Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Confessions of a Kitchen Klutz: How it Began

Editor's note: this is the first in what will be a series of Kitchen Klutz stories from Zaissa, as part of our larger Confessions series. Enjoy!

If it couldn't be microwaved, ordered, or pushed through a little window into our car, we didn't need it. That was our family motto when I was growing up. Our family was made up of an only child and a single mother, so logistically, this was reasonable.

So by the time I left home, my entire cooking repertoire consisted of this:  I could make really good cheesy scrambled eggs.

My other impediment to cooking is that I have a rebellious sort of character. Unfortunately it's paired with the fact that my only real passion is laziness. The result of which is that I am laziness revolutionary; the sort of person who would throw a pot away if scrubbing it were going to require more than 10 minutes of real shoulder work, which occasionally is a problem with really good cheesy scrambled eggs.

Rebellious and passionately lazy people are willing to rebelliously cut corners at great personal or financial risk. We will even put our dignity on the line if, in the end, we think there is a chance the gain is that we will have to do less stuff we don’t like doing.  This disposition sometimes has interesting results when following a recipe.

Over the last few years, as part of this adventure I embarked on called “learning to cook and bake things people will eat” I have made some discoveries about which corners can and which corners absolutely cannot be cut.

But I have gotten ahead of myself. I am going to go back to the beginning of it all.

As a young newlywed I was a full time student, with a full time job, and I was planning on a full time career. I warned him I would not learn to cook. And, this worked fine for the duration of my first marriage. We remained childless for a good while and when we were blessed with the pitter-patter of little feet, it was just the one set of them. And she was a huge fan of cereal, fruit, and cheesy scrambled eggs.

However, for non-kitchen related reasons (I assume) I found myself divorced and on my own at 30.

I had a lovely little apartment that had plush carpet, and a large—and, I am told, full of first-rate applianceskitchen of my own. I had, other than my own, only one mouth to feed, which I did well enough with fresh sliced veggies, fruits, cereal, a little lunch meat and bread, and of course, cheesy eggs.

Fast forward once more, I am happy to report the opportunity to live in wedded bliss with my soulmate enticed me away from my plush carpet and large, to me at the time, useless kitchen. In a whirlwind, the mouth count went up by one tiny perfect mouth. And just as we were recovering from the shock, we learned it would be going up by yet another.

My mother, who lived in another state, called me one day, while I was home and about to burst out my third child into the world, and  suggested, as she had multiple times before, that fast food was not going to cut it forever with a family of soon-to-be five, and that for the health of all of them and myself, I needed to learn to prepare meals at home, and probably buy groceries too, and she also suggested I get a haircut, because evidently in my most recent blog post of family photos I was looking “kind of ragged.”

I believe that with this phone call though, she was staging an intervention.

She demanded I go to the kitchen and get a casserole pan of some specified size. I snapped a photo on my cell phone of a long, rectangular, glass bowl thing I found in the cupboard that I had had for years and I text messaged the image to her. She said it would do.

Then she told me to turn on the oven to some temperature, which I did, after checking inside of it, where at that point in my life I sometimes stored things like extra plates or cups that didn’t fit any place else.

As instructed I then opened the freezer and found the meat she assured me she put in there on her last visit. For about 30 minutes I read the names of spices I had on hand (though had no idea where they came from) and chopped and arranged things into the pan as instructed, step-by-step. I did things with tin foil, and seasoning, and spoons until she instructed me to put the pan in the oven. And set the timer.

And when it beeped, from the oven came something I had never (ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever) pulled from the oven before. It was a family meal. For a while, I think my husband and I just stared at it. Of course we had had proper meals before, each of us, him at home growing up, and me, at extended family occasions – but never with our little family, not in our little home.

Something about that moment lit a spark. I think it must be akin to what a young wizard feels at Hogwarts on his first day if his first spell works. Like, he’s seen this stuff before, sure, but actually making it is, well, magic. And the first time you perform magic is, even if you live in a world where it’s all around you, nothing shy of empowering … titillating … amazing!

And so it began. I resolved that I would become competent—nay, GREAT in the kitchen.

My first attempt at cookies was days later. Without technical support from my mother by phone the attempt ended with these little mounds that were kinda heavy and exploded into a sugary dust upon impact of any surface they were propelled at. It turned out, that particular use was the most enjoyment anyone got out of them.

I’ve gotten better.

I have made some terrifying mistakes along the way.

Sometimes my shortcuts pay off.

Substitution has often been the mother of invention.

 I have learned some hard lessons.

And I have made some hard pastries. 


RobertandHeidi Shomaker said...

I'm inspired already! Can't wait to read more from this series!

Megan B. said...

Oh man, can I relate!

Meg said...

Haha. I love this a lot. Remind me to tell you about the time that I made soup and used real garlic cloves for the first time - but thought that a clove meant a head. I think my skin was oozing garlic for about a week.

P & J said...

Ha! Or the time I copied down a recipe from someone else and I thought it said 3 onions (I still don't know what it really said...) But did I put 3 entire onions in one casserole? Yes, yes I did.

Zaissa said...

Meg! I did that one! "Clove" just sounds like a whole thing to me!