Photo rights courtesy of Moosewood.

October 19, 2020

AUSTIN | A Moosewood Mess

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I’m a mess in the kitchen, both literally and figuratively — just ask my roommate.

When I moved to Collegetown my sophomore year, my roommate and I figured out a solid routine: I cook and she cleans. This works for us because I would like to think of myself as a relatively decent chef, but I am a HORRIBLE dishwasher. My kitchen techniques definitely leave much to be desired (more on that later), but I enjoy cooking and sharing it with others.

I don’t like recipes. I’ll occasionally use them for ideas, but I approach recipes the same way I approach my class readings: As suggestions. My cooking method is to throw vegetables in a pan with some olive oil, some spices, always garlic and maybe some coconut milk if it’s a curry. If I don’t know what to make for dinner, I’ll just bake some fresh bread and hope that will distrat from the dismal meal. My knife skills are imprecise: I chop until I’m sure I’m going to cut a finger, or actually do cut a finger, and I’m very lenient with substitutions — no cardamom? No problem, coriander also starts with a “c!”

Last night for dinner, I made curry. It really wasn’t so bad, especially if you like the taste of curry powder. I put onions, garlic, carrots, white and sweet potatoes and chickpeas in a pan. I added some coconut milk, some regular milk and a TON of spices like ginger, salt, pepper, garam masala, coriander and curry powder. I cooked it for a while, it started to smell very fragrant, which I took to be a good sign, so we sat down to dinner. After one bite, all I noticed was the afront of curry powder that overpowered my taste-buds. So, even though I told my roommate we were having curry for dinner, I didn’t necessarily mean we were having curry powder. Oops. This led me to a not-so-original idea: Julie & Julia — Sarah-style.

If you’re unfamiliar with Julie & Julia, it’s a movie from 2009 based on a blog. Basically, Julie Powell is stuck with a boring job, so she takes it upon herself to cook through the entirety of Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking in a year. She ended up writing a blog to document her journey, and it turned into a publishing deal and a movie.

I’m going to pull a Julie Powell and cook my way through the entirety of an Ithacan classic — The New Moosewood Cookbook (as well as Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts and Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day). I’m going to learn how to follow instructions (and not just view them as suggestions), add some new recipes to my repertoire and hopefully learn how to become less of a mess in the kitchen. This is the beginning of “A Moosewood Mess.”

I’m not good at blogging. I can’t really buy into the idea of having strangers read my innermost thoughts, but for the purpose of science (because cooking is a science), I’m going to give it a try. Every week, I’ll be documenting how the Moosewood recipe(s) went. You’ll be privy to the blood (my aforementioned chopping skills), sweat (my kitchen is so small) and tears (one word: Onions) that mark this next chapter in my college life. And who knows, I might even get a movie deal out of it — A Moosewood Mess: One Girl’s Journey from Klutz to Cook.

Sarah Austin is a sophomore in the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. She can be reached at saustin@cornellsun.com