the culinary exploits of a techspat

czech barbecue sauce & corn
"spak" bbq sauce and... why, is that corn on the cob?!

i am not sure i like the term ‘techspat’ just yet. that’s because i just made it up, mostly to describe myself and for the purposes of this blog, which involves some stuff about expat life and some stuff about tech, and also because i know that husby loves a good word play.

i am equally unsure about my love for cooking. in fact, wagering between the two, i think i already prefer the term ‘techspat’ to cooking in general. cooking has never been my fortรฉ. for as long as i can remember, i shouted at my mother (who sometimes tried to nudge me into learning) that i couldn’t cook and that i burned toast and that i hated cooking. i guess, despite myself, i always was a bit of a feminist.

but back to cooking. if you happen to read here “often” (bless you), you might remember me talking about being diagnosed with pre-diabetes last year. i’ve also blogged about travelling on a diet over at tripwolf.

the thing is, i love food. i never refer to myself as a foodie, though, because i don’t really know anything about food. i just know i love it. and i want to eat anything and everything. i was also raised with a keen sense of eating food from such faraway places as china and japan on a regular basis and, since my diagnosis last year, i have come to appreciate and, indeed, prefer a wide variety of foods in my diet, especially vegetables.

i really miss living in china for that reason – there, you can always count on getting your vegetables in and usually the meat is some sort of “chainsaw chicken” that you don’t want anyway, so you end up virtually being a vegetarian. you also end up naturally eating on the “five mile diet” (the one where you’re supposed to eat only things grown within a five-mile radius of where you are – as a practice in sustainable living), because chinese people are incredibly adept at growing random things in very unusual places, and they make no bones about using every scrappy inch of soil they can get their hands into, including roadside ditches, random hills and unused waste ground, to grow food.

but this is about the czech republic, and in the czech republic, vegetables are kind of a rarity. i know some of the long-standing czechspats (heh heh) feel like there are a lot more veggies on offer here than there were, say, five years ago. i don’t really care. i wasn’t here five years ago, and to my mind, this place is a near-complete veggie wasteland.

Roast pork with dumplings and cabbage
mmm - pork, dumplings & gloop! Image via Wikipedia

czechs eat funny. first of all, they take their main meal of the day at lunch (wha?). they also eat very heavy foods. everything is heavy. bread dumplings, potato dumplings, bread, over cooked pork, pork sausages, pork sausages served with bread, pork sausages served in bread, bread rolls, sweet pastries and even these weird cold pizza-like pastries that you can dig out of a bin right next to all the other bread rolls.

oh, and beer. can’t forget the beer. remind me to someday tell you the story of the bufik, where czech men get their morning pint.

combine this with the fact that they take their main meal at lunch, and well, you can imagine how very little gets done on any given prague afternoon.

back to techspat cooking. the first app i downloaded when we got our ipad last year was the epicurious app, which to this day i love. it is full of great recipes that are searchable by ingredients. how handy! i have even taken to cooking with the thing propped up on the counter, as evidenced here (from when i cooked thanksgiving dinner):

thanksgiving in prague(that turkey had to be specially ordered from a special expat butcher shop.)

the problem with expat cooking is that, sure you might have tons of recipes on hand (thank you, ipad!) and you might even understand them, but that does not in any way imply that you’ll be able to make them.

for starters, you are usually dealing with that ickle problem of measurements. how can i possibly measure a “cup” of anything when all i have is something to measure litres and grams? sure, you can “convert” the measurements (thank you, macbook!), although i challenge you to accurately measure 0.23658824 litres of anything.

an additional problem is finding the ingredients. in some cases, they are just simply not available. basic taco seasoning, for example, is not available in either of my local grocery stores. it requires an actual pilgrimage across town to procure.

in other cases, the ingredients are available, sure, but the language barrier makes them impossible to figure out. living in ireland, for example, it took me ages to figure out that what we call “eggplant,” they call “aubergine” and what we call “zucchini,” they call “corgettes.” nevermind trying to translate all that to and from czech. during our first few months here, i actually carried a notepad full of czech expressions for various food items with me everytime i went shopping.

i would love to be one of those bloggers that shares delicious-sounding recipes alongside a very elegant metaphor for life, but i am not. i am actually just someone who would prefer to complain about things instead.

but in the interest of being upbeat, i’m instead going to share a very short list (not recipes) of what i feel have been mildly successful meals i’ve made here in prague. if you happen to want any of these recipes, i will be glad to share them, but keep in mind that the ingredients and measurements will probably have to be adapted to wherever you are and whatever you can find. c’est la (expat) vie!

bunless pork burgers, chipotle beans & roast yams
bunless pork burgers, chipotle beans & roast yams
  • bunless pork burgers (you can’t really get beef.)
  • chipotle kidney beans (you can’t really get pintos or black.)
  • roast yams with mixed herbs.
  • taco salad, minus the taco.
  • megan’s taco soup (incl. mince/ground beef, onions, tomatoes, corn, peppers & taco seasoning)
  • pesto & mozzarella stuffed roast chicken w/tomatoes
  • megan’s perfect winter stew (every sort of winter veg you can find, combined with white beans and bavarian sausages)
  • magic spinach salad with sliced chorizo, peppers and avocado
  • lentils, lentils, lentils

with these, i can just about get us through one regular week in our household here.

and now, i’m hungry.

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