Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Soupy Sunday

Friday I was given a bag of beef. Dana and I had just returned home from the dive when one of my co-teachers called me, asking if she could stop by. I was exhausted but invited her over for a bit, and when she arrived she presented me with a grocery bag filled with meat. She recently graduated from the Samoan Teachers College and to celebrate, her parents had bought a box of frozen corned beef to be given to all the teachers at our school. I did not know it was corned beef at the time. They also gave us money. This has been one area of Samoan culture that has been hard for me to navigate. I feel like I am handed seemingly large presents and I do not know the proper way to reciprocate, if at all. The first time I was handed a slab of meat I was overwhelmed with culture shock, but I am gradually coming to accept this form of gift as normal.

I went to the dive shop and as luck would have it, a young couple from the Czech Republic is currently taking their dive masters course. I presented my scenario to them and revealed my secret: as much as I love food and cooking, I have never actually handled a large portion of meat. I was at a loss for what to do with it all before it went bad! I had turned to the right people. In five minutes, they had described to me how to make a Bulgarian Goulash, which they guaranteed I would love. The description went something like this: “Take a lot of onions. Put them in a pan until they are beautiful and yellow. Add tons of paprika. Then put in the beef. Cook for a long time. Add water with flour. Make sure its not, how you say, chunky. Add more paprika. You will love it.” I followed their “recipe” to a T and two hours later had made my first ever Bulgarian Goulash. I was very proud. I went to try it and only then did I discover I had been working with corned beef, not regular meat. As a result, the recipe was about 50 times saltier than I would have liked, but I knew my neighbor, who loves salt, would enjoy the soup. I loaded my salty creation into a bowl and brought it over at dinnertime. Wouldn’t you know, she had made beef stew for dinner, too! I gave her a hefty portion of mine and took a nice portion of hers for me. We ate each other’s soups and were both pleased. I was happy to have unsalted beef, and she was happy to eat up the salt. Lesson learned, check my meat before making goulash in the future. And make sure Mina has some food prepared for when my creations go wrong.

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