Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Great Tomato Paste Debacle

I made pasta and tomato sauce for dinner today, and it reminded me of something that happened when I first got to Egypt...

I've never been the best cook, but in the US, I did okay.  I could even cook some French and Mexican things and had a wok to stir-fry Chinese food when I felt like it.  When I got married over here, I figured pasta was the quickest and easiest to whip out, so I went to a corner store to buy the makings.  There was plenty of macaroni -- but no tomato sauce.  They only had jars of tomato paste.  Lots and lots of 'em.  So ... um ... I bought the paste.  I could make sauce out of that, right? 

Not so much.  It was thick and awful and bitter -- even when I added sugar to it.  (Yeah, I was that desperate.)

I discovered that I was really spoiled.  My idea of tomato sauce was that it came in jars marked "mushroom flavored" or "with cheese."  I was actually surprised when my Egyptian husband suggested I make sauce the way his mom did -- with fresh tomatoes.  But how do you do that?  I've grown up in a culture where grocery shelves are stocked with so many ready-made, great tasting, quick-n-easy choices, you can think you're really a cook when you're not.

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Since you can only buy vegetables that are in season here, I now plan meals around what's available.  I don't buy jars of things with preservatives, chemicals, and additives in them.  Everything's fresh and natural.  Yeah, cooking from scratch is a little harder, but I'm sure I'm better off for it. 

And I've learned how to make a mean tomato sauce! :-)

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