I’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.)
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.
With 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.
Kimberli 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.