seventeen-ingredient dinner

While I was sick, Neel took over cooking duties.  I have a cookbook that my friend Megan gave me called The Four Ingredient Cookbook, but could I plan a dinner out of that on a night I was sick?  No....I thought chicken minestrone soup sounded good for someone with the flu. 

Chicken minestrone soup.  The Seventeen Ingredient Dinner.  Poor Neel.  I do most of the cooking in our family.  Well, let's face it, I do pretty much all of the cooking in our family.  Neel does lunches and breakfasts for Callum, but planning, shopping and preparing dinner falls on me.  We occasionally have these grand schemes of sharing duties.  My parents both worked and split the week, and part of me would love that, but it never manages to materialize around here.  I always assume this is true for two reasons.  The first is that I really do love to cook.  True, I get in funks just like anyone else, and tired of it and bored, and all I want to do is go out every night, or have someone hand me a big old plate of homemade macaroni and cheese that I didn't make.  But the truth is that cooking to me is very satisfying.  I've figured out that the key is to know what I'm doing when I walk in the door at the end of the day, and as long as I do it's a way to unwind, feed my creative energy and tend to my family.  Plus I'm bossy. 

That, I always figured, was the second reason.  It's hard for me to let someone else have my kitchen.  When in doubt, blame me.  It's my fault that Neel doesn't cook more.  I can't seem to let him.

But when I feel like this, he can have the kitchen.  No problem.  Get on with your bad self, Neel. 


After the Seventeen Ingredient Dinner, I actually had an ephiphany about why Neel doesn't cook.  It ended up being quite important, really.  Here's what happened.  I get out the onion, the carrots and look around feebly for the broth.  That's pretty much as far as I get.

Me:        Do you think you can handle dinner tonight, Babe?

Neel:      Sure!

Me:        I think all you need to do is get this stuff chopped.  The spinach is in the 'fridge, oh, and I wouldn't worry about pre-cooking the pasta the way it says. I'd just add that about ten minutes before we're ready to eat.

Neel:     Okay!

Silence while Neel chops and chops and chops.

Neel:     Do we have any rosemary?

Me:       There's fresh in a pack in the 'fridge.

Neel:     It calls for dried.

Me:       Fresh will be fine.

Silence while Neel chops and chops and chops.

Neel:    When it says, "diced" what does that mean, exactly?

Me:       Chopped, like squares.

Neel:     How big?

Me:       Like, little squares.

Neel:     ??

Me:       One inch.

Silence while Neel chops and chops and chops.

Neel:     It calls for oil and butter.  Why does it call for oil and butter?

Me:       (worn out, now) Can I explain it later?

Neel:     Do I need oil and butter?

Me:       Yes.

Neel:     Where's the corn oil?

Me:        Use olive oil.

Neel:     It calls for corn oil.

Me:       *--*

Okay, so here's the thing.  Neel's a scientist.  Which means when he's not writing grants asking for money to do experiments, he's in the lab actually doing experiments.  And what are experiments or lab protocols but really bizarre, complicated recipes?  Recipes that you can't fudge.  In my recipes you can use fresh rosemary instead of dried and it tastes better.  And your one-inch diced chicken or squash or whatever needn't be exact.  Corn oil-Schmorn oil. 

Here's what Neel's recipes look like.

Preparation of 10 liters of TC-100 Culture Medium (Neel points out that this is food you feed insect cells and would be a lot like soup.  Hmm.)

NOTE:  Use tissue culture supplies for everything (beakers, cylinders, bottles, stir bar, etc.).

The day before making the medium, make sure the following is done:
● Rinse 24, 500ml bottles with DI H2O, sterilize in autoclave and dry.
● Wrap approximately 40 spatulas in foil, autoclave and dry.
● Clean bench-top with 10% bleach and put down new bench paper and stir plate.
● Fill 12L PC carboy with exactly 9.5L of tissue culture grade water and incubate at 37C overnight.
(1)    Add stir bar to carboy and begin stirring.
(2)    Weigh out the following dry ingredients and add to carboy:

...and here there's a list of a jazillion things in a table that you add, Neel stresses, one at a time.  I said, "Whatever, dork, I skimmed that part."

(3)    Let stir 0.5-1h.  If ingredients are floating on top of the water, shake the carboy a little.  Adjust the medium to 10L final volume with tissue culture grade water.
(4)    Adjust pH to 6.2 by slowly adding (over a 15-20 min period), 10N KOH.  To monitor pH during adjustment, remove 5ml of medium, measure pH, then dispose (do not throw back into carboy).  To make 10N KOH solution, add 11.2g KOH pellets to 50ml conical vial and add tissue culture grade water to a final volume of 20ml.  Put on Nutator to dissolve pellets.
(5)    To filter the medium into bottles, place all the bottles into t.c. hood and remove caps.  Use the Sterivac 10 0.22μm filter unit (Millipore/Fisher) to filter sterilize medium.  The tubing for filtration should be wrapped in aluminum foil and sterilized by autoclaving before use.  Add 450 ml of medium/bottle to leave enough room for 10% FBS to be added.


So, duh, no wonder the poor man doesn't cook.  I wouldn't either if I had to pay attention to that stuff all day.  I am, however, thinking he'd make an excellent baker.