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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cooking For Dummies (For the Cooking Impaired)

My Aunt is a phenomenal cook. I really don’t think there’s much she couldn’t cook. And while I never asked (I’m better off not knowing) it probably makes it hard for her to understand cooking challenged persons like myself.

Take the chicken spaghetti recipe for instance. Now to my Aunt, this is a simple recipe. Among other things, it calls for 1-2 cloves of garlic, Rotel tomatoes and green chilis, and Velveeta cubes.

For someone like me, that’s enough rope to hang myself. I went last weekend and got all the ingredients. But I thought Rotel was a kind of tomato, kind of like Concord grapes or Gala Applies. Took a while but I finally figured out it was a brand name and found it in the canned goods section.

Likewise I didn’t know what a clove of garlic was or looked like, but I went to the produce section and looked for the sign that said “garlic” and found it’s corresponding produce box. Clump of white stuff that looked like a mis-shapen onion. Check. Got the garlic.

All that was left to get was the Velveeta cubes. Well I searched all through the refrigerated cheese section and didn’t find any Velveeta cubes. So I prayed that Colby Jack/Monterrey cubes were a good substitute.

So home I went, groceries in tow. Now household chores wear me out, so I decided to break this monumental cooking task into two nights. The next night, I crock-potted the chicken. That part I can handle. I rinse off the chicken, throw it in, and the crockpot does the rest.

Next night, it’s time to cook the spaghetti and all the other stuff. I’m talking to my friend about my woes of not finding Velveeta cubes in the grocery store and she says something like, "You're supposed to cube the Velveeta block, dork!" Well gee whiz. How was I to know? It didn’t say that in the instructions!

Not only have I never bought garlic before, I've never chopped one up. I had the two clumps of garlic before me but didn’t know what to do with it. Which were the edible parts? If I ate the wrong part would I poison myself or grow garlics in my gut like the lemon seeds my parents warned me about in childhood? So I went to the Internet and googled a garlic chopping video, but it wasn't much use because they never zoomed in on the garlic so I could see what part I was supposed to use! DUH! But I did manage to cue on their "pop the garlic" tip so figured I was ready to give it a whirl.

Garlic is sticky and disgusting. I felt like I stood there for hours trying to hack up the little nuggets of garlic but between my ineptitude and the garlic sticking to everything, I was exhausted, so I decided one clump of garlic was more then enough for my version of chicken spaghetti, even if the recipe called for two.

Then I cooked up the spaghetti and put the lid on the pot to drain it - and the whole batch of spaghetti promptly dumped into the sink. But I figured kind of like the 5-second rule of dropping stuff on the floor, an extended 3 minute rule applied to my sink because it took that long to fish the hot noodles out of the sink again and rinse them off.

Thankfully the Colby Jack/Monterrey cubes melted just fine

And after all that drama I did finally get everything thrown together. But by the time I was done I was just too tired to bake the garlic bread to go with it. But that’s ok because I was told by someone the next day a clove of garlic is equivalent to one little chunk of garlic and is not the same as the whole clump of garlic so I ended up using too much in the recipe anyway.

But it turned out great!

I’ve also since learned that you can buy garlic in a jar. I’m definitely going for the jar next time. And I ain’t spending time cubing no stinkin’ Velveeta either! 8-)

But what an ordeal. The instructions for this recipe were very clear – to someone who already knows at least a basic level of cooking.

That’s what scares me about writing too. I spend all this time learning the craft of writing. Learning how to submit a proposal. A query letter, etc. I’m trying hard to learn every little detail and nuance of the process. But as the time looms very near for me to submit my first novel proposal, there’s a fearful part of me that is afraid I’m going to find out after I submit my proposal that I missed some obvious detail everybody else in the writing world knows.

If that happens, I can only hope that, to some extent, editors and agents have a sense of humor.


Pamela Hamer said...

Loved the cooking story. You should keep this story incase you need it some day for a wip. I'm glad the speghetti turned out. The best to you on your writing journey.

B.K. Jackson said...

Thanks! You're right. You never know when it'll come in handy for a story. That's the funny thing about writers - it seems like we're always trolling the events of our own lives for application to a story. But we wouldn't have it any other way. 8-)

Pamela Hamer said...

The reason I suggested you remember it, is because I needed a cooking disaster story in my current wip. Amazing what you can come up with when you put 'cooking disaster' in the search engine! Hope to catch your meeting one of these times when I'm in AZ. I ended up down there in the wrong month last time.