I am not a good cook. It’s one of the things that has never really caught on for me. We recently moved out of the city and into a Suburbia, of sorts, and, without any nearby restaurants or delivery services to fall back on, I am forced to face the kitchen once again. It’s not that I hate cooking, we just don’t really understand each other. I am a big fan of improvising and the confines of a recipe nudges the rebel in me that says, “but what if I do this instead?” The thing about food is that different items really have to work together in harmony in order for something to taste good. Too much salt and you’re totally screwed, too little and the whole thing tastes like a hospital. Also, I don’t know who these people are that have all the required ingredients on hand in their ‘pantry’ or whatever. I’m lucky if I can find the black pepper.
In general, getting through a recipe correctly usually ends up costing me more than I would have spent on takeout. My sanity included.
To further magnify my catastrophic shortcomings, I am married to a chef. Not just any chef… a really fucking good chef. The kind of chef that just invents baking recipes because he understands the scientific complexities and interactions of ingredients during the baking process. I know. It’s ridiculous.
Looking back on my culinary history, I am moved to share some of my favorite hilarious culinary failures. Maybe you can relate or maybe you are subjected to the same flavor roulette as my husband… either way, I’m glad you’re here!
The Onion Incident of 2010
It began in the kitchen. Obviously. I honestly can’t even remember what I was planning on making because I never got to finish it… here’s why. I was in a cooking mood. Something that occurs once every few months. I have to be careful not to pass these up because it’s possible that such a mood will never occur again. I went to the store, bought all of the ingredients and mised them all over the place*. I observed the recipe and began throwing things into a bowl. Garlic, tomatoes …minced onion. Minced onion?!?!?! If there is one thing I can’t stand it’s chopping things into tiny microscopic pieces. I had encountered my first road block. I cut the onion in half and let out a verbal sigh of distain. I looked around for something to save me and noticed the blender sitting there all shiny and new. Why don’t I just lightly blend the damn thing? What a stroke of pure genius! Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before??? I threw the onion into the blender with some chicken stock for good measure and pressed the button labeled CHOP. In seconds, the onion was a beautiful puree of microscopic mincing. I opened the blender and suddenly felt an intense stinging in my eyeballs. They began watering uncontrollably and I went in the living room for a break and to figure out what to do. I couldn’t get away. Our entire apartment filled with toxic, burning onion fumes. Like clockwork, my husband came home and let himself in the front door. He walked in, “ Sweetie! I’m… what the fuck?” He covered his eyes. I ran towards him, grabbed his hand and we both escaped the onion dungeon with tears streaming down our faces. It took two days for the fumes to air out of our apartment.
Moral of the story: DO NOT blend the onion.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries are Sexy
Rewind back to Valentine’s Day 2003. In the spirit of things, I elect to make my boyfriend chocolate covered strawberries like they do in the movies. Once again, I buy all the ingredients: strawberries, chocolate chips, that’s really it. I take them to his house and tell him I have a surprise for him. I hustle into the kitchen to microwave a bowl of the chocolate. Things are going pretty well but I notice that the chocolate does not embody the silky texture that I see from the displays at Godiva. Humm.. roadblock we meet again. Milk! Milk always makes things creamier, right? I pour a generous amount of milk into the bowl, mix it around and turn the microwave on again. I swear I only looked away for like a second… The next thing I know there is an actual mini fire in the microwave. The milk has burned and formed tiny pockets of hot lactic lava all throughout the chocolate. I shriek and evacuate the flaming bowl from the microwave. Fuck fuck fuck. It’s too late to rescue it and I don’t have any more chocolate. I eye the strawberries and decide to finish the project anyway. I dip the first strawberry in the bowl and it emerges looking like it’s covered in large warts or something. Apparently, the burned milk has become tiny balls of ash interdispersed throughout. Finally, I bring the plate of warted strawberries into the living room. My boyfriend eyes them and, out of the kindness of his heart, tries one. There is an audible crunch as he tried to conceal his involuntary gag reflux. The least sexy night in Valentine’s Day history ends.
Cocinando con Estilo
Last, but certainly not least, takes us back to the spanish cooking show I created with my friend Ellen for a school project. I’m pretty sure it was for extra credit or something but we took it very seriously. We set up shop in my parent’s kitchen with a tiny archaic video camera and makeshift tripod. Ellen had the brilliant idea of making kebabs. (These turned out to be Brazillian but that was the least of our problems) For extra extra credit we got a little cocky and planned to make a cookie called Besos too. I’m not going to go into the whole thing but the project ended up taking us all of one day and half of the next. In the video, the day clearly shifts from day to night to day again. We place the pineapple+bacon+beef kebabs on the grill and, within minutes, the bacon is falling through the rack and incinerating in the coals with a flash. Our pineapple has roasted to a scary orange and the beef is still rare. We toss the (probably hazardous) kebabs into a box and agree to really nail it on the cookie front. The cookies are going great except for they never solidify and become actual cookies. They are still a strange liquid paste. To this day we still can’t figure out why. It’s basically time to turn our project in so we decide to serve the cookie mixture in little cups. We go to class with our scary meat sticks and cookie cups. One classmate takes a kebab and asks, “is this part potato?” “No, that’s pineapple”. The teacher gives us a A- out of pity and we give the whole class salmonella.
There have been many others and I know there are many more to come but I thought I would share these with you.
What is your most catastrophic cooking mistake?
*This little joke is about Mise en Plase, a French term for prepping all of the ingredients out in an organized fashion. It means ‘everything in its place’. That’s right, I know stuff. I’m a knower of things.