Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Domestic tranquility

So while Larry was helping me mop up the kitchen counter and floor

(Note to self: To add water to the stock pot on the stove, carry the water across the kitchen in a heavy glass measuring cup with a handle. Do not use a Dark Knight plastic cup from the convenience store)

we had the following conversation:

ME: I wish somebody would invent cooking for total incompetents.

L: You're not at all incompetent. You're a great cook. You make wonderful things.

ME: Yeah, I know that, but I can never do it without some big infuriating event happening, and going ballistic.

L: You're not incompetent. You just say you are because you hate it and that means you don't have to do it.

ME: That's a very insightful statement.


Understand, the whole "I have to do it" thing is not imposed on me by Larry or anybody else. I impose it on myself. My share of the cooking -- and he does a major amount of the domestic work around here -- could be accomplished with the small but reliable repertoire I've assembled over the years precisely to fit my abilities, with very little opportunity for disaster. One-dish meals, slow cooker stuff.

But I feel the need sometimes to push my limits and do the things I'm no good at. Why? Bleep knows. Boredom with the same 5 dishes. Bursts of Pioneer Woman Who Wastes Nothing fervor. Lingering Donna Reed Show-era damage. Or just that I hate to admit defeat. I like to think that I can do anything I put my mind to.

I'm an intelligent person. I can make a multilevel meal with a variety of tasks and timing.

Or: I can quit buying overpriced, prepared [cookies, piecrusts, whatever] and make them myself!

Or: I can make soup on the real stovetop -- all i have to do is remember to turn the heat down to "simmer" after it boils.

Yep. That's all.

Monitoring something drives me up a wall. (This also applies to recipes that cheerfully instruct me to "stir constantly until thickening occurs, 20-30 minutes." I. will. go. slowly. mad.) The boredom will either make me completely crack up, or drive me to pick up a magazine or, God forbid, a book, go online, even do laundry, just to keep my brain from shorting out and then, yep, it's time for the Brillo [TM] to get the blackened crud off the pot.

There are such things as kitchen timers. We have the technology. I have a real problem with being beeped and buzzed at. I hate being beeped or buzzed at. I hate ruining the product of all my chopping and measuring labor even more than I hate the beeper that prevents it, so my failure to set the timer is pure denial.

I don't need to subject myself to that frikkin' thing! I'll just check back in a few minutes
..... Famous last words, and a guarantee that I'll have to make a mad dash to add water before it boils away.

But a timer isn't much help for for things that need to be watched constantly or frequently, not just checked on.

This invariably leads to an event that, in turn, causes the whole "warm cozy home with delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen" scenario to collapse. Larry is instead subjected to:

"I HATE &$%#ing COOKING!"

...and has to decide whether to come closer and see if I need help, or whether this would be a good time to go downstairs and find an hour-or-longer task to do.

The whole mess is now in the slow cooker where it shoulda been all along.

Poor Larry. He didn't get Donna Reed. He didn't even get Lily Munster.


Sherwood Harrington said...

Great post, Ruth!

It's genetic, you know, this difficulty with cooking thing, and it has several manifestations. You seem to have gotten the highly entertaining, pyrotechnic disaster version, for which I both feel sorry for you and envy you. I inherited a different version from my mother, who was a chemist and who cooked like one. All measurements were precise, all oven temperatures were measured and maintained, all timing was to the second, and all results were exactly bland. Not "kind of" bland, or "a little bland," but precisely, on-the-nailhead bland.

That's what my cooking is like, except without the admirable, diligent aspects. Like you, I've developed a handful of things that I can cook for dinner that usually wind up being acceptable, and I do almost all of the sustainence cooking here in the Fort. Diane cooks twice a year, and it's an entirely different story then. At Thanksgiving and Christmastime she demonstrates her inner Julia Child, and it's infuriating. Measurement isn't by teaspoons or cups, it's by "that seems about right." Timing isn't by timers, it's by "that seems about right." Oven temperature is achieved by a single, quick twist of the wrist and without benefit of an oven thermometer. And everything comes out not only delicious, but done at the same time.

I enjoy the result, but it just doesn't seem fair.

(As if that weren't enough, she also has been known to be able to use her cooking as a cautionary teaching moment for misbehaving members of the household.)

Dann said...

You know, Sherwood....they grocery stores have this little used aisle where the keep these things called "spices". If you purchase some and occasionally used them, I think you'll find that the flavor of your dishes will improve greatly.

The knot the missus gave me when I offered her that advice took a few weeks to go away. The improvement in her tuna noodle casserole was worth it. [grin]


Sherwood Harrington said...

What is this "tuna noodle casserole" of which you speak, Dann?

Dann said...

Formerly it was an amalgam of egg noodles, (1) can of cream of mushroom soup, (1) can-full of milk, (1) can of tuna, topped by crushed Ritz - or suitable substitute for the budget conscious - crackers.

Boil the egg noodles in water until they are about 80% done. Drain.

Mix the noodles with the soup, milk, and tuna. Pour into a baking dish. Cover with the crushed crackers. Bake at some temperature for some amount of time. [I think 350 for about 20-30 minutes] Sometimes she only has the crackers on the casserole for the last 5 minutes of baking....I think.

If you are averse to crunchy noodles, then you may want to cover the baking dish with al-you-minium.

We have recently improved that recipe with the addition of a generous application of garlic powder and a bit of pepper. We have also started using some flavored crackers such as the Ritz Roasted Vegetable cracker.

If we get really wild, we may try either curry or ginger powder next!