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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I know plenty of people who are handier with a saucepan than I am, but I'm not bad. Long ago I learned that if I wanted something delicious, my best bet was often going to be to make it myself, so I've learned a few tricks, and a bit about seasoning, and while there are vast continents whose cuisine I cannot lay claim to being able to competently prepare, if it's European or North American, I've probably had a go at it, and I can often reconstruct it after having once or twice. I suppose I'm a picky eater-- I'd rather not eat if what is offered is not up to what I consider acceptable. Life being what it is, time to cook is at a premium, however, and I am also confronted with certain limitations imposed by my audience which complicate my task. One such is the presence in our household of at least one, and sometimes two pisco-vegetarians. This is okay-- we eat less meat, more fish. I can handle that. Over the weekend I made Chuck Taggert's barbecued Shrimp, which were delicious, only to find that CLA doesn't really care for shrimp. Yesterday, a bit pressed for time, I made pasta with a simple tomato sauce to which I added grilled red peppers. CLA doesn't really like red peppers, and delicately ate around them. I love working with eggplant, a very versatile vegetable, but A. won't eat it. I love cooking French food, but A. will consume nothing with mustard-- a base ingredient in more sauces than you'd think, starting with mayonnaise. In today's NYTimes there is a lovely article on anchovies. I love pasta puttanesca, but it contains two forbidden ingredients: in addition to the lovely little fishes, nobody in my house will touch anything that they suspect has been touched by a caper. The caper rule impacts on quite a number of nice sauces for fish, actually.

I'm just scratching the surface here. Down this path lies fishsticks and salads made with iceberg lettuce (and that orange dressing-- a worse insult by Americans to the French than any they have ever given to us). The most important question of the day-- "What's for dinner?"-- and I'm running out of answers.

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