So much more than sustenance

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By Kirsten Laskey

Food isn’t something that  just decorates a plate or fills up your mouth before being digested. It’s so much more than sustenance.

No, provisions can act as a gateway into something else – a catalyst for a new experience.

I never thought much about the power of food beyond satisfying my appetite until I watched the movie, “Julie and Julia” and saw one of the characters make bruschetta.

It looked absolutely wonderful and I thought, “I could make that.” So I whipped up my own version with yellow and orange bell peppers and cilantro.

Biting into bread all warm with olive oil and covered with fresh vegetables, the results were thrilling.

Plus, it was delightful to see my culinary creation looked similar to what the professional cook created.

Little did I know, bruschetta was the catalyst for a new hobby. Since the first recipe went so well, I decided to venture forth and tackle another meal – chicken smothered in cream and mushroom –  featured in “Julie and Julia.”

It was a slightly more complicated recipe than the first and therefore could have yielded much deadlier results.

The stakes were raised even higher since I didn’t bother looking for a recipe; I simply mimicked what the actress did on the TV screen.  

As the red cooking wine mixed with the cream in the pan, I thought, “I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.”

This notion probably should have worried me, but the aroma that the chicken and the sauce emitted put me at ease. Besides, it was fun wandering into unknown territory.

My mom and I know all about venturing into unfamiliar culinary lands.

This past weekend, the two of us traveled to Las Cruces. My mother, who is in a graduate degree program at New Mexico State University, attended a mock oral session to prepare for the real deal.

The night we arrived into town, she asked the hotel desk clerk for restaurant suggestions.  

La Posta was recommended. It took some time and one wrong turn, but eventually we ended up at the restaurant.

The place was packed and we had to wait for a table, which was a good indication that the desk clerk’s recommendation was spot-on.

We passed the time by looking at the menagerie that was featured in the lobby.

There were several fish tanks filled with enormous, unidentifiable fish.

There was also a clump of towering wired bird cages that housed several parrots and a Toucan.

It seemed a little odd to capture and contain all these tropical birds in a restaurant located in the dry, arid state of New Mexico.

And why all the exotic fish in a state that is far from any great lake or ocean?

These were signs that later proved the hotel clerk’s recommendation to be false.

First, the waiter did not write down what we ordered, cheese enchiladas with green chile. Then, we waited 45 minutes before we received  our food.

Mind you, we both ordered the same thing, yet while my dish was perfectly warm, my mother’s was not.

Also, my mother had refried beans on her plate but  my plate was bare of any cakey bean mash.

Neither of our plates, as far as we could tell, had any green chile. Instead, we received what tasted to me like pickled tomatoes.

All of this greatly amused us. We shoved our plates far away and giggled. The meal tasted terrible but it was the source of merriment on the way back to the hotel.

How could you mess up cheese enchiladas, we guffawed.

Our food experience this past weekend may not have been the best but, once again, Julia Child and Julie Powell made me crave another culinary experience.

After failing to fall asleep one night and getting  fed up with lying in bed, staring at the ceiling fan, I got up and marched to the computer in search of literary material that was light, airy and easy to digest.

Julie Powell’s book, “Julie and Julia” seemed like it would do the trick so I  downloaded the audio book onto my iPod.

I figured the story would also be useful to pass the time while driving back to Los Alamos on Saturday.

As I listened  to Julie Powell talk of  her experience making beef bourguignon, I thought, “That’s sounds good; I could make that.”