By Patricia Lee Sharpe
The Slapdash Cook makes plenty of mistakes in the kitchen, but there’s almost always a recovery route. And speaking of recovery, the Slapdash Cook hates waste. She should have been in Paris with the big boys on climate change last year. She’s a recycling pro.
When it comes to the worst of the world’s woes, she’s got a remedy for that, too. Stop fighting. Start cooking. What most people really want, after all, is a good meal shared with friends or family. The WhirledView/Slapdash motto? Better to jaw-jaw in the conference room than to slaughter the neighbors. Best of all: bickering with the sibs over pumpkin pie.
And after the table’s cleared? Don’t toss the leftovers. Be stubborn. Be creative.
The challenge this week wasn’t a hulking turkey carcase. It was a great slab of medium rare roast beef—and no one left to share it with, this year’s Christmas quota of family having vanished. Fortunately, the Slapdash Cook has a vascular system lets her eat all the beef she wants, but enough is enough, even with prime rib.
Tossing the bloody lump into the trash along with the rest of the Christmas detritus was a tempting solution. Doling it out, chunk by chunk, to the magpies, like suet, was another. Either recourse, however, would be a declaration of defeat. Impossible!
Nor was the beef the only leftover challenge of the moment. The fridge held many candidates for trashing. There was the barely-broached quart of cream-top yogurt, a few dollops of which had worked wonders in a kofta curry. For her non-holiday lunch of yogurt and fruit, however, the Slapdash Cook prefers the fat-free version. So what to do? Yogurt takes forever to develop enough mold to justify guilt-free down-the-drain treatment.
At this point, the idea of goulash occurred to the Slapdash Cook (meaning me, of course). Riffling through my spattered and dog-eared old New York Times Cookbook, I found what I needed. Not goulash, but a close cousin. And joy of joys! The recipe called for another icebox orphan that screamed to be dealt with: a half bottle of tomato juice unneeded by the summer’s last batch of gazpacho. I’d even have a use for the half bag of petit pois that had been languishing in the freezer for eons.
So tote it up. Beef. Yogurt. Tomato juice. Peas. Salvage heaven.
Even if I simmered the stew for the prescribed 2 1/4 hours, there was a risk that re-purposed protein wouldn't produce the tenderest stew morsels, but my gamble worked. No serious challenge to molars. Even my failure to add horseradish didn’t hurt. I ground black pepper until my wrist hurt, then tossed in some green chili. This is New Mexico.
And what did I serve it with, this Slapdash dish that I hurried to the table after a very promising taste test? Why leftover mashed potatoes of course. Livened up with more green chili.
Now, what does the intrepid recycling of leftovers have to do with WhirledView?
Making sense of world affairs is a tricky business, even with access to classified documents, anonymous top level informants and a big fat travel budget, all of which the co-authors of WhirledView definitely do not enjoy. So what do we have? Nothing fancy. Aside from a stash of relevant education and experience always on hand to draw from, it’s a matter of keeping eyes peeled, minds open and making the most of the angles that have been overlooked or the bits and pieces that have been put together in ways that don’t satisfy. Equivalents of culinary lapses and leftovers, so to speak. However, take a little bit of this, add a little bit of that—and wow! pretty soon some delicious hypotheses emerge.
Time to serve it up, which is to say, post it, with a sprig of humor and absolutely no fear of losing a promotion for calling it exactly as we see it, this deep anxiety being an insufficiently appreciated hindrance to savvy policy analysis at all levels.
That’s it! Bon appetit! Happy New Year!