Kiss the Cook (If You Can Find One)

kiss the cookI’m still out of town, so my friend and the newest of my respected critique partners, photographer/author Kimberli Buffaloe, is pitching in to cover for me. We had so much fun with “Best Failed Recipe Ever!” that I invited anyone who’d be interested to send me their worst cooking calamities, and K sent a doozy!

After this week, I’ll post a new calamity every Friday for as long as they last–and if you’d like to contribute, for fun or as a promo op, write me and let me know.  (My email address is on my Triple Edge Critique Service page. Put “Cooking Calamities” in the subject line.)

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Kiss the Cook (if you can find one)

I’m a bad cook. That’s not humility talking, nor am I sticking a Carolina rig on a pole in the hopes of catching a compliment. It’s a fact my poor husband and children can attest to, each with their own ghastly tale of dinners past. My youngest daughter still marvels at my ability to ruin Chicken Fried Steak—her favorite meal. As a group, they once made me promise never to make quiche again. Ever.

What can one expect from a person who once burned a boiling bag? Remember those little frozen entrees? The directions are simple: take package from freezer, remove frozen mass from carton, drop lump into boiling water and cook for a few minutes. For the record, it’s impossible to scrub melted plastic off the bottom of a metal pan.

One would think spending an evening attempting to scrub a blackened mess would have taught me never to leave anything on the stove unattended, even if it was boiling water. Sometimes after that disaster, I decided to make hard-boiled eggs. Before the water started bubbling in the pot, the doorbell rang. Being the teenage girl that I was at the time, and finding a teenage boy on my porch, I stood outside chatting for a few minutes.

Did you know boiled eggs can explode? By the time I finally remembered my snack, shell and bits of yolk were everywhere, including on the ceiling. I may have laughed hysterically, but my mother was not as amused when she called and I had to inform her I couldn’t talk because the house may be on fire.

More scrubbing. Another pan tossed in the trash.

Inattentiveness is only a small part of my culinary shortcomings. I. Just. Can’t. Cook. I’m great on a computer. After going to work at a telecommunications company in Richardson, Texas, I picked up commands so fast, engineers at the R&D department where I worked had me making updates in their UNIX tools. I figured out two major database software programs on my own, and I once created webpages using nothing but HTML. I taught myself how to knit. I started playing the flute in my late forties.

In other words, I can do stuff! Yet recipes confuse me. I can write an array using an obscure programming language easier than I can figure out a recipe. Halfway through the ingredients list, I’m as lost as I was the time my husband, then a seminary student, handed me his Greek notebook and asked me to help him study for a test. I looked at the chicken scratch on the page and told him I couldn’t read it. “But it’s pronounced just like it’s spelled,” came his frantic response.

PlumpWhenYouCookThemWith equal confusion, my daughters, both of whom are wonderful cooks, fail to understand why I can make chocolate-fudge pies and peach cobblers from scratch, but I’m unable to make anything more complicated than baked chicken and rice. What can I say, life is a mystery. I have learned a few lessons over the years, though. When making Dirty Rice (from a box, Zatarain’s, of course), don’t use Ballpark Franks as a substitute meat. They plump when you cook them.

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KimberliBuffaloeKimberli Buffaloe is a writer and hiker, and consequently, the creator of Carolina Towns and Trails, a blog that features outdoor destinations around the Carolinas. Short stories and articles born from her love of the Carolinas, which she refers to as Lessons from the Landscape, have appeared in Christian Fiction Online Magazine and Charlotte-based Our Community Entrepreneurs. She lives in eastern North Carolina with her husband, who cooks when he gets desperate for a decent meal.

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
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8 Responses to Kiss the Cook (If You Can Find One)

  1. Your comment about being a whiz at other things reminds me of my sister. She holds a PhD in Experimental Psychology, and yet she called one morning and asked for the recipe for pancakes. After I gave it to her, she asked if she could make any substitutions. Apparently she didn’t have any flour. Great post. I may have destroyed a lot of meals, but hold my breath, I haven’t exploded any eggs – yet. 🙂 I think that odor might actually eclipse burned brussel sprouts.

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  2. Kimberli says:

    Thanks, Cecilia. I understand your sister and share the laughter and embarrassment she likely endures! Allergies block my sense of smell most days, so I rarely get a whiff of anything, including burnt eggs. We suspect it’s one of the reason why I can’t produce anything decent in the kitchen. I get the impression that unlike baking, where one generally measures out ingredients and adds extra chocolate or vanilla (or, as I like to say, a teaspoon and a glop) it’s best to use the nose as well as directions when it comes to cooking. I feel bad for my poor husband, but every now and then, he’ll go into the kitchen and make something wonderful. We’ve married nearly 32 years. Is that love or what!

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  3. I don’t know, I have to say that picture of the chopped-up hot dogs looks awfully good!

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    • Kimberli says:

      Thank you, ma’am! That was a first for us, though. I’d stirred those bits of turkey hotdogs into the mix (a desperate substitute when I realized we were out of sausage and ground meat) before it started boiling, and nearly fell over laughing when I lifted the lid twenty-five minutes later and saw the slices were almost perfectly arranged. We’ve stuck with Ballpark Franks since!

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  4. Linda Yezak says:

    Mom knew about exploding eggs. I read this to her and she got a kick out of it.

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    • Kimberli says:

      A kindred spirit. I like your mom! Tell her I’ve since learned just about anything burnt onto a pan can be cleaned by soaking the pan overnight with half a tablet of dishwashing detergent (like Finish or Cascade, not the liquid type we use in sinks such as Dawn or Joy) and enough water to cover the burned part. The crispy black stuff peels right off in the morning. I’ve saved a lot of pans over the years!

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  5. Ane Mulligan says:

    That’s funny, /k. The strange thing is I used to be a whiz in the kitchen, but over time as my son became a chef, my skills regressed. I can’t figure it out. Now he has to do the cooking if we want something edible. Go figure.

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    • Kimberli says:

      You have a lot going on, Ane. It’s no wonder you put aside recipes for cooking up stories and advice on writing (for which I thank you, dear lady.)

      Both my daughters turned out to be wonderful cooks as well. I haven’t a clue where they learned how to do it. My eldest can whip up some of the best salsa we’ve tasted–and we lived in San Antonio–and my youngest has been feeding her children squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli and the likes as soon as they were able to handle it. Her husband is a wonderful cook as well. God must have looked at me and my lack of skill and placed me among those who could better manage those “talents”. And I thank him 🙂

      And thanks to Linda for allowing me to share laughter from my kitchen. I look forward to the next installment!

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