Yesterday I was going to do the grocery shopping and Katara said she wanted beef in cubes. So I bought a chunk of beef roast, cubed it, and fried it on the skillet. Katara often surprises me by rejecting what I think is lovely food, but so far she has never rejected straight fried meat with salt and pepper. Okay, whatever, at least it's easy.
We also had some yellow squashes in the refrigerator so I decided to cook those. I made Toph tell me whether to turn them into discs or spears (discs) and then I cooked them in oil in a cast-iron frying pan, with some salt. I thought I would probably add a little soy sauce or something to them a later on but while they were cooking I remembered that we had paneer in the freezer. Toph had asked for it a couple of weeks before but hadn't specified what she wanted done with it. I didn't want it to just sit there forever, and this seemed like as good a time as any to use it. So I cubed up the paneer and put it in with the squash, and then because it was paneer I put in some cumin and cardamom and turmeric powder.
I liked it, and the kids ate a lot of it, so I suppose that counts as a success.
This is a very typical example of how I cook. This style really suits me. I'm good at improvising and not good at planning. I buy things at the store that I think I might want to cook later, and then I forget about them. But then I look in the refrigerator for ingredients and hey, look, yellow squashes. Okay, we can have yellow squash, fine. Sometimes I feel like that guy in Memento, sending myself messages through time.
One drawback of this style of cooking: when you make something you like, you can't always make it a second time. How much turmeric did I put in? Uh, I'm not sure. A few shakes? I made an awesome turkey and potato stew in 1995 that I really wish I could duplicate. But I don't remember how I did it.
Another drawback: sometimes toward the end I realize what I should have done back at the beginning and then it's too late. For example, onions. If you want to put in onions you have to commit to them ahead of time because they take so long too cook. If I had known ahead of time that I was going to put cumin and paneer into the squash I would have cooked it in ghee instead of in vegetable oil. Oh well, maybe next time.
And sometimes I become indecisive at a crucial moment and ruin the food. But in the worst case, there is always peanut butter.