Monday, August 8, 2011

The silent art of cooking.

There are few things in the world that are universally spoken without using words. Giving directions, dancing, and cooking are just three. Since we no longer have camp in the afternoon, we have about six hours of free time from when we eat lunch, until dinner. Today, most of us scrambled onto Facebook the minute we heard the Communist ban had been lifted. I allowed myself an hour to peruse a few profiles, not understanding all of the updated functions.

I braided Amy's hair for her tennis match with Ania this afternoon but that only took up about twenty minutes. I was antsy for 3 pm to roll around so I could run out back to the kitchen to help 'Grandma' and our camp-crew prepare dinner with Sophia. When the time finally came, Sophia and I put up our hair and changed into some work clothes. All of the Vietnamese coaches went to watch the impromptu tennis match, so we were left wondering how in the world we would figure out what to do in a Vietnamese kitchen.

Luckily, the main director of our hostel was there and she speaks a little bit of English. She explained how we would be having over twenty guests tonight so they were boiling an entire chicken to make rice soup with. There was also a bowl of banana flowers sitting in some kind of liquid. Apparently they are served with the soup.

Sophia and I kind of stood around smiling while the Vietnamese worked away at their various chores, talking about us and giggling every few seconds. Then one woman motioned us into the back area where a fire was burning with a plastic bag melting on top. She pointed to a bowl of pork sitting in an oil blend, and then pointed at a rack. We assumed that meant, cook on here. But we had to wait for the wood to burn down to heat up the coals.

Grandma came around the corner and handed us each a Vietnamese rootbeer. Then she tried to teach us a few words, which I of course have already forgotten. I know one was snails, and the other was pork...but the translated meaning, I got nothin'.

When we got the O-K to put the meat on the rack we started to follow the woman's lead. She laid a piece. So we laid a piece. And then about thirty seconds later, she flipped it over. We had to balance the rack because it was slightly bent and would rock back and forth on the coal fire. Soon the rack was filled entirely and we started our flipping process. We'd wait, and then flip. But then she basically flipped the same piece right after we did. My mind was blown. Everything Paula Dean and Bobby Flay have taught me through the Food Network is suddenly reversed. "Don't flip your meat until it's ready," rang through my head as we flipped the meat every few seconds.

When I thought a piece was ready, I picked it up and showed it to the woman. She either nodded her head yes, or nodded her head no. If it was a yes, I put it down in the bowl where she could cut off the charred pieces of fat. If it was a no, I put it back on the mini-grill. No words needed.

Every few minutes Grandma would come pat us on the back and try to give us a few more words to practice, but I of course have already forgotten them.

Hopefully we don't poison anyone tonight, but the meat is really good...not gonna lie. If everyone says how much they like the meat, I will toot my own horn. For days.

I want to buy a pot and make a coal grill now. My hair smells like a summertime bbq, except for this time I'm covered in ashes and I actually cooked the food.

1 comment:

  1. nice are you going to cook like that when you get here? :) yum