I have a theory about cooking. Despite what many people (particularly those who cook) claim, it’s not simply a matter of “following the directions.” Even the most rudimentary recipes love to toss around cooking terms that non-cooks struggle with. What exactly is a “pinch” of something? Would that be like a tiny, baby cheek pinch, or a big ‘ol butt-grabbing pinch? And how much of something is a “smidgen?” Or a “scoach?” And every recipe includes at least one instruction to “sprinkle to taste.” How the hell would I know unless I lick the bowl as I go?? Of course, if you DO get actual measurements, they’re often flexible. This doesn’t work for us. “One-half to one tablespoon” just makes non-cooks crazy. Which is it, dammit? One half tablespoon or one tablespoon?? It’s your recipe. You tell me.
One year, Kenny made the unfortunate choice to get me some huge binder called “The Joy of Cooking.” (Yeah, like he got lucky that night.) Every recipe called for more ingredients than I have in my house in an entire year, and after the third try of a ridiculously complicated side dish (got all the way to the bottom, and it read “Pour sauce over top before serving. For sauce recipe, see page 322.” SERIOUSLY??), I frisbee’d the stupid book out my back patio door and onto the soccer field next door. Poor thing got run over by a large rider mower and has now gone to confetti heaven, where it belongs.
Interestingly, my sister is an award-winning chef and valedictorian of her culinary school. Magazines take photos of her food, and her menus are chosen for edibility and presentation. Given the fact that the only pictures of anything I cook are on the front of the microwavable box it comes in, she is, to this day, convinced there was a hospital mix-up and her “real sister” is still out there. I just keep telling her that some of us were born for other things, and I was born simply to be fabulous. She’s not buying it and repeatedly asks my mother, “Are you sure she’s ours??”
Finally taking pity on me (or Kenny, who lost 14 pounds in our first year of marriage before he realized I truly couldn’t cook), Sissy sent me her “EZ Lasagna” recipe. (Note to Self: “EZ” to Julia Child and “EZ” to ‘When in Doubt, Pop Tarts are Always an Option’ are not the same thing).
First step, chop the onion. Halfway through it, I’m crying so hard, I can’t see my knife and I slice my hand open. Wrap that up (hopefully before I bleed into the sauce, but it’s tomato, so I’m admitting nothing), and move on to “simmering” (What number on the dial is “simmer?” Again, SPECIFICS, people!), which, no matter how low I go, spits and splats tomato sauce everywhere, including down the front of my favorite shirt. Well, crap.
Then there’s those damn noodles that need to be stirred while boiling, and without thinking it through, I stirred with a short fork, plunging my hand into the boiling water. Yeah, that hurt. Tried pulling the cooked noodles apart to layer them in the lasagna pan, burning my 2 remaining undamaged fingers and shredding the noodles. Oh screw it. Promptly dumped the entire mess into one pan, baked it for 45 minutes, and told Kenny it was Hungarian Goulash.
He’s happily scarfing it down, while I’m downing 3 ibuprofens and an entire bottle of wine. Dinner is served.