Sun, 28 May 2000

Delicious meals for those tired for eating out

Cash Cow Burgers; By Julia Philipp; Times Book International, Singapore, 2000; 128 pages; US$9.5

JAKARTA (JP): Julia Philipp may hold a MBA from top school Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania, but that does not make her compromise when it comes to meals.

The lady may have studied business management but her attitude toward food is rather philosophical. Philipp believes that consuming too much fast food is like living on borrowed time. Instead she finds that cooking her own meals is a pleasant way to unwind.

She also does not want to deprive her weary brain of essential nutrients or to raise either her cholesterol level and eventually her medical bills to astronomical heights by being a regular consumer of fast food. Neither does she fancy eating stress for lunch every day.

"Put some music on and get cooking. Soon everything else will become irrelevant," is the formula Philipp has followed since her days on campus. It was then that countless hours of reading case studies and cramming for exams often made her feel that MBA life was getting her down.

"I needed to take a break. Since I also had to eat, cooking MBA-style seemed like the perfect solution," Philipp wrote in the introduction to the cookbook recently published by Times Books International.

The slim volume, which has sold like hot cakes since its release early this year as the official MBA food file for executives on the go, contains 60 yummy recipes for all those tired of eating out. None of the recipes takes longer than a few minutes to whip up.

The author's love for adventure has led her to reinvent herself as an international management consultant, making frequent trips to Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe from where she brings back good business, of course, but also exotic recipes. As a partner in the influential Arthur Andersen in Indonesia, a job which without doubt affords her a string of household help in Jakarta, she swears that she still regularly indulges her passion for coconut rice and satay with an occasional Philadelphia cheese steak.

What is most exceptional about this particular cookbook is that each recipe is accompanied by rib-tickling humor. There are also tips on how to convert all the frustrations of the day into creative energy to produce a mouth-watering meal.

For example, the Power Play Pepper Steak is allowed as many good whacks as possible with a mallet before anything else is done to it. While preparing for the Index Option Omelette, the eggs are expected to be struck into a bowl and the contents beaten vigorously with a fork according to level of salary frustration.

The recipe for the SpA Spaghetti Sauce is dedicated to globetrotting MBAs seeking fame, fortune and frequent flyer miles, with the secret ingredient being the Italian sausage. Before you start to heat, fry and chop, you are asked to put on an Italian language tape and pour a glass of Chianti as you wait for the sauce to simmer uncovered over low heat for about 15 minutes.

Assuming that you have not forgotten the ancient social ritual of a romantic dinner for two, the Contango Chicken in Wine Sauce is suggested along with a salad of fresh mixed greens, French bread and a good bottle of white wine. This meal prepared in just 35 minutes is to be served only after the lights are dimmed.

My own pick from the treasure house of culinary secrets is the Just-In-Time Poached Salmon that takes two minutes to prepare and five minutes to cook and tastes great.

However, I do not ever plan to try the Performance-Based Pasta with Pesto, as just reading the recipe gave me indigestion over the thought that I would be trying to suck up to the boss.

A special feature is the life-giving recipes for aspiring investment managers and emergency meals for MBAs in the throes of a fast approaching deadline. It is followed by a precious list of the 20 quickest MBA recipes, and those that need just five ingredients or less.

After all this if you are still struggling with the question whether to cook or not to cook, then your fate, I am afraid, is expected to be worse than that of the indecisive Hamlet. Unless, of course, you pick up a copy of Philipp's book that is now available at all Times bookstores in Jakarta, and do nothing more than wait, to be drowned as if in a thick, creamy sauce of inspiration that will take you less minutes to prepare than to order a meal wrapped in plastic from a strange kitchen far away.

-- Mehru Jaffer