Monday, March 24, 2008

"Remove Bay Leaf"

I made a pot of chicken soup today because it's ostensibly better for you than tequila--my next choice--when you have a stoopid cold. The mixture did some good before it was even finished; it turns out that standing over an enormous cauldron of steaming soup is great for the sinuses. (See? It's better already. Tequila definitely has to enter the bloodstream to do anything.)

I added ingredient after ingredient, hoping I would actually be able to taste something, but it didn't work. The hot liquid on the sore throat worked well, and soft, overcooked vegetables were easier to swallow than anything except chocolate (which, I found out, is wasted on a tongue that can't taste. Even with great mouth feel.)

When I got to the part where the recipe says, "remove bay leaf,"I stopped in befuddlement. Why do all the recipes say that, without giving us a clue how to do that without risking life and limb? Armed with only a slotted spoon, I stared at the volcanic crater on my stove. A gallon of roiling soup, about a hundred cut vegetables and chicken chunks, grains of rice scuttling about like brine shrimp, and I'm supposed to find a bay leaf? There are specialized gadgets for every other function in the kitchen, why isn't there one for this? I sure could have used some high-tech, bay-leaf-sniffing tongs right about then.

Alas, no such device lives in the Utensil Drawer of Mystery--even if I was foolish enough to risk losing a digit or two by rummaging through it with my bare hands. Like a Neanderthal with a stick chasing a mastadon, I hunted down the bay leaf with my slotted spoon. Not a very clever bay leaf, this one. I've chased bay leaves in the past that would have done the Loch Ness Sea Monster proud on the elusiveness front. This one gave in after only a few minutes of sifting and cursing and only one splash burn on my hand.

This can't be right. A food industry that plies us with tiny mesh bags for our lemon slices surely has something for this recurring danger to cooks all over the world. Am I missing something here? My second choice is starting to look better every minute. Even if you have to fish out a worm from the tequila bottle (eww!), you won't burn your hand doing it.


Mina said...

We use cheese cloth for the herbs and tie the pouch with butchers string and then let the string hang over the pot like a tea bag. Works great! Easy clean up.

Bemused Boomer said...

*sound of hand smacking forehead* Doh! Why didn't I think of that? More importantly, why hasn't one of those "As Seen On TV" companies thought of it so I didn't have to?

:) Thanks for the tip, Mina.

cinderelly said...

you can also use one of those metal tea strainers...but of course i don't! my mom used to make a hamburger stew that had a bay leaf in it, and my step-brother got the bay leaf once and had a 'choking incident', after which we forever called it "choke stew"! (mom REALLY hated when we called it that!) we found that hot and sour soup from our favorite dive chinese place works great when you are sick! (or very hung over!)