Every so often, Sr Frances and I meet in the living room to watch some TV. We're pretty different in our tastes, but one show we enjoy sharing is the Food Network's "Restaurant Impossible," where Chef Robert Irvine tears apart a failing restaurant and with the help of a designer and a contractor (and the restaurant staff) turns it around in 48 hours. I enjoy the critique of the menu and creation of new menu items; Sr Frances focuses on the design aspects.
Another Food Network show I enjoy is "Chopped," where chefs tackle successive baskets of "mystery ingredients" that they have to prepare into a cohesive menu. I wonder if they got the idea from the convent kitchen experience, where the cook has to create a family meal from an assortment of mismatched ingredients, with no one ingredient in sufficient quantity to serve as the foundation. Happens all the time. Cans without labels, vegetables that were on clearance because of their wilted or spotted or overripe state, not quite enough chicken to go around, an assortment of pasta shapes... I would like to see the Food Network chefs work with that! (Even better: with each chef getting a different set of such mystery ingredients!)
Naturally, it's not just convents that face this particular food challenge. Families do, too. And for soup kitchens that offer meals to the down and out, it's just the way things operate.
What was your most creative approach to a mystery ingredient?
Did you ever hit on a solution that worked so well you made it a regular part of your menu?