Low Expectations


My roommate, Kunihiro, is a Japanese National—our stereotypical idea of how the Japanese are:  slender, quiet, brainy (he has 2 Ph.D.s–in engineering and computer science), and not prone to complaining.

When he came to live with me about 18 years ago,  he spoke limited English, and what he did speak was unintelligible.  He is an excellent mimic, however, and can now swear and talk business in 2 languages.

His palate is still Japanese, and he prefers pasta, rice, and whatever you can mix with them, for dinner.  Since I am not Asian, and could never understand the subtle differences in rice, if I ask him what he’d like for dinner, the answer is always pasta.  I prefer more variety in my diet, but at least once a week I cook pasta.

One evening last week, I made meat sauce for the pasta, which I thought turned out quite tasty.  I mixed hamburger with zucchini and shallots, some cilantro, a few tomatoes, garlic, and marjoram, with a pinch of salt and red pepper.

Kunihiro doesn’t want the sauce mixed in with his spaghetti. He wants the sauce served in a pool on top, like they show in the T.V. commercials.  He often arrives home late, however, and I am always afraid the pasta will dry out (no extra olive oil for us!).  But it was pasta, and that’s all that matters to Kunihiro, who would have pitched a fit if I had overcooked rice.

“How do you like it?”  I asked him.

“Actually, it was quite tasty, and to be truthful, it would be hard to screw up pasta.”  You see, his Engrish is quite idiomatic at this point.

I burst out laughing and almost choked. Then he started mimicking my laugh and said, “What’s so funny? What are you talking about?”

My sisters and I were born without a cooking gene.  In fact, shortly after Kunihiro came to live with me, an in-law asked him how he liked my cooking, & he answered, “It’s good.”  And she raised her eyebrows and responded, slowly, “Really?”

The way my sister Randi cooks pasta—I am not making this up—she doesn’t wait for the water to boil. When she thinks it’s about to boil, she throws the pasta in the pot.  She doesn’t measure or keep track of time. After it starts boiling, if she thinks it doesn’t look like enough for all the people she has to serve, she throws more pasta in the pot.  No angel hair for her, obviously.  So, you get mush with uncooked pasta.

The first time I saw her do this, I started telling my brother-in-law, and he cut me off, saying, “I’m used to it. Why do you think we eat out so often?”

He recently had his gall bladder removed.  It couldn’t have been Randi’s cooking, could it?

I would never brag about my cooking,  and the worst thing I ever did was confuse anchovies with sardines (which I was going to use in place of tuna), and it turned out so badly, even the dogs wouldn’t eat it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: