Monday, February 13, 2012

What I wished I learned in school and why I won't host a dinner party

Hi there!

Remember that time we went to school? That was fun. We learned so many useful things: analysis of 18th century poetry, logarithms, what time two trains leaving two different stations would meet, how we will instantly lose weight by travelling to the moon (mass vs. weight), and peeing on a handkerchief and holding it over our mouths would save us during a chlorine-gas attack in World War I (should we be forced to travel back in time).

This weekend I wished someone had pulled me aside in high school and said, "You know all those advanced science and math classes you are taking? Maybe instead of doing that you should take cooking class. I know all the teachers are encouraging you to take the science and math courses, and you think you are going to do your BSc in either math or physics, but you're not going to. However, you are going to consistently get angry in your mid to late twenties about your cooking skills."

(Note: I'm actually glad I took the courses I did in high school; it meant I hardly had to study during first and second year university and spent my calculus class studying Spanish and rocking verb conjugations. And I got scholarships and cash prizes. But not for English class which I why I am rebelling and starting sentences with prepositions.)

On Friday night I told a friend (with whom I had just cooked supper - I did important things like cut vegetables and placed things in the oven) that people shouldn't fear cooking. Gone are the days of an overwhelming $495 cook book requiring ingredients that can be pronounced only by masters of all Latin-based languages*. The internet and its users can inspire, coach, guide, advise, escort, educate, demonstrate, direct, nurture, and show us the way around a kitchen**. It need not be complicated, help has been provided in the metropolis of the Internet.

* slight exaggeration
** thank you, Also, if you have trouble remembering how to spell thesaurus, think of a dinosaur that specialises in vocabulary. Its species is called the saurus.

Unfortunately, my speech of the previous night did nothing for my confidence/skills/awesomeness the following night. I had previously told le Boyfriend that I would cook curry for us to eat on Saturday night and he would tell me he loved it. Actually, I didn't tell him he would have to tell me he loved it. It was supposed to be so flavourful and delicious and life-changing that he would not be able to control himself and would stand up tall, microphone in hand, and declare that he loved Jen's curry and eating it was like a dance party in his esophagus. In the slim chance it did not cause his tongue to burst in an eruption of flavour fantasticness, he should tell me he finds it delicious anyway. Lying is sometimes okay.

I decided I would take this recipe, eggplant mushroom curry, and be one step closer to becoming Kitchen Goddess of Beauty Happiness Triumph and Glory.

Now, things that wrong. First off, I don't like mushrooms. Second, after baking the eggplant as directed, I realised baked eggplant looks like cat intestine and the look of it makes me want to rip my own appendix from my body. The taste, while not awful, isn't on my top 200 flavours and I discarded the baked eggplant insides because they screamed 'murder victim' rather than 'divine vegetable of taste sensation'. Not gonna lie, I had never bought eggplant before nor had I ever cooked it. Turns out I probably won't buy eggplant again unless I'm in a water balloon fight against someone I hate or a ruthless dictator. In that case, the large, misshaped, colourful eggplant could easily be mistaken for water balloon. I would attack my enemy with the eggplant, and quickly retreat in my helicopter. My enemy would be blinded by the repulsive vegetable and I would be interviewed by Peter Mansbridge, Peter Jennings, and other Peter's on how it feels to have saved the world.

Third issue of the recipe: I am a disorganized mess and not very efficient in the kitchen. I'm getting better, but I'm still one of the few people who can't put 'organized' on the skills section of her resume. Since it took me far too long to scoop the intestines out of the gagging eggplant, the clock was slowly ticking away to the supper hour of Mediterranean countries. While I think supper is best enjoyed outside under the stars on a patio at an hour NO EARLIER than 9:00pm, le Boyfriend had declared he was hungry (in a kind and undemanding way, like, "Yay! Food! Can't wait to eat! Boy, am I hungry at this non-Mediterranean supper hour!") about 1.5 hours prior and I was getting angry and stomping on the kitchen floor because eggplant was put on Earth to destroy my peaceful life of butterflies and rainbows. So I felt like I was late, which makes me sweat and panic, and I was barely any further ahead than I had been 1.5 hours earlier due to eggplant of life destruction. Due to my dislike of the recipe's two key ingredients as mentioned in its name (eggplant and mushroom), I decided to just throw in a heap load of random veggies and rename it 'random veggie Jen MacCurry'.

Things went wrong some more.

Apparently coconut milk has a multiplier effect when in heat. In heat as in being dumped into a frying pan, not as in feeling eager to breed. I dump in more than the recipe calls for. After realising that was a poor decision, I lied and said to le Boyfriend that there was too much coconut milk because 'it fell in'. He looked at me curiously. I said it was lumpy. He sensed further interrogation would be bad, and he wisely asked no further questions.

Too much coconut milk turned into way too much coconut milk as the heat caused it to breed even more coconut milk. It was like chopping up one starfish and then watching it turn into 90 million hundred starfish.

The result of too much coconut milk meant the spices were useless, despite me dumping in so much hot chili pepper stuff that my tongue should had exploded. What felt like one million hours of work tasted like veggies swimming in coconut milk. They needed Life Savers candy to ensure they wouldn't drown. (Ha! Candy pun.)

Conclusion: cooking needs a Ctrl+Z function.

Looking back, this doesn't seem so bad and, in the least, gives me something to write about. At the time, I had already been in a sad/angry mood during the afternoon, but had successfully beat it into submission. Unfortunately the cooking thing gave a one-up green mushroom (i.e., an extra life in Mario Bros.) to the insecurities of the afternoon. I blame the eggplant. And a friend's really-OMG-so-awesome-and-insightful ex-boyfriend who basically told me that I wouldn't get a boyfriend if I didn't love cooking. Thanks, friend's ex-boyfriend. I wrote an appreciative card for your insight and put it in the mail, just in time for Valentine's Day. If you find the card a bit damp upon arrival, it's because I covered it in leftover coconut milk. YAY!

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