Improv-ments (a potato experiment)

It can be tough to get fancy with food sometimes. Maybe you're tired at the end of a day, maybe you are just cooking for your family again and there's no spark at all in the effort, maybe you only have the most basic and simple ingredients. Sometimes though, it is outside motivation that stirs us to experiment. Often I talk about internal motivation here in my posts, but today I want to talk about an external force: surprise guests!

We had nothing prepared. Stone nothing: No meat thawed, no fresh veggies, no canned or prepackaged food for swift deployment, and no hope. I was tired and had just planned to bake some potatoes and put sour cream on them—hardly anything fit for guests—but my husband decided the occasion must be arisen to, and swept me out of the kitchen in a quick do-see-do of traditional duties.


This was the strange concoction he came up with. He had sliced onions and magically produced a summer sausage from some dimension my eyes couldn't see, pouring some barbecues sauce into a bowl and mixing them together with some quick dashes of spice. He then split the potatoes in half, putting the mixture on top of them before sticking them in the oven to cook.

They came out a little sloppy, but extremely tasty. Simple potatoes covered with a tasty barbecued onion "stew" that plunked into bowls and happy stomachs alike, with the aforementioned sour cream and butter. My husband was the only one dissatisfied at his improvisation.


If he could do it again, he would have diced up the onions and sausage much more finely, and soaked them longer in the sauce. He also would have sliced the potatoes up instead of leaving them chunked, and put them into our stoneware dish like a shepherd's pie instead of leaving them to balance on the baking sheet. But while he was fussing, I was occupied thinking about how high-quality, simple ingredients and a little elbow grease can make such a fine meal at the drop of a hat. I'd been used to having to manage and massage food my whole life to make it good or brag-worthy, but with the CSA I can relax: Simple is good when quality is high, and I love having the confidence to improvise and improve, focusing on that with my time instead of worrying about the quality or even composition of my ingredients.


What did you make the last time you improvised in the kitchen?