Substitution

Hey, everybody!

Our beloved raincoaster is taking a little vacation for a few more days. In the meantime, so as not to leave her loving minions hanging, I’ll be filling in. So fire up your stoves, pour yourselves a drink that makes you happy, and get ready for some good home cooking.

Speaking of substitutions, we’ve all made some while cooking. You know how it is. You get a yen for a particular food, get started cooking, and discover you’re out of an important ingredient for the dish.

I was about twelve when my mother taught me to make risotto. A couple weeks later, she had a meeting that ran over dinnertime and left me in charge of feeding the family. She told me to make risotto. No problemo, I assured her! My first attempt had been quite successful.

The one problem was that when it came time to get cooking, I ran into a slight hitch: I couldn’t find the rice for love nor money. To this day I have no clue where Mom had hidden the white and starchy, but it was not appearing to my wondering eyes.

I began to resemble this:

far more than I would have liked.

At last, a solution rose out of the darkness! I found what I thought was brown rice. I felt certain that – while it would certainly be different than white rice – brown rice would work. In fact, I liked brown rice better than white in general (the nuttiness appeals strongly to me), so I thought I might even enjoy the dish more.

I tossed those grains into the skillet and risottoed for all I was worth. Dinner time arrived, and I had piping hot risotto ready to go along with the rest of the meal. I also had two older brothers, a father, and a neighbor kid sitting down to eat with us. The neighbor kid was a noted picky eater, to boot.

We all tasted the risotto. Everybody went nuts for it. The picky neighbor kid begged for seconds. Yes, my little twelve-year-old buttons nearly burst with pride.

When Mom got home, I told her what I’d done but she looked puzzled. Turns out we didn’t have any brown rice in the kitchen just then. What I’d used was barley.

So folks, if you ever find yourself longing for risotto but out of rice, use the barley. It’s beyond fabulous.

And remember when you see restaurant menus featuring the chef’s special creation of risotto made with something other than rice as an oh-so-clever-and-utterly-original thing? I was doing it in 1975.

So what about all of you? Anybody out there have a tale of a fabulous (or painfully yet hilariously disastrous) kitchen substitution? Share with the class!

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