April 17, 2013 by anelim
My institute has this curious and wonderful custom: each fellow has to cook lunch for the whole institute at least once during his or her stay in Berlin.
Well, guess what I have just done? That’s right: I have cooked for 30 people (together with a colleague) and survived! Actually, now that it is done and scraped off the plates, the effort does not seem all that formidable. But I might have responded differently, if you had asked me
…at 2am last night when baking was in full swing, my small home fridge was full of 8kg spiced mincemeat (which I had made myself, in the humongous cauldron which my blessed landlady left me) and I had six alarms set in case I fall asleep with the oven on;
…on Monday morning when I skipped work (good boss but guilty academic conscience!) to go to a Turkish market in Neukoelln before work and returned with about 12 kg of ingredients;
…this morning when I had to carry two huge tourist bags full of banitsa, breads mince meat through the U- and S-Bahns at rushhour, and the confused shop assistant asked me – “Sorry, did you say FOUR Fladenbrots?” (I usually buy one or two a week);
…or at half past noon today, when we couldn’t see anything from the smoke in the mini kitchen at work, and my (seniour!) colleague had to step in and fry meatballs by the dozen in two pans because the oven method didn’t work and I, being shit scared of hot things, refused to fry them. (Yeah, I know. But the other things I’m scared of are even sillier.)
Objectively, I do think it was a bit of an overkill in terms of both variety and quantity of dishes, and carrying everything by hand all over the city wasn’t the best part. Also roasting meat (combined with thermophobia) was a bit of a risk. But in the end it all worked. All the plates were empty, even though only 20 or so people turned up. And everyone seemed to have enjoyed what my colleague called our “Balkan meal with a Californian twist”. So, a success! Now I need to switch my roasting brain off and my thinking brain back on. Wait, it is still full of recipes.
My consolation is that, as my dad joked last night, even if I can’t find an academic job after July, I would at least be qualified not only for researching maritime employment, but for working on a ship as a cook – if only I could repeat the feat every day, three times a day, away from the shore and all its helpful shops, the Internet and access to family culinary wisdom on the phone. Joke aside, being a cook is bloody hard and intricate work, which I now appreciate a little more.
Pictures and recipes might follow in the next few days, if I get around to it! Right now WordPress is refusing to upload anything for some reason. It is probably stuffed with banitsa and kyufteta and has no room for visuals.
P.S. This blog has been abandoned because even though I’m still a makeshift Berliner, I also have a job to do and only three months of my fellowship left…