Thursday, March 17, 2011

Swiss Seitan

I’ve just come home from vacation, and my kitchen looks like this:

See what I got? A problem! See what I don’t got: no stove, no sink, no countertops, no nothing. I’m tired; I’m crabby; I have to go to work instead of gad about all day in the sun with my girl. And now I have nothing to eat and nowhere to cook it.

But look! The workmen had to move some stuff out of the storage room to get at the electrical panel. Look what they unearthed!

It is my mom’s electric fry pan. She got it for a wedding present in the late 1960s. I drew the yellow lines around it to show off its majesty.

Well if this thing is here, then I am halfway to a good dinner. How about if I get out Mom’s Better Homes New Cookbook? It’s appropriate to the era.

Yeah, it was new back in the day, but not anymore. This might also have been a wedding present. What are these doing in my house?! Who can remember, and right now, who cares. These things are my ticket to some not-microwaved meals. Look at this goofy book:

“Men’s favorite?” With all due respect, men, who cares? I don’t need your approval to decide whether it’s good. And, in men’s defense, why does the Better Homes and Garden’s New Cookbook presume to know the salad preferences of half the human race? As my feminist scholar sweetheart would say, “It’s problematic.”

Oh get a load of this one:

This picture both co-opts, and eviscerates the potency of, the 1960s ethic of drugged-out spiritual exoticism. Nothing could be squarer than Susie Homemaker here, but she is all Lord Shiva on your ass with her Jiffy Cooking. Her dance both creates a meal from canned and frozen foods in 20 minutes and destroys any chance you might have had of enjoying home-cooked flavors from fresh ingredients. As an added ironic bonus, many people (possibly including the editors) may have missed the significance of this visual reference.

Enough ripping on Mom’s book. It is, along with its friend Electric Fry Pan, going to feed my ungrateful face. I deem Swiss steak to be a properly kitschy thing to cook. Also it has few ingredients and I have no prep space. Here are the directions.

As you see, it’s not a recipe. It’s truly just directions.

I don’t want to be as meat-tastic as things were in the 1960s. So I’m substituting seitan for beef. I’m not pounding in any flour or seasonings because seitan is already made of flour and seasonings. I’m also not going to simmer it until it’s tender because it’s already tender. I’m just going to whip it up and then steam a few potatoes in the microwave. No problem!

Look at it! It’s cooking like gangbusters, and it is starting to smell decidedly midcentury here in my basement.

And in twenty minutes, it’s food. I am just like Jiffy Cooking Lord Shiva Apron Lady.

Is it any good? Mmmehhhhhh… it’s problematic.