Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cooking 101

"Kiss the Cook"
Watercolor by Judy Westergard
available as giclee print through

It’s Thanksgiving morning and the TV chefs are rattling off last minute advice for the home cook who faces the heroic task of living up to the expectation of creating a holiday meal worthy of the center spread in a glossy magazine.

I’ve been cooking for a long time, long enough to be able to put my less-than-stellar attempts into perspective. It’s time to let reality out into the open. So here it version of Cooking 101.
My age: about 12.

Scene: Mom’s kitchen.
Goal: To surprise Mom with stunningly decorated Christmas cookies.
Final product: Greasy orange puddles of inedible dough.
What I learned: Vegetable oil and oil & vinegar salad dressing are not interchangeable.

My age: about 16
Scene: Same kitchen.
Goal: Delicately crisp bacon.
Final product: Dry, blackened strips of leather and a kitchen full of smoke.
What I learned: The length of cooking time between perfect bacon and a near conflagration is considerably less than the time required for a quick primp in the bathroom mirror.

My age: about 24
Scene: My own apartment
Goal: To impress my new husband with our first meal together as husband and wife. The featured entree: broiled beef shanks.
Final product: Dinner out.
What I learned: That our newly installed smoke alarm worked really well. Second lesson: Just because it’s beef doesn’t mean it can be broiled.

My age: about 35
Scene: My kitchen, prepping Thanksgiving dinner for 12.
Goal: A gloriously moist, crisp, done-to-perfection turkey, which would result from carefully following the directions in a glossy magazine: “Cover the bird during the last half of cooking with a cloth which you have soaked in olive oil.”
Final product: One overly rosy bird.
What I learned: Even five years of washings won’t prevent a plaid kitchen towel from fading.

Age: 62
Scene: Same kitchen
Goal: Two pumpkin pies worthy of the center spread in one of those glossy mags.
Final product: One pumpkin pie.
What I learned: It takes a lot of elbow grease to clean up hot pumpkin pie from the kitchen floor.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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