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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My list is short: crisp cucumbers & burned potatoes

Friday, June 1, 2012

I was trying to think of some hints for success in the kitchen that I could pass along to my grandchildren now that some of them are setting up their own households. It occurred to me while I was preparing a salad that my mother soaked cucumber slices in salt water for a couple of hours before putting them into a salad. Why? In the back of my mind I seemed to remember something about them being bitter or poisonous and the salt water took away whatever was bad.

I was usually short on time when I was cooking for my family and so I took shortcuts. I skipped the soaking stage when I sliced cucumbers and they were not bitter and we were not poisoned. I thought the seed had been improved in the years since Mom had a garden. Even so, the memory of draining the salt water from the cucumbers for my mother bothered me. Maybe there was a different reason.

I began to ask my friends if they put their sliced cukes into salt water before incorporating them into a salad. Most of them did. Then I asked, "Why?" The majority of them had the same answer: because my mom did it that way. No one had any idea as to why it was necessary. The bitterness answer was given a few times but most of them admitted they only did It because they figured if mom did it, that was cause enough to believe it was necessary.

Once my curiosity is aroused about something, I can't let it alone. I went to the internet and did a search on the subject. None of the suggested sites had my answer. Most of them told of ways to use the vegetable for cosmetic purposes. I not only did not go lie down with a slice of cucumber on each eye, I gave up on my search for answers there.

Later I sat next to a friend twenty years my senior at a party. I asked her about it. She was just as befuddled as her younger counterparts. She knew she was supposed to do that but admitted she didn't always take the time for it, gradually quitting the practice entirely. Her niece overheard our conversation and gave me a reason that made sense. She said it makes them crisper. The salt water pulls some of the moisture from them and the texture is improved. Finally I had an answer I could accept. So now I will slice them into salt water prior to using them. And I have found a legitimate bit of kitchen advice to pass along.

I do have one other cooking related hint: if the potatoes have boiled dry, immediately blanch them with cold water, then cut off the black spots. Get the smoke out of the kitchen as quickly as possible, boil a little water with cinnamon in it to sweeten the air. No one will ever know they are eating burned potatoes. Oh - and clean up the pan yourself. You can't expect the kids doing the dishes to keep your secret.

I don't have any other suggestions for success in the kitchen but I can pass along advice in other areas of life. An example: never let a can of dusting spray sit on your dressing table. It can be mistaken for a can of spray deodorant. Another hint is the result of my husband's motto: keep the top half of the car's gas tank filled at all times. I have not followed that advice as well as I should have and so I have a hint to counter it: a magazine or catalog's slick cover rolls up into an effective funnel when the snub-nosed can of gasoline you have just carried a half mile doesn't reach into your car's gas-starved tank.

My spouse wanted to help with my very short list with regard to cooking. He suggested I add, "Stay close to the stove when cooking or baking," I cannot in all honesty add that because it is not something I do. My family is well aware that the sounding off of the smoke alarm on my day to cook is helpful only after the fact. The meal-related list remains: How to rescue burned potatoes and how to make cucumbers crisp.

By Mary S. Roder
Musing With Mary