Over-easy or Overdone? Humor from a Short Order “Cook”
The first thing I ever cooked for Kevin was two over-easy eggs. I grew up on those delicious sun drops of rich, yellow yolk oozing onto the plate. I would quickly dip my toast into the rivers before they ran cold. As I served him the eggs and toast on a worn green plate, Kevin should have known that my cooking ability was pretty limited.
Thank goodness that even though he didn’t love the eggs, he somehow knew he wasn't marrying me for my kitchen skills. During all the weird meals I have cooked for us, he is the first one to laugh alongside me and never insult my “special struggle.”
I think I knew how to cook five things when I got married.
1. Ramen Noodles
2. Eggs (All varieties! Scrambled, over-easy, omelet-if I am lucky to flip it right)
3. Macaroni and Cheese from the box
4. Bagel/egg/ham sandwich
5. Ummm…. I knew how to ground beef in a pan
So like the naïve little new wife I was, I began to make dinner on the regular, thinking, Psshhh, how hard can this be? I was born with some sort of innate, wifely talent, right?
Within the first few months, I read a recipe wrong and cooked a casserole lopsided with crunchy, burnt rice. The casserole was lopsided because I cut the recipe in half for two people, but I didn’t have a smaller pan. So I just crammed it all in the left half of the pan, hoping to trick the oven into cooking the thicker casserole. Instead, it suffered a mudslide mid-bake and cracked like fireworks while burning my pan. This wouldn’t be my last Kung-Fu match with rice.
I was angry, flaming at the recipe book after Kevin mentioned it must have required minute rice instead of long-grain rice.
“Look! It just says RICE! How am I supposed to know they were talking about minute rice?” I didn’t know there was a difference at that point in time. I scribbled the edits in the recipe margin and slammed the cookbook shut.
I tried menu planning with colorful slips of paper and magnets on a calendar. I tried friends’ recipes, eager for creativity but it just never tasted quite right. I gave up cooking with my Mom’s recipes because they were so depressingly different, I wanted to cry.
After about five years, I was done living in denial. I began to accept my fate, and it wasn’t long before I was admitting my faults to my friends. “Listen to how I messed up dinner last night. I am so awful at cooking.” We would swap stories, and I picked up on little tidbits that would improve my next attempt.
After I figured out that I didn’t cook all that well, I fixated on the one thing that I made that everyone loved.
Church potluck? Brownies.
Teen Group event? Brownies.
Satisfying Kevin’s insatiable desire of all things chocolate like a moody, menstrual woman?
Brunch at a friend’s house? Okay, I will do a labor of love and cut up some fresh fruit for that.
I will gladly make brownies for everything because they take exactly 23 ½ minutes to make and cost me one dollar. Yes, it’s a mix. My pride and joy is not even actually anything I have conjured up on my own.
P.S. I don’t care, my brownies are amazing.
Besides select disasters in the kitchen on solitary nights, such as;
1. Cooking watery tacos that tasted like warmed, tasteless gravel in which I smeared mushy refried beans on the inside edges.
2. Banana bread that was so dense, it made a better paperweight than breakfast treat.
3. Leaving a glass dish on a stove burner on accident and watching it explode to give me tiny cuts on my hands and a more significant emotional cut to my pride
4. A droopy birthday cake that became soggy from premature icing session while it was still too warm.
5. Soup so thick with flour mixture that my spoon could have stood on its own.
I had one constant failure. RICE.
There’s nothing worse than opening the lid after 20 minutes and seeing a thin layer of white-ish water hovering over dozens of uncooked grains of rice.
I asked my friends. I googled it. I cried, letting Kevin take over in a different pan, prolonging dinner. I wasn’t sure if the problem lay in the sautéing, the boiling, or the steaming. I didn’t know if I should blame the water, the rice, the pan or the lid. Either way, with my 50-50 success rate, I was motivated to figure out the problem.
One day, Kevin looked at my strange tower on top of the rice pot. I had piled a thick towel on top of the lid and then placed a heavier lid on top of that. I pressed hard, willing the stupid rice to cook for once.
He shook his head, laughing as I defended myself. “Listen, I am desperate! I think it will work.”
It did, temporarily.
Soon after that, I shared my embarrassing rice problem with my students and one of them stated matter of fact.
“Boil the water longer before you dump in the rice. It has to be a really good bubble.”
He waved his fingers around to demonstrate the boil, and I got the picture. I hadn’t been doing that because I was too impatient. As soon as I saw the tiny bubbles start to boil, I would dump in the rice.
Well, I am happy to say that my rice is now white and fluffy, gleaming with melted butter, thick and full like it is meant to be. I am happy.
The variety of my meals are few, and my taste buds left wanting, but at least after eight years of cooking, I can cook rice.
Oh, and brownies.
Enjoying a real cook's elaborate meal: Props to David and Sarah Carrel with delectable dishes in Arcoverde, Brazil, 2015.