Everyone has a favorite room in their house. A room where they can find peace, quiet, and comfort – that room is what makes a house feel like a home. For me, my kitchen is the complete antithesis of that room. Many people think of their kitchen as the heart of their home… well in my house, it’s more like the rectum because nothing but crap comes out of there.
They say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, but how many times do I have to mutilate a recipe to know that maybe I should just stay the hell out of the kitchen? Not everyone is destined to become Emeril Lagasse.
I once made a chicken recipe that called for apple cider, which for some reason I read as cider vinegar, and the chicken ended up tasting like a batch of freshly dyed Easter eggs. To my family’s credit, they dutifully ate it and told me how great it was. I think they were just sick of eating chicken nuggets – the one form of chicken even I can’t screw up.
My vinegar chicken is just one example in a long line of dinners that have been burned, butchered, and botched. I have never been a good cook. I think it’s because I don’t derive any enjoyment from working with food. The grocery shopping, food preparations, cooking, and clean up – I hate all of it. Someone asking me, “What’s for dinner?” fills me with more dread than a trip to the gynecologist for my annual pap smear.
The only foods I cook well are foods that most people eat for breakfast: scrambled eggs, omelets, pancakes, French toast, etc. I love cooking these foods for dinner because at least then I have a shot at ending up with something edible after all my effort. Unfortunately, my husband, Kevin, doesn’t like most traditional breakfast foods, and he likes them even less at six o’clock at night. But when he’s working late, my kids have made the connection between his absence and the appearance of pancakes on their dinner plate. Sometimes when they find out he won’t be home, they’ll actually cheer, “YAY, breakfast for dinner!!!” I think they get excited because they know pancakes and broccoli don’t often mix.
When Kevin is home for dinner, we have gotten into the routine of eating out a lot. So much, that the answer to the question, “What’s for dinner?” has stopped being options like chicken, fish, or beef, and is often the names of various restaurants. Not very fiscally responsible, I know. But when you’re hardly spending any money at the grocery store, it kind of evens out. Okay…. not really.
The culinary world is a very confusing place for me. There are so many kitchen gadgets on the market – slicers, dicers, mixers, and mashers…. the list is endless, and I have no idea how to work any of them. There is also an entire language spoken in the kitchen that I’m not fluent in. You want me to “sweat” a vegetable? In my head, I picture an onion running on a treadmill…. but I know that’s probably not right.
I went to a “Pampered Chef” party once, and as part of the hostess’s cooking demonstration, she taught everyone how to chiffonade fresh herbs. As fun as it was to say the word chiffonade in a cheesy French accent for the rest of the night, I was pretty sure I would never roll up leafy herbs again.… after all, I wasn’t in college anymore.
*For those of you that didn’t understand that last joke, I applaud your innocence. For those of you that did, shame on you.
Just in case you’re like me and don’t know what the hell chiffonade means.
But as much as I hate cooking dinner, I love to watch someone else do it. I enjoy a number of cooking shows – Rachel Ray, Top Chef, and Iron Chef are among my favorites, but I’ll watch just about anyone who knows their way around a kitchen. Watching a skilled chef in action is as awe inspiring for me as watching someone juggling knives. I sit with rapt attention as the chef’s hands weld these razor sharp knives at lightning speed, and all the while I’m wondering if this will be the time someone loses a finger.
Besides their precision and speed, I’m also amazed by their ability to cook several things at once, and not set anything on fire. If I’ve got a few pots going at once, chances are, something’s going to wind up resembling (and tasting like) a charcoal briquette.
Chefs make the cooking process look so effortless, and just when you think they’re going to run out of time, they plate the meal (with all their fingers still in tact) and make it look like an edible work of art.
I tip my puffy, white chef’s hat to all you culinary masters out there. Maybe someday I’ll learn to cook… but until then, I know what I’ll be making for dinner tonight – reservations.