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Friday, November 11, 2011

Kitchen accidents

Every year, when the December magazines are released, full of complicated recipes that everybody seems eager to try, it makes me realize how "not a cook" I am.

This year I decided to stop living with my shameful secret. I am finally ready to make a full coming out. Yes, I will admit it today: I don't enjoy cooking.

I'd rather mop the floors. Iron the shirts. Clean the toilets. Shovel the snow on a windy, minus fifteen morning.

Cooking is not my thing.

I so don't get it when I see women shopping for a new house (on TV) and getting all excited about what they call "my favourite room in the house". The kitchen? Your favourite room in the house? The one that always ends up messy, with piles of dirty dishes, crumbs all over the counters, sticky patches on the floor? Come on! Give me the living room, the master bedroom, the home office even, for a favourite room. Not the kitchen!

The irony is that I LOVE eating. I can even be a real gourmet at times. I genuinely appreciate high quality ingredients, fancy dishes that take hours to prepare. There's nothing like a sophisticated, never ending, six-course meal full of delicacies, served with the six thoughtfully paired wines. Yum. But don't ask me to prepare it.

(This might explain why, when I have friends over, it's usually for tea and biscuits, or wine and cheese, but rarely for a meal.)

(And thanks whoever for inventing fondue!)

Luckily, I grew up with a mom who cooked like a pro, and I went on to marry someone who's pretty competent in the kitchen. The few "in-between" years when I had to fend for myself, I was content with soups, sandwiches and "breakfast-like suppers".

It's not that I completely suck at cooking. It's just that I don't think it's fun. It takes way too long for the time it will last in the plate. There's too many opportunities to completely ruin what you're trying to make. Proportions have to be exact, timing has to be perfect... and don't even tell me about beautiful presentation. It's all gonna end mashed up in the belly in less than a minute!

In my teens, I once decided to impress my friends by inviting them over and making supper for them, all on my own. The salad was delicious: as long as it involves no cooking at all, I am pretty good at assembling ingredients in the right proportions. I even made the vinaigrette myself. Then I slid a pizza (frozen) in the oven. When what had been mouthwatering pizza smells turned into smoky exhalations, my good friend M asked me: "What time did you put that pizza in?" I had no idea. She gave me another chance: "What temperature did you put it at?" "Huh?" was my answer.

Another time, I had to babysit for a whole day, and upon my arrival, I was told I would have to make lunch for the children. "Not complicated", the mother said. I only had to put nuggets and fries in the oven, and cook broccoli on the stove. For the most part, I did good, but the broccoli was kind of undercooked, and my hand got kind of overcooked. Twenty years later, however, you can't really see the scar anymore.

Not only can't I pay attention in the kitchen, I never seem to be able to follow the recipes obediently. My rebel side always wants to modify part of the ingredients - usually to make it healthier. It generally ends up making it drier, harder and chunkier, for the most part.

Mind you, my kitchen clumsiness has led to a few successes over the course of the years.

My best spaghetti sauce happened when I dropped (by mistake) a huge amount of basil in it.

Another time, I mistakenly poured a mountain of turmeric in the banana-pineapple-bran muffins... and they turned out absolutely delicious (and absolutely orange).

I even managed to make fudge (sucre à la crème) one day... it was awesome, really. I never told anyone I had actually been trying to make icing for a cake.

I occasionally manage to put on the table a dish that will prompt enthusiastic exclamations from the guests; it never fails to make me feel like a kid who's just produced her first drawing that actually resembles something.

And I can start a campfire and roast marshmallows like it's a second nature.

All hope is not lost!

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