Cooking is not as easy as it looks
By Jeff Salter
Our topic this week deals with meals (or dishes) which turned out badly. Well, I’m at a slight disadvantage because I hardly bake at all and my notion of “cooking” is to open a package and toss the contents in the microwave.
But as a warm-up to this topic let me explain that – with food – I tend to be overly-literal at times. For example, in the late 1970s – when I was handed my first example of a “fruit roll-up” – I sniffed it, found the aroma pleasing, and took a big bite. Or tried to. Nobody told me they rolled it up with a sheet of 3-mil plastic coating! Very chewy.
And here’s an example of my occasional disconnect between appearance and reality: One day – also in the late 1970s – I came home from work and saw a large tray of delicious-looking cookies. It was Christmas season and I could tell from their shapes that these were holiday cookies. Gingerbread? Sugar Cookie? Couldn’t say for sure.
Didn’t matter. They looked yummy. So I snatched one. Hmm. Very hard, VERY salty. Texture seemed all wrong. Oh well, I figured Denise just messed up that batch… and I had no intention of complaining.
But later that evening, she must have noticed the missing piece because she asked, “Did you enjoy that cookie?”
Ever the gentleman, I replied, “It was okay. Would’ve been better if I’d gotten one still warm from the oven.”
Remember, I had not intended to complain… but she pressed me with more questions. Finally, I said, “Well, it was too stiff and way too salty.” I wondered if I’d hurt her feelings, but suddenly she began laughing. “What’s so funny?” I asked.
She brought over another cookie and inserted a wire hook into the top. “There are ORNAMENTS,” she said, placing it on the Christmas tree. “They aren’t for eating!”
Well, that’s pretty sneaky — making stuff look like cookies and leaving them on a plate!
My Pitiful Meal
Okay, of all the pitiful meals or dishes I’ve actually prepared, here’s probably the winner. [Interestingly, this is also from the late 1970s.]
I forget where Denise was, but I was evidently home alone. I thought I’d give her a pleasant surprise and make supper for when she returned.
Back then, my culinary portfolio was even more limited than it is now, so I selected Sloppy Joes as the evening’s fare. I had all the ingredients: ground beef, buns, a can of SJ mix, and a skillet. I scanned the instructions, which confirmed I was set. I like simple meals with limited steps, and this example had only two: “add one pound of ground beef to one can of SJ mix; stir/simmer.”
Cool, I thought. Easy-peasy. So I opened the can, dumped the goop and ground beef into the skillet… and stirred/simmered.
Shortly, Denise returned home. She seemed pleased I had begun supper — but also appeared skeptical. Then she peered around my shoulder. “What are you making?” she asked.
“Sloppy Joes,” I exclaimed proudly.
“Any problems?” she asked, peering closer.
“Uh, no… don’t think so,” I replied. In truth, the stuff in the skillet did not look right, but I couldn’t figure out why. “Everything’s in there,” I affirmed, “but something seems to be missing.”
Denise took the wooden spoon from my hand and dabbed it here and there in the skillet. “Did you brown the meat before you added the SJ mix?”
“What do you mean brown the meat?” I asked.
She looked at me like I was an alien. “You’re supposed to brown the meat first. You have to cook it.”
“Well, why didn’t they say so?” I whined, having figured that heat plus skillet equaled cooking. “Everybody always assumes you already know the first three steps of everything.”
Needless to say, having dumped raw hamburger on top of the SJ mix — I had upset the order of the universe. We tossed it and she set about to make supper according to Hoyle.
What meals or dishes have YOU messed up? What happened? Why?