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Frustration Stew: Cooking Therapy

What better therapy than with a knife? Okay, maybe not what you were thinking about, but what can bring two frustrated people together better than a piece of touch chuck and a couple of cleavers? That was me and our new exchange student in the kitchen tonight. He is from Korea—think bright cherry hair and designer glasses—and he just plain doesn’t understand what’s happening around him. He’s like a man on Mars on a nine-month mission.

I am frustrated because the things that are normally easy aren’t so easy when you have to rely on telepathy. And I suck at that. You ask him to empty the dishwasher, he empties the top rack. You think, “WTF.” He thinks, “Why is she chasing me with a cleaver?”

It seemed like the best activity for bonding would be to cook something together, something complicated enough that required steps. Like a hearty beef stew. His parents run a seafood restaurant in Korea, and he has already announced that after seven years, he’s not touching a shrimp.

“Do you want to cook?” I say.

“Not now,” he says. “I’m not hungry.” And disappears in his room.

So I cut up the meat in small chunks and after a few minutes, yell back, “Get over here. I need your help.” Recently I discovered that a plea for help is an incredibly effective parenting method. Works with husbands too. A little ego damaging, but it’s all for a good cause, right?

Three minutes later he is flattening the meat cubes, drenching what was left of them in flour, and dumping them into hot oil in the Dutch oven. I guess three days in an American high school can do that to a teenager. All done, he says, “I have homework. I don’t understand.” Yeah, Yeah, I said. I can help.

Frustration Beef Stew

2 pounds chuck steak
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour mixed with your favorite beef seasoning
One 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
Fresh basil and rosemary
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup celery
1 cup green beans
1 cup carrots
One zucchini
1/3 cup of red wine
1 tablespoon A1 sauce
A dash of hot sauce that was sitting in the fridge

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pan. Cut meat into small pieces, pound with a meat tenderizer, drench in flour. Brown in the pan. Move the meat to the side and in the leftover oil sauté onion and carrots. Add wine and let boil for two minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir and cover. Let simmer up to one hour. Serve with noodles.