Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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617 words on

I am on a quest to try an make some sweet and sour sauce. Mainly because I enjoy eating rice and want something to eat with it.

And my hope was that the internet could help me with that. And sure enough, there are millions of search results for such a query. But the sad thing – as usual when Googling for recipes –  is that while I’ll find many recipes for such a sauce, there are so many drastically different recipes that I am completely overwhelmed. Not just overwhelmed but also learning next to nothing from the effort as there is no help in categorising the recipes by style, origin, quality of taste or even quality of writing.

That’s a very typical problem when it comes to recipes on the internet - what you find will vary widely in each way that it can possibly vary in. But the tendency is that the quality is low. In particular, there is often a lack of context. As the context determines which variant of a recipe you are looking for, that’s a real problem. In addition, the recipe descriptions often are badly written and not exactly helpful. They may be fine if you just need a reminder of how something is done, but if you want to cook it the first time, you’ll need all the help you can get. Apart from language and cultural difficulties (What exactly are the ingredients? What’s reasonably equivalent to the stated ingredient and available at my local supermarket? Non-metric units…) there are also difficulties when it comes to the cooking itself.

For example, when actually cooking with someone you quickly get a feeling for soft details of a recipe. You’ll know which ingredients are crucial and which can be replaced. You’ll learn which measurements have to be adhered to strictly and which can be treated more flexibly and so on. You may even learn why certain ingredients are added and which role they play for the final tase, look and texture of the dish. And with all that background you can get a reasonably good ‘feel’ for the dish. You’ll be confident enough to decide that you can still cook it even though some ingredient is missing and you’ll be in a position to start exploring variations.

Unfortunately very few recipes on the internet satisfy any of those points. In a way you can consider yourself lucky when finding a complete list of ingredients and a description that is written in an intelligible way.

Anyway, I started exploring the sweet and sour sauce a little – pineapples and starch seem to be agreed on, some other veg as well and ginger – while not being listed as broadly – seems to be important. I’m not sure about the soy sauce yet… not only does it give the dish an ugly colour but it doesn’t seem to make it sour enough either (I have only used the dark soy sauce so far, perhaps I should get some light soy sauce which I think it a bit more tangy?). But in total I am slowly getting there.

Another ingredient that I found in many recipes was ketchup. I am not a big fan of ketchup but I decided to just try it anyway. It surely does fit in with the sweet and sour theme. And thus I ended up buying a bottle of ketchup today. And it was capitalism at its absurd best: They were selling three different 500ml bottles of the same ketchup on the same shelf. A proper glass bottle for €1,39, a squeezy plastic bottle for €1.69 and an upside-down squeezy plastic bottle for €1,99. I thought that was completely absurd.

November 14, 2006, 1:30

Tagged as food.

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