Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And how would you cook this?

This is a label from a food package purchased in Thailand. (Click on the image for a larger view.)  Can you figure out how to cook it?  Can you possibly figure out what it is?  Yeah; that is what I thought.  So, here is a short story of my recent cooking adventures here in the Land of Smiles.

Shortly after we arrived in Phuket I cooked pancakes one Sunday morning, following the long-since memorized recipe from my grandmother's 1932 cookbook handed down to me from my mother since she never used it.  Bill took the first bite and literally spit it back out onto the plate.  Those pancakes tasted utterly disgusting!!!  He was convinced that I must have forgotten the recipe and added wrong ingredients.  I tossed that batch and started over; this time Bill pulled out the cookbook and called out the ingredients and quantities as I mixed the batter.

The second batch tasted just as nasty as the first.  Tossed that mess into the trash and Bill ate toast and cereal instead.  We reviewed where we had purchased each of the ingredients.  The only thing that possibly might have been different was the flour.  We had purchased it in Langkawi and the package was labeled only in Bahassa Malay.  I thought it was the same flour we have been buying during the past year, but maybe I had picked up some kind of seasoned flour intended for seafood or chicken or something.  So we tossed the entire large canister of flour.  During our next shopping trip we purchased Gold Medal flour.  Next time I made pancakes, they tasted fine -- just like normal.

On Christmas Day I made a chocolate pie using the same cookbook.  Nothing weird in the ingredients:  Hershey's semi-sweet baking chocolate, butter, flour, sugar, salt, scalded milk, vanilla and 3 egg yolks.  The mixture took 3 times longer to thicken that stated in the recipe, but it looked normal.  I poured it into the pie shell and then licked the spoon.  BEEE--YUCK!!!!!  That tasted sort of like that nasty pancakes of a few weeks earlier.  I tossed that pie into the trash and decided we didn't really need a desert on Christmas.  (Later, our Christmas plans changed and there were plenty of deserts; but that is another story.)

Fast forward to 28 December when for some reason  I decided that a cup of coffee would be really nice one morning.  We do not normally drink coffee but I do enjoy it every once in a while.  Rather than my normal black coffee, I wanted a "desert" coffee with sugar and Coffeemate.  I settled in the cockpit to enjoy the coffee while reading my latest book; took the first sip and promptly spit it overboard.  HEY!  This tasted about as nasty as those pancakes!  

All the marinas in Thailand warn that the water from the spigots is non-potable; so we have not been drinking water from our main water tank because it was filled in the marina.  We had filled large jerry jugs with water we had made prior to arriving in the marina.  But for this coffee I had used the water from the tap from our main water tank.  Figured since it was put through the drinking water filter system and then boiled that it should be okay to drink.  Apparently not true!

I made another coffee, using water from our jerry jugs this time.  I added the sugar and Coffeemate; and again sat down to enjoy coffee and reading.  Took a sip and again immediately spit it overboard.  What the heck was going on?  This stuff tasted like seawater.  I convinced Bill to taste it.  He grimaced and said it tasted like salt.

A little memory work ensued.  Sure enough, when I had cooked the last batch of pancakes I had used up the last 1/4 cup of the sugar in the small container that I keep on the spice shelf in the galley.  That was the batch of pancakes that tasted normal.  But the first 2 batches of disgusting pancakes were made using sugar from the large canister kept on a shelf behind the store.  And the chocolate pie was prepared using sugar from that large canister.  Then I had re-filled the small container on the spice shelf from that large canister and used the small container to "sweeten" my coffee. 

That large canister of sugar was really SALT!!
Actually, both the small container and the large canister were now pure salt!

Here in Thailand I had purchased a large bag of what I thought was sugar.  It looked like sugar and was on the supermarket shelf next to the flour, so I thought like an American and assumed it was sugar.  After all, at home the supermarkets usually put the flour and sugar near one another on the shelves.

Glad the mystery was solved before we ruined more food.  I had already thrown out quite a bit of flour, not to mention the pie crust and the chocolate and eggs.  I dug out our "reserve" large bag of sugar that had been vacuum-sealed in March 2008 in Panama.  I poured that excessive quantity of salt into a bag and vacuum-sealed it.  Then washed out the large canister and filled it with azucar -- which I know for certain is Spanish for sugar. 

We now have enough salt on this boat to last us however many years we might decide to continue cruising.  I would never have knowingly bought this much salt.  But we will need to buy more sugar.  And from now on I will taste the salt and taste the sugar before it is placed into our daily use small containers and the large Lock-N-Lock storage canisters.

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