August 28, 2009

Cook-With-An-Attitude Goes on Vacation

New Cook (left) and Cook-With-An-Attitude (right) preparing food for a party at the guesthouse.

I prepare a weekly menu for supper at the guesthouse. When we have a full house and are entertaining visitors, I try to make the meals more elaborate and don’t watch the calories too seriously. When it is just the three of us who live here most the time, we are constantly dieting or at least trying to keep from gaining weight, so our meals consist of a starter of light soup followed by chicken, fish or shrimp served up with some vegetable. It gets pretty boring, but if we stick to it we do pretty well weight-wise. This week with everyone gone to meetings in the USA it was just me eating here alone.

I think I mentioned that we have New Cook for the interim since Cook-With-An-Attitude (the regular cook) is on vacation. New Cook cleans the kitchen scrupulously including the floor, throws out old food, and bags up new food so it won’t go bad fast—a big failing of Cook-With-An-Attitude. However it is probably a good thing we don’t have any guest guinea pigs—just me, for her cooking is untried! New Cook is a very large lady, who dwarfs Cook-With-An-Attitude (who is not a petite little thing). New Cook went on a diet, I don’t know when but I think somewhat recently, and lost 50 pounds so she is full of dietitious ideas for making low calorie meals and keeps proffering them to me. In the spirit of seeing what her recipes taste like I have been sampling some of her offerings and varying the menu a bit.

Yesterday I decided to blow the diet for the day and had requested chile relleños, a good test to compare their cooking I thought since Cook-With-An-Attitude makes excellent chile relleños, seemingly effortlessly. If you don’t know what a chile relleño is, it is a tasty Mexican dish where the chiles are roasted, skinned and seeded; filled with cheese; coated with a beaten flour-and-egg batter; and sautéed until the batter is golden and the cheese has melted. They are then covered with a tomato-chile salsa. While they aren’t skinny food, they could probably be much worse. My mouth was all set for my chile relleño lunch.

Earlier that morning Senor Jueves, our errand boy, came to me to ask for help. One of the perks for the maids and him is sometimes breakfast (usually cold cereal) and a hot meal during the day prepared by the cook. However no one had told this to New Cook and she was declining to prepare any food for anyone. I had to go out to the kitchen and explain to her that she had to feed everyone a lunch. “Oh,” she said, “no one told me.” I thought this was a little strange as she has been here subbing as a maid for the last two months and would seemingly have been included in these meals that Cook-With-An-Attitude was preparing for everyone else.

About an hour later I went out to the kitchen where New Cook was assembling a ground beef filling for five bell peppers, freshly cleaned and standing at attention on the counter. Hmm, I thought, still not taking it all in and mentally counting on my fingers, why five? There are two maids, Senor Jueves and her. Then I told her the guard is not included in the people we feed for lunch. Ok, she said. A bit later I could smell chiles roasting so I still felt reassured my chile relleño was on track. Lunchtime rolled around and I was presented with a stuffed bell pepper, which we had already eaten earlier in the week with my recipe. “This is different,” she said, “this is my recipe.” I should have kept an open mind, but I was annoyed. It has made me really appreciate Cook-With-An-Attitude, whose sometimes pouty way of behaving is compensated for by cooking what I tell her to.

“Ah,” I said, “but I wrote chile relleño on the menu, not pimenton (bell pepper) relleño. They are different things,” I said. “You need to prepare what I put on the menu and not change it.”

“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t know, I thought you wanted diet food.”

“No,” I said, “sometimes I don’t want diet food, you need to follow what the menu says. See here on the menu I wrote chile relleño!” I explained, “A chile relleño is a roasted poblano, filled with cheese, dipped in egg batter and fried—it is not a bell pepper stuffed with ground beef.”

She looked at me like she’d never heard of a chile relleño before. “It is a Mexican thing,” I said, “comida tipica.”

Again I got the deer in the headlights look, but she said, “I know how to make those too. You always want to be skinny so I made this instead.”

It just didn’t seem to be sinking in. I felt like I was beating my head against the wall. I went back out to the dining table and begrudgingly ate my stuffed pepper. It was way too much food and there was lots of cheese in it. It certainly did not have any fewer calories than the chile relleño would have had, and in my anger I ate it all. I had gained a pound the next morning. Fortunately Cook-With-An-Attitude will be back early next week and I will welcome her with open arms. I won’t have that food Nazi, New Cook, trying to re-organize me and my recipes.

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