Spring is in the air, and Nintendo has just released a new color of the DS Lite to match. When I first saw photos, the bright spring green color cried out to me (Half my wardrobe, and often my hair, is green.) Conveniently released a week before Mother’s Day, the new DS Lite comes with the Personal Trainer: Cooking cartridge and a nice floral patterned canvas carrying case. At first glance, it looks like a great Mother’s Day present for my wife, until I realized that it might come across as a glorified cookbook. I’ve been married long enough to know better than to get my wife a cookbook for Mother’s Day. Perhaps I have a better idea…
My game plan will be to use the new DS Lite to plan and cook dinner for my wife. She might not be thrilled about a new tool to provide her with recipes, but if that tool results in several new and creative husband-cooked dinners, the idea of a new DS (green colored, of course) might be much easier to swallow. What follows is an account of my two day DS dining adventure.
Day 1 – Afternoon
The new Green DS bundle arrived in the afternoon and I wasted no time taking it out of the package and running it through its paces. The bundle includes a DS Lite, the Personal Trainer: Cooking program, and a canvas carrying case with a green floral print. After booting up the cooking program, I was presented with a talking cartoon chef who helped me set up my preferences. Once that was over, I was presented with a list of over two hundred different recipes from all over the world. While browsing around the recipes (by name, by country, or by ingredients) I came across several dozen short video clips to help new chefs learn the ropes. All are short, and without sound, but can be fascinating in their own right. I now know how a real chef deveins a shrimp, but am not sure if I could pull it off anywhere near as cleanly or as effortlessly. As the program was designed in Japan, there are a number of somewhat challenging videos to watch. I watched a chef clean a Rainbow Trout, but he seemed to finish far sooner than I would have expected. There was a whole lot more trout left after that chef was done than when my dad would clean a fish.
But enough about the videos. I’m on a mission here and I need to get down to business. I need a recipe to try, one that’s fairly simple, doesn’t take too much time to prepare, and doesn’t require too many fancy ingredients. I don’t mind shopping for basic foodstuffs in a dinner, but I’m not ready to start heavily investing in strange seasonings yet. Hmm, the UK sounds like a fairly safe bet, after scanning through a few different choices I pick Shepherd’s Pie. What’s not to like about meat and mashed potatoes? According to the game, it takes 55 minutes to prepare and is 560 calories per person. A quick scan of the ingredients and my cupboards tells me I need some mushrooms, lamb, canned tomatoes, and an onion. It is inconvenient to shop for just a few items so I go crazy and pick out another recipe. Under North Africa I find a nifty recipe for Moroccan Beef Stew. How hard can a stew be? I scan the ingredients and add any missing ones to my growing list, steak, frozen peas, a potato, and cilantro. Now it’s time to shop!
Shopping with a green racecar cart, of course! (The green DS Lite is hiding behind the onion.)
Day 1 – Evening
After my normal evening activities, I take the boy (my toddler son) with me to the local grocery store. As this is man’s outing, we have to take the grocery cart shaped like a race car. I don’t know about his driving, though, it tends to be a lot of fast stops and starts with turns in the middle of the aisle par for the course. We made it through anyway. Using the handy shopping list function on the cooking program, I am able to scan my DS for which items I need to buy. Unfortunately, it isn’t smart enough to group like items together. So, I need potatoes and onions for both recipes, but I have two listings for each ingredient – one for each recipe. In the meat department, I have my first setback. I couldn’t find any lamb that fit my needs. No worries, I’m a guy, I can shake it off. Meat is meat, isn’t it? Well, mostly. I’ll use some extra-lean special ground beef we have in the freezer as a lamb substitute. It won’t be quite the same flavor, but it should work out. The rest of the trip goes by without incident (other than the near constant shouts of “ONE, TWO, THREE, GO!” from underneath my cart, which is followed – when possible – by a wild drive up and down the aisle.) After a successful trip of hunting and gathering, my son and I return home with our bounty. I put it away and head off to sleep.
Day 2 – Evening
Returning home from work the next day, I pick up my son and prepare to make my wife a lovely dinner. The boy gets set up watching Sesame Street in the other room, and I set out all the ingredients. When I queue up my Shepherd’s Pie recipe, the handy cartoon chef starts to read the instructions out loud. “The first step is to cut the ingredients. You’ll need a cutting board and a kitchen knife.” Having already gathered my ingredients and done most of the cutting, I say “Continue” in a loud voice and my handy cartoon chef goes on to the next step. One step down, thirty-three to go – I can do this! I peel the onion, chop it up and continue through the instructions. If I miss a step, I can just say “Repeat” and cartoon chef will say his instructions again – what a patient guy! Once I move on to the pots and pan stage, things start to run into problems. Somehow, setting down a pot lid next to the game gets interpreted as “continue” and we’re already on to the next step. A quick shout of “Last Step” and Mr. Chef kindly backs up a step for me again. Now I’m the first to admit my kitchen isn’t all that quiet, especially as I move pans and utensils around to the sounds of Sesame Street in the next room. However, it was a common theme throughout the preparation for Mr. Chef to be impatiently jumping ahead when he heard me banging around my pots and pans. Preparation of the meal goes by without much incident, except for the canned tomatoes fiasco. The final step in preparation of the meat in Shepherd’s Pie is to reduce the liquid in the mixture via boiling. Well, when I added the canned tomatoes I also added the juice. After looking at the result, I’m fairly sure I had far too much liquid in my pot. So, even though the instructions say 55 minutes to cook, it was a good hour and a quarter before I was through. When I completed the final step (putting it on a plate, glad Mr. Chef reminded me to do that) I was rewarded with a little stamp on my calendar. Now I can go back to individual dates to see what dishes I made when. I set the table while the pie was in the oven, and we sat down ready to eat our meal when it came out.
The food? Well, it tasted great, perhaps because it was delayed so long (mom and boy snacked on some green beans while waiting for the main course). Following the spoken instructions was fun at first, although it did get a little annoying when Mr. Chef kept happily going forward without me. He rarely misinterpreted me anytime I spoke to him, but did find plenty time to respond to other background noises. The shopping portion was handy, but I suspect I will use it to create a written shopping list to take to the store, rather than cart my open DS Lite all around the store. Would I recommend it to anyone else? I’m somewhat of a gadget-head so I enjoy the fun opportunity to use my spiffy green DS Lite in new ways. I often do the cooking at our house already, but can easily get into a rut with what types of food I make. Having some fairly simple, quickly accessible options is sure to diversify my dinner selections. If I manage to do that, I think it will be a win for Mom at our house.