Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Kitchen Klutz

Yet another basic skill I lack: cooking.

Eva seems to think otherwise. She tells me I can cook many things. I love her very much, but she's wrong. I can prepare many...simple...things. Very simple things. Lipton's Sidekicks and Hamburger Helper is not cooking, Kraft Dinner is not cooking, not even when you add wieners to it.

The most difficult thing I've ever attempted in a kitchen was making ravioli from scratch...and I had help with that. It turned out edible, but given the ridiculous amount of effort put into it, 'edible' didn't quite cut it.  That was over twenty years ago, and since then I've shied away from putting much effort into stuff that's only going in the toilet in a few hours.

That sounds crass, I know, but that's long been my attitude towards food. It's not that I don't like food: I do. Almost all the food I like is fantastically bad for me and I know it. It's also exceedingly easy to prepare. It doesn't involve utensils other than something to stir with and maybe something to grab and scoop with. No sharp edges, no sawing, hacking, stabbing, disembowelling motions. This sounds silly. You're not me.

I once cut myself to the bone with...a potato peeler. This was in home ec, back when home ec was a thing. I hated it almost as much as I hated shop class...which was very similar. In both classes I found myself surrounded by dangerous machinery that was out to get me. At least the shop teacher stressed safety in his class. The home ec teacher never thought to warn little Kenny about the potato peeler. In fact, I recall her telling the class it was not possible to cut yourself with one. Yeah. I showed her.

That theme runs through my entire life. I saw a kid fall off the FIRST RUNG of a treehouse ladder at Cub camp: paralyzed for life. Saw another kid killed from horsing around on a playground. Every man's cut himself shaving at some many of you have done it with an electric shaver? *raises hand* .... the guard somehow shattered mid-shave. Nice gash it made before I could jerk it away from my face. I take it for granted that most inanimate objects will kill me if they're given half a chance. Especially in a kitchen.

Oh, I cooked the turkey one Christmas all by myself. Surprisingly wasn't all that difficult, either...give me a set of extremely detailed instructions and I can follow 'em. Maybe. I still don't think of that as cooking. "Cooking", the way Eva does it, the way my dear friend Nicole does it, the way all you cooking-enabled models do it, doesn't involve pre-printed recipes. It's mixing random things, estimating quantities by guess and by gosh, somehow intuiting what's going to work, and it does. Alchemy. It's actual alchemy.

Like I say, I enjoy food, but I don't enjoy it enough to merit serious sweat and blood and probably tears. I'm also not that adventurous when it comes to comestibles. I'll try anything if I don't have to pay for it or have someone I love prepare it beforehand. What if I hate it? Then I've wasted my money...or given myself a heaping helping of guilt by not loving something made for me.

The Nicole I already mentioned has made it a personal mission of hers to get me to try new things and broaden my horizons, and to that end I'm determined to make Eva some banana bread tomorrow. This is baking, not cooking...a total first for me. And it involves food I can't stand: black bananas, blech. But the recipe looks like something I can follow. With help, mind: : most cookbooks incorporate verbs that involve several actions at once, and it's taken as read you know the component actions. "Grease a pan", I know that's not automotive grease, and I kinda guessed it involved butter or oil or something, but how much? Doesn't say. Just says "grease". Luckily, YouLube has nice detailed pan-greasing instructions in which the cook is only slightly condescending.

I've even found a way to ripen bananas quickly. It involves the oven, which is an appliance I actually use, so no worries there. I need a knife to cut the bottoms of the blech blackened bananas...I'll take my chances. The only other questionable action I'm going to have to perform here is cracking a couple of eggs without getting bits of shell everywhere. You're probably rolling your eyes at this point. I've actually cracked thousands of eggs in my life...nearly every one of them at McDonald's, which I left behind in 1992.  I still have Mickey Dees hands: coated in an invisible layer of asbestos or something. We'll see how well I can crack an egg without a ring to crack it into.

I was looking at other banana bread recipes and I came across one that called for sour cream. Now, see, this is what I mean. Who ever thought "you know what this banana bread needs? Perogy sauce! Chip dip base!" It's kind of like the person who first thought: I'm going to squeeze the things hanging off the bottom of this here cow and drink what comes out. Where do people dream this stuff up? And how can they afford it? I mean, surely the experiments sometimes go awry and you're out the cost of a tube of toothpaste and some beets.
I'm flabbergasted, too, at the sheer number of recipes out there. There are probably thousands for banana bread alone, each differing infinitesimally from all the others (I imagine...except for the ones that involve sour cream. Or toothpaste and beets.)

First steps...the kind of first steps I probably should have taken about 35 years ago. Wish me luck.

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