5 things I’ve learnt about cooking: the calamitous kitchen confessions of a single guy
You learn a lot of new things about food, cooking and improvisation when you’re a single guy living on your own. Some of these revelations, like the fact that vanilla ice cream, cinnamon and beer make a reasonably satisfactory main meal, can save you from starving in the event that you’ve neglected to go shopping. Again. You learn how to prepare a few staple, almost impressive dishes without setting fire to your apartment or sending dinner guests home via the emergency department. Sadly, you also come to understand just how badly one can screw up even the most seemingly idiot-proof of tasks in the kitchen. Don’t believe me? Let’s have a look at 5 things I’ve established as a result of my single guy cooking escapades.
1. Instructions are important and should be followed.
They say that rules are meant to be broken; cooking instructions aren’t.
You know those tubs of cookie dough that they sell as part of fundraising campaigns? Yeah, the ones that, in order for you to have batch after batch of fresh cookies, only require you to be competent enough to scoop out the dough and place it onto a baking tray. I stuffed them up. I didn’t adhere to the instructions (or heed the advice of others) when it was suggested that “a small ball of dough” would produce a white choc macadamia cookie of adequate proportions. I scooped out a small ball of dough; it looked tiny, so I substituted small for lime-sized and left them to bake. What I removed from the oven was more mutated slice than batch of delectable cookies. Instead of having something that would make Nigella proud, I was holding an abomination that would get Stephen King’s tick of approval.
What’s the moral of this cookie chronicle? Small always means small, and if something says to use a baking tray, use one.
Just to demonstrate that I’m a really slow learner, I once had black smoke coming off a bag of microwave popcorn because I thought that the manufacturer’s recommended zapping time didn’t sound long enough.
2. Garnishing anything with herbs makes it look fancy.
This doesn’t really need explaining: the pictures below say more than I ever could.
3. Hard-boiled and raw eggs should not be fridge friends.
Cravings are hard to resist. My last craving of note was for hard-boiled eggs, and when it got to the point of seeing eggs with little feet dancing around my head, I arrived at the conclusion that it was time to take action. About the eggs, not the hallucinations. I bought a carton and, upon getting back to my apartment, dropped seven or eight of them into boiling water. Unfortunately, there are twelve eggs in a carton*, and I didn’t have room in my fridge for the carton itself. My solution was to remove the uncooked eggs from the confinement of their cardboard prison and place them directly onto a shelf in the fridge, unencumbered and free to roll around.
Ordinarily, this action in itself wouldn’t have posed any real problem, but when some idiot – possibly me – decided to put the hard-boiled eggs alongside them, things were never going to end well.
The following day, I ruled that it was time to make one of my legendary curried egg and lettuce sandwiches. I’d also forgotten that some of the eggs hadn’t taken a swim in the saucepan. Why would I need to remember something like that? What sort of moron stores uncooked and hard-boiled eggs together in a fridge? Anyway, I’m digressing. After grabbing two of them to make up the curry mixture, I playfully dropped one onto the bench to crack the shell; that’s when I remembered that a few of the eggs in my fridge were still raw.
* Author’s note to the egg police: I know you can get them as a half-dozen, but I don’t.
4. Flipping the contents of your frying pan is harder than it looks.
Damn you, Jamie Oliver. After observing everyone’s favourite naked chef continually flip the contents of his frying pan with a deft flick of the wrist (no, that’s not a euphemism), I eventually asked myself why I was the only sap left using spoons and spatulas. The concept of the flip didn’t seem that difficult, and with every celebrity cook and wannabe MasterChef contestant sending their stir-fries skyward in a graceful arc with apparent ease, I made the decision to come in from the culinary cold: I was my time to flip.
I chose to try it for the first time while sautéing mushrooms. I was focused. I was visualising it. I was trying to determine how I should celebrate what I assumed would be a successful attempt. Putting the wooden spoon to one side, I eyeballed the frying pan and quickly snapped it upwards in a forceful yet clinical motion.
I wish I could tell you that the mushrooms landed with a poetic elegance, but I can’t: there’s nothing poetic about a hail of hot butter and fungi raining down around you.
5. Don’t attempt to make iced coffee with boiling water in a plastic cocktail shaker.
Why? Because I’ve tried this twice, and both attempts went something like this:
Step 1. Put a ludicrous amount of coffee into a plastic cocktail shaker.
Step 2. Add boiling water to the aforementioned receptacle.
Step 3. Add an even more ludicrous volume of sugar.
Step 4. Proceed to shake the hell out of the concoction until the pressure from the boiling water builds up enough to shoot the lid of the cocktail shaker off.
Step 5. Avoid the scalding – yet ridiculously sweet – caffeine-laced liquid that is now covering every inch of the kitchen.
Step 6. Watch your friends poorly re-enact steps 4 and 5 while mocking you and soiling themselves laughing.
Step 7. Begin the clean up, all the while pretending that you can’t still hear your friends giggling like 11-year-olds.
Given that I am unable to tell the difference between an egg that’s cooked and one that isn’t, it’s unlikely that my culinary expertise will ever lead to a cookbook deal or television series, in which I travel the globe, indulging in local delicacies and imparting my wisdom upon a myriad of unsuspecting chefs. It’s a pity: I think Stirring the Pot with TDoT is a fantastic name for a cooking guide; who cares if the author has the baking ability of a spork?
Author’s note (3 February, 2012): I need to apologise. Someone left a comment that WordPress flagged as spam, and instead of marking it not spam-esque, I accidentally banished it to limbo by clicking “Delete Permanently”.
I can’t remember who it was that made the comment, but it was awesome. If you are reading this and wondering why your comment hasn’t appeared, it’s probably because I fucked up. If you could submit it again it, I promise not to screw up with the moderation for a second time.
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