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Week #38: Creative Writing Challenge – Risotto Across the Universe

October 14, 2021

Your penpal lives on the opposite side of the universe.

Dearest Friend,

Your last letter left me writhing on the floor in laughter at your description of Galteenan younglings trying to impress other younglings. It is much the same here on Earth. You asked about human food in your last letter, so I thought I’d describe cooking my favorite dish for you.

I made risotto last night and it’s one of my favorites. It’s a rice (one of our grains) dish that is cooked slowly and with care so that the flavors can entangle themselves together. The flavors aren’t strong, but they are complex in a good risotto. I made a shrimp and bacon risotto. Are you familiar with the animals and products? The first is a creature from our oceans and the latter is a cut of meat from a pig that we raise on land for the express purpose of feeding ourselves. Both can be considered delicacies on some parts of Earth.

I had to thaw the shrimp from its frozen state. We can put a lot of energy into drawing the heat out of food and turning the liquid water in a food into the solid state. The process can be reversed by adding heat later (thawing). It took a lot longer to thaw the shrimp than I thought it would and I put them in warm water to accelerate the process. I kept feeling the bag they were in to check their progress. Shrimp shells (they have a shell that needs to be peeled off before eating) poked me through the bag, but weren’t sharp enough to let water gush through the plastic.

I chopped leeks and zucchinis and carrots, all vegetables that grow from the ground, and put them in a bowl to await the shrimp. I sautéed all three in some garlic (another vegetable grown from the ground) and olive oil, along with the thawed and peeled shrimp. When they were soft from cooking, I removed the shrimp, added the rice, a special type called ‘Arborio’, and stirred. A bit of butter and white wine were the next additions.

Making risotto is like a repetitive dance. I stir slowly with a wooden spoon after each half cup addition of chicken stock (a liquid made from the carcass of a chicken after most meat has been removed for consumption). At first, after the addition, I can’t see the bottom of the pan as the wood strikes slowly, but confidently, through the rice mixture preventing it from sticking. It simmers softly as I trace a figure eight pattern with the wooden spoon, occasionally tracing the very edges of the pan.

As I stir, I pull the slightly acidic smell of wine into my nostrils, followed by rich notes of butter and chicken, and then capped off by pepper (a spice) and surrounded by the aroma of bacon. As I keep stirring, the bottom of the pan peaks out in the wake of wood. The grains of arborio rice have sucked in the broth like parched cacti in a desert, storing it, softening the insides of each grain into something that won’t stick in my teeth when I finally and reverently consume my creation.

I religiously add half cup after half cup and keep stirring. My breathe falls into a rhythm to match the movement of my wooden spoon through the pan, and my eyes study the greens and oranges, the dark meaty reds and the ivory grains. The repetitive dance keeps going, the flavors coalescing into something greater than all the parts.

Most recipes don’t get the timing right, but I’ve found that there comes a moment when the rice creation feels sticky as my spoon stirs and the smells become something new. That’s how I know it’s done.

Here on Earth, some people enjoy the process of cooking and consuming food, almost like practicing an art form. Others seek out food purely for nutritional purposes. I find that my life has more meaning and happiness if I think about food in the former terms, especially if i get to share my creations with others that find joy in it.

Do you find joy and meaning in food as well?

Yours across the Universe,


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