Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lesson 5: Shopping

Trout ready to be cleaned up

It's been awhile, too long to be exact.

I haven't posted in the last two weeks because I haven't cooked a meal since Lesson 4 at the beginning of December. This is a direct result of my over confidence that everything would fall in to place, my lack of focus and problem-solving, my first encounter with difficult to find ingredients, the holidays and holiday travel, and there was a weekend of illness thrown in.

All of these should not be excuses, and I am not letting myself off the hook, but instead hoping this will speed my desire to cook the next few lessons.

Here's what happened during my shopping experience:

1. I went to an expert to get fish and he thought it would be no problem (by went, I mean called).
2. I waited to hear back, without following up...left town, enjoyed the holidays, and then forgot about it for a bit.
3. When I was ready to get moving on cooking I was busy with work and couldn't find time during normal business hours to visit the fish place, so I dragged myself to the grocery store.
4. The grocery store was actually very helpful. They called the wholesaler while I waited and found out that monkfish and whiting were not available (I am assuming the fish guy never got back to me because this was the case, or the fact that my email address may have been incorrectly communicated to him). They suggested two substitutes (lobster tail meat and trout) and ordered the trout to be delivered in 2 days.

I left kicking myself, thinking I should have asked about a substitute a month ago. The substitutes, although more pricey, are readily available and will make for a fine meal. What I learned from this is that I need to be more resourceful with my problem solving, asking for substitute options right away and considering using the fresh ingredients when available rather than sticking only to what the menu directs.

These words of wisdom ring true regarding the artichokes as well. As mentioned in the last post, I thought that creating a summer salad in January may not provide me with the freshest ingredients, however I had already seen artichokes in the store. Unfortunately when I returned there weren't any more. I was able to find them at a much higher price at another grocery store.

There were two highlights of my shopping experience this time. First I felt successful for the first time shopping at Trader Joe's. I have sort of scooted around the point before, but so many people that I know just love the store. I have struggled to find what I needed, but changed my frame of reference this time. Instead of going in expecting to find everything on my list, I made it my first stop and whatever I didn't find I knew I could go somewhere else. This helped alleviate the stress of not finding everything on my list, and made for a much more enjoyable experience. I was even able to do a little comparison shopping and found they had some great things that were more reasonably priced than most other stores, milk and balsamic vinegar were the two that stand out (neither of which I needed for this menu).

The second, and personally more enjoyable, was that I had my mom to join me on the shopping trip for the fish and last few items. She did a fantastic job of pushing the cart, and was a bit surprised by the price of the lobster tail meat. She was also very helpful finding things. I am sure she will enjoy the meal even more, having been there to shop for everything with me.

Shopping done, ready to cook!

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