Considering that the last “culinary” mishap I documented was “Cooking Crystal with Nicole,” a 2016 effort at redemption from a childhood crystal-growing crusade, and before then, the 2014 microwaved hot chocolate explosion–“What if hot chocolate just wants to be called beautiful chocolate?”–I think it’s evident Nicole Sundays isn’t a cooking blog.
(Not that I really know what my blog identifies as. Like me, its identity seems to hinge on negatives and process by elimination. Just as I understand/define myself as “not dead” and “not interested in accounting”, my blog is not about cooking, not a lifestyle showcase—God, could you imagine—and not great at analogies.)
Anyway, zoodles. Yes.
For a while, I’d wanted to make zoodles, or zucchini noodles, because I love exploring disturbing concepts. A healthy substitute for pasta, zoodles are essentially just spiralized, sautéed zucchini that look like noodles. Friday night, I had a celiac friend, meaning she can’t process gluten, over to experiment with me.
I’d surfed online that morning for recipes that incorporated the fewest ingredients I didn’t already have in the fridge, not so I’d need to shop for less items but so I could more easily convince myself they were superfluous to the recipe and not have to venture outside my apartment. No bacon? I had shrimp. No spiralizer or even peeler to make the actual zoodles? I had stupidity.
I was also trying to combine recipes by substituting items, a practice I always get onto Mom about when she inevitably wonders why her cooking doesn’t turn out quite right. To which my only defense is that I’m a hypocrite. One recipe was for zoodles and the other was for butternut squash carbonara (I wanted the creamy cheese sauce.) However, the sauce in the latter wasn’t to be separately made from the noodles, which entailed a lot more mental work with quantities of substitutes, eg. the 3 lb butternut squash I substituted with 20 ounces of zucchini, 20 of yellow squash, and 1/6 of a spaghetti squash.
My friend showed up with mozzarella and chicken broth by the time I’d set out the ingredients and washed the assortment of squashes. Despite discussing the necessity of a spiralizer in the morning, neither of us had gone out to get one. Maybe we’d tried to convince ourselves we didn’t need one; maybe it was one of those train wrecks from which you can’t look away.
The zoodles recipe estimated about 35 minutes of cooking time. What ensued was TWO HOURS of us trying to thin-slice zucchini with kitchen knives on a single cutting board.
Calves straining by the end of our labor, we stepped back to view our handiwork.
Friend: Look at the improvement across the four plates! Stalks to spaghetti. I’m so proud.
Me: All those differently angled cross section techniques—time to update LinkedIn.
Me: … Um. Why… are there four plates?
The recipes made 4 servings. Our mountains of raw zoodles looked like they could feed a small nation.
Stomach sinking, I Googled “butternut squash” to confirm my fears. As it turns out, three pounds of various sliced squashes does not a 3 lb butternut squash make. Butternut squashes have necks that you cut off, reducing weight.
So now all our measurements were off, half our labor had been for naught, and we had enough zucchini “noodles” to live off of for weeks. We observed a brief moment of silence for our Mistake™ and forged ahead, proceeding to do things like wonder why the sauce looked so clumpy when we hadn’t turned on the stove. Over three hours after we’d begun, we brought our bowls to the dining table and feasted.
Friend: I like it!
Me, taken aback: It actually… isn’t bad.
Well, unless zoodles are supposed to taste exactly like sautéed zucchini (I’d assumed the different shape would’ve done something to you psychologically,) I was reasonably sure we hadn’t made anything close to what we’d set out to make, but it wasn’t bad.
Come to think of it, Mom’s cooking attempts with were nearly always wrong but almost never bad. She, like my friend and me, had done what she could with what she had. And isn’t that all it is to grow up, learning to just run with the same idiocy?
Me: Then again, I did subsist the entire year off nine ingredients so I’m not the best judge.
So… maybe low standards, too. But what do I know?
If you’re curious, the ingredients were spinach, banana, carrots, milk, onion, egg, cottage cheese, bread, and avocado.
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