I’ve already mentioned the fact that thanks to my wonderful hubby, I rarely cook. I can, and occasionally do create meals, but since he does such a nice job, I don’t have to. So this week’s topic of describing messed up culinary attempt made me think. I asked hubby for help.
“When was the last time I messed up cooking or baking something?” I asked.
“Must’ve been before we met,” he replied. (He’s very diplomatic.)
“I promise I’m not going to get upset about you complaining. I need this for a blog post.”
He thought for a moment. “I really can’t think of anything. If you messed something up, it must not have been too bad, because I’ve forgotten.”
I met the guy when I was 23. If I really haven’t botched anything since that time, my last culinary disaster would have been during my first or second year of teaching, or during college. It would have been a looooooong time ago.
Then I remembered.
You have to understand, even though I was the eldest child and the only girl, I was not encouraged in traditional girlie skills. I knew how to sew because the only way my Barbie was going to get a new dress was if I made it myself. Mom taught me how to use a pattern and gave me all her scraps, and I did the sewing. But in the kitchen, my mother ruled with an iron fist. Things were, and still are, done her way. And I am totally inept, in her eyes. So I chose to stay out of her line of fire. I was also unable to sort wash, and fold laundry to her satisfaction. Again, I concentrated on things that she didn’t particularly care about: music, math, and Language arts. And that’s how we managed to coexist.
I got a great scholarship to a college about seven hours away from home. Mom and dad dropped me off and I settled in. A roommate took pity on me and taught me how to do laundry. Another one showed me how to use the hot pot to make soup and all sorts of other good stuff. By the time I was a senior I felt confident enough to handle apartment living with a roommate. It so happened my roommate, Cindy, was an excellent cook and we ate really well.
About halfway through the year, Cindy left town for a few days to attend a conference. I was on my own. I wasn’t too worried because I knew how to read directions. I boiled some noodles and heated up some spaghetti sauce from a jar. I even remembered to brown the meat first! But just before I sat down to eat, I remembered that Cindy — and every other good cook I knew of — liked to add their own combination of spices to their dishes. The spaghetti sauce, when I tasted it on my finger, seemed pretty bland, so obviously it needed something. I opened up the cupboard to peruse the spices Cindy used. I should use something green, I thought. Good Italian food always has green stuff floating around in their red sauce. So I grabbed little jars of green stuff and started dumping. I shook each one with panache and stirred, enjoying the aroma.
If a little bit of spice made it smell good, I reasoned, then a lot of spice would make it taste even better! I added more from each jar. And then I ladled some of my masterpiece onto the perfectly cooked pasta.
A minute later, the entire contents of the pan was dumped into the trash. I picked up my purse and drove to the nearest hamburger joint for my supper. It was a long time before I attempted to experiment with spices again. In the forty-plus years since then I have learned a lot about flavorings, and I now know one important fact:
Large clumps of ground sage do NOT belong in spaghetti sauce.
In my books, most of the men are great cooks, but in Christmas Wishes, my 2013 holiday novel, Mitch Carson is totally inept. He even messes up hamburgers! It’s a good thing he met Sophie Gardner, otherwise he and his daughter Angie might have starved:
Blurb for Christmas Wishes:
Photographer Mitch Carson is tired of big city life. He just wants to settle down in a quiet town with his daughter, Angie. Even that doesn’t quell his fear of losing his daughter to his scheming mother-in-law.
Sophie Gardner wants to be a screenwriter. She’s ready to leave small-town Zutphen, Michigan and go to Hollywood. With a theater degree under her belt, she’s busy writing scripts while helping out her sister Joanie, who’s bedridden with a difficult pregnancy. Unfortunately, Joanie has somehow coerced Sophie into directing the Christmas pageant at Zutphen Community Church.
When Sophie and Mitch meet, the attraction is instant and mutual. But each wants what the other is trying to get away from. Can they deny their feelings and pursue their dreams? Or will the holiday prove to them that their true wishes might not be what they’d thought?