Forced Convenience

I love to cook.  And, most of the time, cooking involves a lot of standing.  As a result, one rarely hears the complaint, “I’ve been lounging at the stove all day.”

Handicapping my love for cooking, I was recently diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in my left foot.  The plantar fascia connects the heel to the base of the toes.  It plays a critical role in standing and walking.  When the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, welcome to Agony City.  Therefore, cooking has become a study in pain.

And, one of my favorite kitchen tools, when my feet allow it, is the mortar and pestle.

Mortar and pestle on a cutting board.

It’s a simple tool, a bowl to hold the food and a hand-held crusher to smash the food.  Using the mortar and pestle is labor intensive but produces magical results.

Why don’t you just use the mortar and pestle sitting down?  Leverage.  To properly smash and grind the food, one needs to put full force on the ingredients.  And, putting one’s entire weight into the pounding involves standing. 

So, to keep off my feet, I decided to go into full-on convenience mode.  I would try my favorite dishes where the mortar and pestle heightens the process.  However, I would use prepared items from the grocery store.  The goal was to compare preparation times, how they appeared and, finally, how they tasted. 

The first dish was Thai green curry.

Making green curry paste in the mortar and pestle is a labor of intensive love.  Prepping the ingredients and pounding the paste requires at least an hour and a half.

On the other hand, opening a can of green curry paste needs only thirty seconds.  Provided that the manual can opener works on the first try.

Regarding the sensual nature of traditional green curry versus convenience curry, the results are night and day.  Curry in the mortar and pestle has a hunter green shade while the canned green curry has a flat green, reminiscent of army fatigues.

Taste-wise, again, darkness and light.  Homemade green curry has a vibrant, yet well-rounded flavor.  Floral, herbaceous and spicy.   Canned green curry has a metallic aftertaste that lingers under the dominant spiciness. 

The next dish was basil pesto.

 It’s not as labor-intensive as green curry due to fewer ingredients.  Nonetheless, a legitimate pesto is a very hands-on sauce.  As a result, the complete time investment (prep, pounding) adds up to about forty minutes. 

As with the canned green curry, opening the plastic jar of pesto only took seconds.  This included removing the plastic seal that prevents tampering and  “locks in freshness.”

Again, the color contrast was staggering.  While the homemade pesto had a deep, cadmium green, the jarred pesto had a flat, slimy green.  (Slimy green is a bona fide name for a shade of green.  Who knew?)

In the taste department, the mortar and pestle pesto won hands down.  Not surprising.  Pounding the garlic, pine nuts and basil together brought out a pleasant astringent, nutty and blossomy marriage.  Conversely, the jarred pesto had a predominantly salty flavor.

Guacamole was the final dish.

Unlike the time-consuming green curry and pesto, guacamole’s prep and pound time in the mortar and pestle requires fifteen minutes, tops.  I should note that making guacamole doesn’t include the ninety-minute prayer vigil for avocados that don’t have brown spots.

Similar to the pesto, opening the guac required seconds.  Maybe a few more, since I couldn’t find the pull tab on the plastic seal.

In terms of color, the store-bought guacamole had a brighter green tint than the mortar and pestle guac.  Nonetheless, the mortar pestle guac had a more vibrant color palette due to the tomato and Fresno chiles.

Furthermore, the vibrancy also extends into the flavor.  While avocados have a buttery, nutty flavor, that’s the only taste the store-bought guac offers.  On the other hand, the mortar and pestle guac gave layers of flavors due to mashing them together. 

Convenience is a wonderful thing.  After all, we don’t have “Disadvantage Stores” for a reason.  Nevertheless, taking the time and putting forth the effort to make food the old school way has multiple rewards. 

Using the mortar and pestle, the “original food processor,” serves us well.  Food tastes better and it gives a workout to boot.  Even though I need to stay off my feet for the time being, I look forward to making some magic.

2 thoughts on “Forced Convenience

    1. Thanks for the reblog! 🙏🏻


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