So I cut minute steaks into strips, threw them in a pan of hot oil, then I threw in a tin of chakalaka and to my great shock and total surprise, the stuff tasted and looked a lot like beef stroganoff! I had a name for the meal that sounded a tad better than “chakalaka” but it still didn’t do it for me, I was now fully inspired and intended catapulting this humble dish to the top where it belonged.
A minute later inspiration struck again, I was unstoppable, my total culinary knowledge had been extremely limited to one or two what I call “signature dishes” that few, including myself, could replicate exactly all the time, not as bad as those whose kitchen knowledge starts and stops at tomato and cheese sandwiches, but not far behind anyway. Now I stood on the threshold of greatness, the one true inspiration that would set me apart from my peers and amateur chefs everywhere, I threw the pantry door open, and there it stood as it had stood for years, a lonely bottle of Autumn Harvest wine, so vile tasting that not even the most booze-loving relatives could stomach (which meant it was perfect for cooking). I held my nose, poured a lid of the liquid into my beef stroganoff and wala! Perfection achieved, my dish was aptly named “Beef Stroganoff in White Wine Sauce” (Served with Hot Steamed Noodles and Carrots) - the sauce Did actually come together, thanks largely to a packet of brown onion soup.
So there I sat, doing what so many before me did after a great discovery, I played carom and started thinking about how this pleasant turn of events could so easily be taken as a metaphor for life; mainly, how situations that so often seem like lost causes can be turned around with a little bit of creativity and flair, abject failure turned into triumph with a mere tweak here and there.
The proof though, as they say, is in the tasting so I wasted no time in presenting myself, with the dish in both arms, to my nearest haute cuisine dining establishment, connections, long story – “What do we have here?” Asked the Head Chef, “Aah” said I “Beef Stroganoff in white wine sauce served with hot steamed rice noodles and roasted carrots, now please hurry and get your best sommelier, we must pair these with the most appropriate wine at once!” We sat in a semi-circle and wolfed down each delicious morsel, mopping the gravy up with fresh homemade sweetish bread called “Ouma’s” (to be found by the public Only at Pick n’ Pay, Braamfontein, in case you wanted to know).
The twice Michelin-Starred Top chef sat back in his chair, eyes half-closed, a look of total ecstasy and satisfaction washing over his old wrinkled features, and began to speak slowly, “Aaaah, I haven’t tasted a meal so good since I was 5 growing up with my gran in old Italy”… the planets have aligned.