Tasty Tuesday – Lunch Party
Sunday afternoon, my house smelled like both a bakery and an Italian restaurant. Why? I spent a good portion of the day baking the cookies I told you about yesterday, as well as making a rich homemade tomato sauce for today’s lunch. Yum.
After having talked with the teachers about preparing our final meal together and bringing it to them, rather than going out to a local restaurant, I had to figure out just what to make. Seeing how the Thai palette is not the same as those of us from the States (or much of the Western world, for that matter), I needed to do some polling around to find out what each of the teachers like and dislike. It seems that most basic Italian food goes over well in Thailand, as they are already accustomed to tomatoes and tomato-based sauces, they enjoy garlic, and pasta has become quite common over the past few decades. Since I rather enjoy making Italian food, this was no biggie… but, just what would I make? Lasagna.
A few of the ladies asked if I could make lasagna, and wanted me to make it the way they’ve seen it in pictures – not the way other foreigners have made it, or they way it is prepared in selected Thai restaurants. They wanted the real stuff, unchaged for Thai tastes. Little did they know, I LOVE making lasagna (my Nana’s recipe), and I’ve been looking for an excuse to splurge (cheese is expensive, both noodles and ricotta/cottage cheese very hard to find) on this meal for the past year. Finally, I had a good reason! (And time to pad the budget a bit, too.)
Since we were gone all day Monday working on our new house, I had to do some of the prep on Sunday – shredding the mozzarella, and peeling/dicing/stewing my own tomatoes with finely minced onion and herbs, since the canned variety isn’t available to me here. Boy, did it smell good in here. Having the most time consuming things finished already, I was able to get up early today, finish making the sauce, brown the meat, prep the cheesey layer, then assemble the lasagna for baking. Check it out.
I gave myself an extra hour for cook time, just in case my wonky oven decided to do anything to ruin my day, and I’m glad I did. The thicker material of my new dish (found it on sale in BKK – it’s real Corningware!), plus the inconsistent gas in my oven made it take about an extra 25 minutes. Good thing I learned from past experience, eh? While that was in the oven, I prepared a simple salad, a tray of veggies to add to the salad, made a dish of fresh garlic butter with parsley, and arranged a couple of thinly sliced baguette on a tray. It all looked great, smelled great… and made my house about a billion degrees this morning! But, I didn’t care. I got to cook, and it worked, so I’m happy.
We sat down to lunch with all but one of our teachers today, and I had to keep focused in order to keep myself from tearing up while we ate. These women really do work hard for us. As I said yesterday, they put up with so many people messing up Thai, messing up culturally, asking the exact same questions over and over again… and they still manage to keep a smile on their faces. They have incredible patience and such willing hearts to help us in learning this language and keep from making fools of ourselves. Though the year hasn’t been easy, I am incredibly grateful for them and all they’ve invested in both Brook and I. I really can’t say thank you enough.
Today was really fun. And… they liked it! Seriously, most had seconds, and some even went for thirds! If you’ve ever lived in a foreign country, and if you’ve ever tried to cook for your national friends, you know what kind of accomplishment that is. I loved listening to them chattering away about how they liked it, and how pretty it was (yes, they noticed my meticulous layering as every slice of lasagna came out of the pan – my momma taught me well!). Even when unwrapping the tray of bread, another said how impressed she was that I had fanned the slices out so neatly around the cup of butter – it’s those little things that count, ya know? That’s the kind of stuff that makes it special, and I think they noticed. I know, I know, I should have taken a picture of everything, but I didn’t remember to do so until it was mostly gone.
I really hope they felt appreciated today, because I would not be where I am without them.