Cooking is not something that I—what’s the word?—ah, yes: “Do.”
One does not live to be 47 without finding some food here and there, so I have eaten a thing or two most of the days I have spent here, and I must have even prepared a meal or a few in order to have made it this far. And I was not left to forage in the woods behind our house when I was growing up; my mom is an excellent and health-conscious cook. Thanks to her early adoption of a low- and sometimes no-salt kitchen, my heart will probably continue beating long after the rest of me has permanently allowed all my subscriptions to lapse.
This is not to say that I do not remember eating or cooking; oh, I do. My cooking is not memorable, though, in either direction: tasty treat or sublime sludge. I almost envy the good writers who are bad cooks (not as much as I envy the non-writers who are good cooks), because at least something interesting comes from their culinary assaults on taste and decency.
My worst work in the kitchen is memorable in how completely unmemorable it is. The problem is: so is my best work.
I do not even have many or any interesting kitchen mishap tales, except for my skills at breaking things. This is because I am a physically cautious person, and I was cautious before my walking difficulties rendered me a unique danger with knives, pots of boiling water, or even a tray of sporks. Thus I do not have many zany anecdotes about near-terrible, “Mom, the first thing you need to know is everyone’s safe,” kitchen-disaster-followed-by-heroic-survival stories.
I have burned my hands exactly twice: the first time was in a seventh grade home economics class in which I forgot to put an oven mitt on my hand before removing a cooking tray of snickerdoodles from the oven. The second time I burned my hand came eight seconds later, when I moved that same tray—with the same sizzled hand—so it would not fall from the spot on which I had dropped it.
(Many years later, a friend asked me if I remembered so-and-so, my seventh grade Home Ec teacher. By name, no, I did not, but we established that her friend and my junior high teacher were the same person. My name had come up and the teacher had asked my friend if my hand was okay. Apparently my lack of a reaction—I said, blandly, “That’s hot,” instead of yell—had stuck with her. There are no scars, but I remember that the process of healing from even the weakest of minor burns hurts like nothing I want to entertain experiencing again.)
I have not had a snickerdoodle in the thirty-plus years since. It isn’t their fault, those cutely-named little gluten-and-sugar bombs. But they know what they didn’t do.
Among other kitchen misadventures, one day a few years ago I was cooking. It happens. I was cooking something in a Pyrex pan in the oven, which is something I should not do, because I have 1. metal pans, 2. common sense, and 3. I am in a relationship with a girlfriend who is an excellent cook.
Now, back to me. I had a Pyrex pan in the oven, and when
I had cooked my food to something just this side of dust it was finished, I removed it from the oven. (You know, it occurs to me that most cookbooks describe this part, which is the most exciting piece of the entire cooking process after all, very blandly. “Remove dish from oven.” That’s how it is phrased. It’s the only thrilling part of the cooking experience, at least for the cook. Whatever the opposite of overkill is, that right there is an example. Underkill.)
I moved the food onto my plate and carried the Pyrex back into the kitchen. And then, because I do not think things through, I placed the thick, glass, hot-from-the-bowels-of-Hell cookware in the sink …
… Did you know that not all Pyrex is the same? (Why, thank you, online world of information.) Corning divested itself of its consumer goods division more than 15 years ago and licensed the name “Pyrex” to other companies, some of which use a different formula for manufacturing glassware from Corning’s classic one, so they sometimes produce glassware that is not as heat-resistant as Corning’s original. Of course, “heat-resistant” was always something of the entire point to anything called Pyrex, so this is head-scratchingly wonderful. If you see a Pyrex product with the red logo in all caps, like this: P Y R E X, that product is one that was made by Corning with the original formula and it is strong and heat-resistant because it is original Pyrex. It is also older, rarer, and no longer being manufactured, so you should buy it whether or not you need it that day or in your foreseeable ever. The other logos are the newer products and are usually seen with all lowercase letters, like this: p y r e x; these are not exactly knock-offs, as Corning did indeed grant these companies licenses, but they are not made following the same exact formula. “The more you know …” ™
… I placed the heat-resistant glassware in the sink and hit the faucet. In a split-second, I remembered that objects right out of a hot oven react violently to cold water, so I twisted the faucet back off. One drop of water literally (this is no exaggeration and is one of the rare occasions in which I can legitimately write “literally”) left the faucet. When it hit the Pyrex, my sink was suddenly filled with shards of glass. Some of the shards were as big as a finger, let’s say the angry universe’s ticked-off middle finger, but most of the dozens of shards were smaller. Oh, and the billows of eye-scalding steam.
So I break things. Things that were invented with the raison d’être of being less likely to break.
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This is a combines a column from this year with an oldie.
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i borrowed and broke my sister’s fancy drink dispenser in much the same way. Love the picture, love the strike-out, especially love “permanently allowed all my subscriptions to lapse”. Great post!
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Thank you so much! I enjoy your poems, too.
St. Vincent DePaul, Salvation Army, garage sales… I’m keeping my eye open for PYREX. And I’m going to rethink pouring piping hot bone broth into my 8 cup pyrex bowl and then sticking it in the fridge… You may have saved my life.
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Please accept my sincere apology from snickerdoodles everywhere. They did not mean for you to be burnt. (I could not live as comfortably as i do staying angry at a snickerdoodle.) Enjoyed!
Don’t feel too bad, Mark. I once accidentally took leave of my brain and put aluminum foil in a friend’s microwave, realizing my error a second later when it went “bzzt” and lit up in a line of orange on the edge of the foil. I didn’t kill their microwave, or thankfully, any people, but it was like a miniature nuclear explosion (coupled with the fear that engenders)! Anyway, I’m glad no one has been hurt from mine or your cooking mishaps!
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We could do a cookbook, or general-purpose instruction manual, based on these misadventures: “Don’t Try These at Home (Try These in Someone Else’s).”
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There you go, Mark; great idea. I tend to look myself as almost Lucy-like in that respect. Just recently, I’ve burned the plastic lid on the flour container (that got too close to the oven), and I’m sure I could recall some other doozies if I thought hard enough. Mostly, though, they’re minor: leaving out sugar or some other ingredient that didn’t totally wreck a recipe, just mostly. Anyway, happy weekend, Mark & Jenn! 🙂
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