THE TRIFECTA OF COOKING DISASTERS

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Senior Citizen porn

Senior Citizen porn

 

I am not a good cook.  Never have been.  But I yearn to be great.  I watch the Food Network  with great enthusiasm.  I imagine myself twirling around in the kitchen, dazzling my friends with my expertise, amazing them with my magnificent meals.  If watching TV magically translated into an actual skill, I would be stir-frying, sauteing and braising everything to a turn.  I’ve observed so many baking episodes that I should be rolling out fondant and spinning sugar roses on a daily basis.  But alas, my intellectual understanding of food and my ability to produce edible meals somehow are at odds.  In all fairness, I’ve not killed anyone yet but as you will read, I’ve come darn close.

 

My Gournet Main Course

My Gourmet Main Course

I should have known that cooking was not going to be my strong suit back in 1972, when I was living in my first apartment.  At the time I was dating a lawyer who took me to very nice restaurants.  Back in those days (I think it was the Paleozoic era), men always picked up the bill.  So occasionally, the woman was expected to host a home-cooked meal.  It was a great system.  After a couple of months I just couldn’t mooch one more meal from this man, so I worked up the courage to host him for dinner.  I decided on a Mexican theme.  I decorated with colorful flowers and planned out the menu; I think I even threw a red sash around my waist thinking it would add a certain je ne sais quoi to the evening.  As if a red sash was going to make up for canned tamales. Yep – the prep for my main course consisted of me reaching into the tool drawer, pulling out an old screw-type can opener, and dumping the tamales in a pan.  I think I may have served canned Mexican rice too.  Shortly after we finished eating this tour-de-force of can opening, my date asked if I had an Alka-Seltzer.  I did not.  So he suggested (rather kindly as I think back on it) that we go out for an after dinner drink at the local pub.  Only he didn’t have a drink – he ordered club soda.  Not surprisingly, I never saw him again.  And I was so naive that it was years later before it dawned on me I had caused him to suffer from heart burn, indigestion and God only knows what other type of gastrointestinal disorder.

Fast-forward 43 years to last month when I experienced the Triple Crown of cooking disasters. First, we were invited to a pot luck where I volunteered to bring a chicken dish.  I consulted my Ina Garten cookbook, How Easy Is That?, because I was definitely looking for easy.  I selected the Lemon Chicken that required boneless chicken breasts with the skin left on.  Not wanting to cut open an artery while de-boning a chicken breast, I purchased de-boned chicken breasts from our local gourmet market for approximately the price of a Porsche.  The recipe says to simply put the chicken in the lemon sauce and bake it, whereupon the skin is supposed to “crisp up”.  As the time approached for us to leave, I peeked in the oven.  No crisping.  I panicked and turned up the heat.  Still nothing.  Finally, we had to leave for the party so I pulled the dish out of the oven.   The end result looked like islands of fat floating in lemons.  I’ve seen better looking skin in a nursing home.  I secretly told everyone that someone else brought that horrid chicken dish.

Mine looked NOTHING like this

Mine looked NOTHING like this

Next I decided to bake my husband’s favorite dessert for his birthday – Pineapple Upside Down cake.  He is on a restricted-fat diet so I found a recipe that used applesauce and club soda as substitutes for anything that actually tastes good.  When the baking time was up I took it out of the oven only to discover that it resembled a yellow Frisbee.  Actually, that comparison might be insulting to the Frisbee.  One of my good friends, who is a fabulous cook, told me that next time I should make a full-fat version and just serve a smaller piece.  Hmmmm…a smaller piece of cake.  Not something usually in my wheelhouse.

The third disaster occurred last weekend when I tried to make up for the birthday cake disaster by fixing an angel food cake.  In fact, I went a step further and found Ms. Garten’s Lemon Angel Food cake recipe.  Perfect!  My husband loves lemons and the cake is naturally fat-free.  The recipe couldn’t have been further from my canned tamales in terms of effort.  The flour, sugar and salt had to be sifted FIVE times.  Finally – it was in the oven and I hovered over it like a mongoose watching a snake.  It rose beautifully.  When I took it out of the oven it was high and crispy (if only my chicken skin had looked that good).  I inverted it on the counter and went into my office to relax while it cooled.  Ten minutes later my husband walked in and said “Honey, I think your cake fell”.  I assured him that an angel food cake is supposed to be upside down while it cools.  To which he replied, “No, it actually has fallen.”  I raced into the kitchen.  Sure enough, my angel food cake was a steaming heap of molten mess, having made a huge splat when it hit the counter.  Pure unadulterated pride kept me from taking a picture of it.  Instead, I did what any reasonable person would do – I threw it in the garbage and poured myself a glass of wine.

