My aunt sent me an article in the mail about a woman who won a cooking lesson from Martha Stewart. In order to win, you had to write an essay about what an inept cook you are. Here is the winning entry courtesy of Kelley McDade, age 32 of Springfield, PA:
Recipe for Disaster
1 cup burnt pudding
4 hamburger hockey pucks
2 cakes with Grand Canyon size craters
1 rolling pin covered in dough
2 pounds meatloaf "surprise"
one-half cup brownies stuck to pan
3 T congealed cheese sauce
Take one average female and remove all traces of inherited cooking ability, making sure to dispose of the Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies and rich Italian indulgences her grandmothers are famous for. Add a dash of not-a-clue and mix well. Let rise for 32 years, then add one fiance and one house perfect for entertaining, mixing well after each. Once the panic has clearly risen to the surface, skim with a melted spatula and discard. Place mixture in slow cooker and add ineptitude, high standards and perfectionism. Cook at high temperature until ego is tender. Serve immediately in heaping bowls of frustration. To garnish, take to Martha Stewart for a cooking lesson.
She's a good humor writer; I'll give her that, but once I was done laughing, I found it a little sad. How can a 32 year old woman not know how to cook. Is it fear, laziness, disinterest, or is it possible to be so inept at cooking that if it doesn't require opening a box first, it's impossible. This woman crochets, sews and cross stitches, so obviously she can follow instructions. That's all a recipe really is, a list of step-by-step instructions. It doesn't require any magic.
During her cooking lesson, she roasted a chicken. Martha asked her if she'd ever put her hand inside a chicken. She had not. Doesn't that sound like she hasn't really tried? Then she put the chicken breast side down, so Martha filled her in on the anatomy of the bird.
Reading this made me reflect on how I learned to cook. I used to watch my mother as a child. She make delicious meals in the pressure cooker, like pork chops with potatoes and carrots and beef stew. We made donuts, cakes and cookies together. Our meals were half home cooking and half out of the box; we would eat tv dinners, hamburger helper, and beans and hot dogs. I did grow up during the birth of prepared foods, after all. All through it, I was paying attention. When I a teenage, I tried cooking alone: lasagna, fruit pies and brownies mostly. Once I moved out, it was all up to me, but I never felt like I was floundering. I was armed with a Betty Crocker cookbook, lots of determination and a little know-how.
My cooking has evolved over the years. My first husband was a strictly meat and potatoes guy; anything beyond that was unappreciated, if not discouraged. Now, I have a very appreciative and experimental audience, so I try foods from many cuisines as well as old fashioned home cooking. Cooking has become a hobby to me instead of just a necessity. Between planning, shopping and actual preparation, I spend a little more than 8 hours on meals for the family.
Have I had flops? Oh, have I! Recipes aren't always right, or perhaps it's my interpretation of them. There was a pasta dish that was so spicy it was inedible, meat that was too tough and tasteless chicken. But I have plenty of hits... perfectly liquid molten chocolate cakes, savory soups and stews, and succulent, flavorful foods.
I get Pipsqueak involved in the cooking whenever I don't have time pressures. She seems engaged by it, and has invented her own drinks and desserts. At age 6, she can make scrambled eggs from start to finish and make a sandwich. I hope she is getting early foundation for knowledge and love of cooking.
As for Ms. McDade, I wish her well, but I don't think one lesson from Martha Stewart will a competent cook make. It takes a lifetime of trials and errors, and an interest that I don't believe she has. Lucky for her, her fiance cooks.