Because of limited budget, limited imagination, and limited time, I repeatedly prepare and eat the same 6 or so things for dinner. Pasta. Buffalo fake-chicken sandwiches. Salads. Trader Joe's frozen pizza.
And most of the time I don't mind that it's so boring. But then whenever I go over to my sister's she whips up something delicious and fresh and that contains more than 4 ingredients. I'm always impressed, and it inspires me to put more effort into my dinners.
I went shopping on Tuesday night with this in mind. And also, in my head I've told myself I'm on a diet. I'm all up on my high horse, saying to myself "I'm eating right. Getting in shape!' But I haven't actually altered my behavior. Yet.
While walking through the grocery store aisles, I tried to come up with some healthful and complicated meals. Unfortunately, I was also starving and had to pee so I was distracted.
I did come up with one dinner, however. A salad topped with fried calamari rings and tossed with homemade dressing. (I know, the fried part isn't terribly healthy, but it did meet the quota for complexity.)
I wandered over to the frozen seafood section. There was only one calamari option, which was a colorful package, the shape and weight of a brick. You couldn't see what, exactly, was inside it. And the copy offered no explanation. It was simply "calamari."
I presumed inside this brick would be delightful little rings. Last night, when I finally opened it to prepare my masterpiece, I discovered the brick was actually comprised of 4 whole squids, frozen together, with a wad of tiny tentacles at one end. Clearly they'd been shoved into this rectangular tray before they were frozen. And now they were holding its shape.
I stared at the squidbrick for a moment, debating how to proceed. I supposed I would just thaw it and then slice it into rings. I didn't have time to stand there and wait for it to thaw out, so I figured I'd just run it under water for a while.
I removed the squidbrick and brought it over to the sink. After holding it under running water for a minute, some of the outer portions of the squid began to thaw out. It was then I realized how squiddy this was, because I began to see its flippers. Or whatever they are called. These things:
So the flippers starting flapping around under the running water. And then a tentacle chunk fell off and landed with a slap in the sink. And then another. Plop. I realized then that the tentacles were those tiny spider kind that normally come with fried calamari at restaurants, and were not a part of the same 4 squids whose heads I was holding. Which was good, I guess. But weird at the same time. Where had the big tentacles gone?
At this point Devin wandered into the kitchen, wondering what was taking me so long to "throw together a quick salad." He looked at the squidbrick in my hands, fins flapping in the breeze, and the tentacle deposits in the sink. He made a face. "Don't worry," I said. "It'll be good. Just gonna fry it up. Just like a restaurant." And then, "If it doesn't work I'll make something else."
After about 5 minutes, I could sense the ice at the core of the squidbrick was beginning to melt. I applied pressure to try to separate the 4 of them and soon they snapped apart.
I was relieved none of them had eyes or beaks.
After slicing them up --I ended up with rings after all! --and battering and frying the pieces, I was quite surprised that I'd actually managed to make something that looked just like regular fried calamari. And it even tasted good!
It took 1 hour of fussing around in the kitchen in order to produce 2 salads which we ate in about 6 minutes. I'm not sure it was worth it. Tonight I think we'll stick with frozen pizza.