I’m going to start watching The Wine Network.  All that’s necessary for success is to select a bottle of wine, open and pour.  Now, how easy is that?

 

 

THE BIRTHDAY DILEMMA

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Alan with his perfect present

Alan with his perfect present

Today is my husband’s birthday.  Which means that for the past several weeks I have been struggling to figure out an appropriate gift for him.  Some years he goes out and buys himself a whole set of golf clubs and then tells me that’s my gift.  But I’m old-fashioned when it comes to gifts.  I think it matters that someone puts thought into finding the perfect present.  Of course, Alan and my definitions of the “perfect” gift differ a bit.  What he really would like is a Shelby Cobra.  He has been known to make a perfect fool of himself by approaching Cobra drivers in parking lots with drool slithering down his chin.  He also would like to have a date with Kate Upton.  He hasn’t seen her in person but I’m sure he’d be drooling over her too.  The chances of him getting a date with her is about the same as me buying him a Cobra.  It’s just not happening.  So I’ve been in my usual quandary about finding him a great birthday surprise.   I was going to send him to golf school up in Sun Valley until he said the other day that he hoped I wasn’t buying him golf lessons because he has miraculously fixed his swing. This is generally what happens every year – I think of something “creative” and it turns out to be the wrong thing at the wrong time.  But I like to have something for him to open on his birthday.  I could rest on my laurels, since bringing Dash the Wonder Dog into our home racked up LOTS of gift points.   But I’ve never been one to pass up the opportunity to have a birthday celebration so I was determined to forge ahead in my quest for a gift.

The "new" sensation

The “new” sensation

A week ago I was lucky enough to get a good hint as he made his daily trek into our office to watch YouTube videos of Brazilian jazz artists.  He just discovered YouTube about six months ago,even though they’ve been pretty popular with anyone who likes cat videos for the past eight years.  He is constantly going up to friends and saying “Hey, have you heard about this YouTube thing?”.  Sadly, given the age of most of our friends, he sometimes finds people who haven’t.  He has created his own account to bookmark all of his music and, for all I know, videos of Kate Upton.  Luckily, as he was watching Ivan Lins for the 1,000th time last week he said, “Gee, I really wish I could take this music with me when we travel this summer”.  I paused.  How could I explain that he could watch YouTube on the iPad?  Instead, I saw an opportunity and immediately began to research iPods.  The next day I bought him the iPod Touch.  As long as he is coming into the twenty-first century I thought I’d drag him all the way – messaging, FaceTime and all the games he desires.  I was going to unwrap it and download several of his CD’s and favorite songs from the Apple Store, but given my success rate with some of my past bright ideas, I have left it in its original packaging.  Which means for the remainder of the day all I will hear is “Honey, can you come in here to help me download?” or “This *&^($# thing doesn’t work!”.  It’s never easy.  But I will give him this – he has a GREAT attitude about birthdays and aging in general.

Old woman birthday cakeWhich is more than I can say for some of our friends.  We know people who either hate to celebrate their birthday or are stressed out about getting older.  Frankly, I think they’re crazy.  First of all, birthdays are the perfect excuse to have a party.   Secondly, and more to the point, getting older is a privilege.  Walk into any pediatric ward at a hospital or talk with a young widow with small children and it becomes very apparent how lucky we are to grow older.  And the old saying is true – if you have your health you have everything.  Complaining about getting old seems a bit selfish or at least  self-centered.  Sure, we have more wrinkles and the bones creak a bit more, but if you’re generally feeling good a birthday should be a mark of accomplishment.  Being as good as we can be at whatever age we’re at is a good goal to have.  Besides, birthdays are the perfect occasion to eat cake and what is better than that?  So Happy Birthday to my dear husband today.  I hope he hears me since I have a feeling he’s going to have ear buds attached to him for the foreseeable future.