Yes, I guess I’m a pretty darn good cook. Maybe not always gourmet, but I have my ways.
I started at a young age with mudpies and graduated to kitchen cupboard ingredients. My first real cooking project was a cocoa devil’s food cake from an old Gold Medal Flour cookbook at the age of about 8 or 9. It turned out great, even though I had to use Nestles Quik instead of real cocoa, since at our house we didn’t even know what real cocoa was like. Experience and Mrs. Diaz’s homemaking class have been the best teachers in my life. But I’ve had my share of meals gone wrong. Let’s explore three of them, shall we?
The Shish Kebob:
We’d only been married a year or so. For some ungodly reason I had allowed myself to agree to a dinner invitation at my house for my husband’s co-workers and boss. I decided something elegant would be shish kebob, like my mother-in-law made sometimes. I fixed the little creatures up on bamboo sticks, not knowing you are supposed to soak them first. I had my little portable barbeque on the deck, while the crowd was in the house, socializing. The briquettes were ready. I laid them on the fire. Drip drip. Flare flare. FLARE! FLARE! FLAME! Yikes!! Moving them around didn’t do any good, the bbq was too small. Things were getting sooty. I thought I had heard that people would spritz the coals with water to cool them down. I had some drinking water. All I could think of was to put out the flame; not that splashing water on it would put out the coals. Oops. Well, some of the coals were still hottish. Dinner was already late. Bad news, the meat was still pretty undone. Good news, everything was black enough, you couldn’t tell. So I pronounced that dinner was served. I don’t think they noticed.
The Ham Dinner:
Ham has always been my favorite meat. We would usually have a nice big ham half for holiday dinners. A nice fatty rind that would baste the meat as it slow-cooked, its pink smokiness tenderly yielding to the carving knife. I had this vision in mind when I was asked to plan a dinner for my husband’s and his family’s Masonic lodge. I put the order in to the local meat shop for enough ham for about 50 to 60 people. I remember that I had powdered mashed potatoes planned and that I was going to make gravy from the ham drippings – don’t ask me what I was thinking, remember, I didn’t have that much experience yet. It sounded like a good idea. The afternoon came and I was down at the hall waiting for the person who was bringing me the ham. She handed me the white paper-wrapped packages and I opened them I saw… ham lunchmeat. That’s what it looked like to me. Shaped and formed rectangles of sliced ham tied with string into three inch thick packages with heating instructions. No juicy drippings, no tenderness, just thin flat pink squares. There was nothing much I could do about it. I heated them up and served them. I ran to the store and bought enough envelopes of instant gravy mix to go on the potatoes. What a boring meal! I was mortified.
The Cornish Game Hens:
For approximately 10 years following when I served 2 cute little Cornish game hens for dinner one night, but husband would not let me utter the words “Cornish game hens” in his presence. You must know, I understood and practiced good sanitation in the kitchen, especially with raw poultry. I didn’t cross-contaminate, I washed everything properly, I cooked the hens till they were thoroughly done. But I guess in the real world, anything could happen. And, while I remained perfectly healthy, my husband didn’t. In a very noisy way. All night. You might can imagine. Then again, maybe not. I guess that Liquid Smoke flavoring I basted them with began to pall after a few hours. Anyway, after he was properly recovered, he whispered, “Don’t even say C…ish G… H…ns ever again.” After all this time, I can now say it, but I still can’t cook them for him.
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