressed the garlic. I then poured the olive oil into the frying pan. Those steps are the only thing I did right.
The rest of my creative cooking turned into a comedy of errors.
First, I burned the garlic, onion and spice mixture in the olive oil. It turned into a crisp black glob of dirt. I turned off the burner and set all of that aside.
I then poured the 2 cans of organic garbanzo beans in the blender (the recipe called for a food processor. Seeing as how I don’t have one, I had to make due with a shoddy blender). I then freaked out when I read “chickpeas” in the recipe and realized I had bought garbanzo beans. But I thought the 2 were one and the same. I became so OCD about trying to figure out the difference that I consulted my dictionary on my iPhone which was wasted time because the onion/garlic/spice blend by then was cooling off and clumping even more.
I poured in the rest of the ingredients into the blender: 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds and ground coriander. Again, I took liberty with this part of the recipe because it read 2 cups of coriander leaves. I couldn’t find those in the Dierberg’s grocery store. I’m sure they’re in a fancy aisle somewhere near the organic produce but remember how I don’t like to grocery shop and therefore don’t like to waste a lot of time searching for exotic things like coriander leaves? Yeah, me too. That was my other mistake because I merely guessed at how much coriander was needed.
After that, the garlic/onion/spice globules went in the blender as well. I turned it on to “puree” and waited. The blender was working, but the mixture was dry and hard to mix. I worked on it for a good half hour: taking out half the mixture and pureeing small amounts. I even poured a little bit of olive oil and later water in there to get it “juicier”. By this time, my actions were causing me to get a bit frustrated and careless. Globs of brown chickpea mixture with black globs of garlic/onion/spice mix had landed all over my countertop. I pressed on and ignored the mess. I was bound and determined to make this food come hell or high-water. 20 minutes later, when the mixture was the consistency of sand, I consulted my cookbook. There, in front of me, the recipe instructed me to add the chickpeas, sunflower seeds, 2 EGGS and the garlic/onion/spice blob. “Ohhhh! Eggggsss! Duh!” I said to myself as I reached into the refrigerator and pulled them out. I folded in the flour as instructed, but realized I was using white flour, not besan flour (aka chickpea flour). “Oh well, it’ll work,” I said optimistically.
The concoction was now at the right consistency (but with a bland taste that not even extra coriander nor salt could enhance); it was time to fry them in the skillet. I heated up the skillet with more olive oil, powdered my hands with flour and stuck my hand in the bowl to form the patties. As I dropped them one by one into hot skillet spitting out oil, I said out loud to myself and my dog, “I have a feeling these are going to taste like shit.” I think the olive oil agreed with my prediction as it spit out hot grease onto my thin capri pants burning a hot pocket into my thigh.
Here’s the aftermath of my horrible cooking extravaganza:
Here’s what I was determined to digest out of sheer stubbornness:
I sat down to eat, making sure to add sour cream and cucumber slices to detract from the blandness. I took a bite and realized Play-doh has a better flavor and consistency than this “shit on a shingle” as my dad would call it. My dog begged for the food as I apologized to him and told him that these scraps were even beneath his taste-buds. I got through 1 and 1/2 patties and finally, after a swig of Sprite, I threw them in the trash and made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.