Fire! Or, So Long Security Deposit

I can’t cook. And by that, I mean my recent chicken making venture turned out like this:

The aftermath of poultry

The aftermath of poultry

But it’s not like I haven’t attempted to learn. I paid attention in Home Ec. And more recently, I suffered through two Cooking For Singles classes. As I was doggedly signing up for a third, the instructor not-so-subtly suggested my time and energies might be better spent elsewhere. She made it sound like everybody in the class was a budding Betty Crocker while I was more General Kitchen Disaster. Still, I wrote it off. After all, not everybody can aspire to Martha Stewartdom; somebody has to be Imelda Marcos.

I also religiously watch the Food Network, hoping that with enough visual, I might pick up a few tips. But so far, Cooking Osmosis has not occurred. For Christmas, my mom gave me the Southern Living Cookbook, which is apparently the mother equivalent of Cooking For Dummies. I went through it and marked all the recipes that had five steps or less, yet I’ve not been able to make anything that’s not burnt, congealed, or otherwise become inedible. And every person I’ve dated for any length of time has tried (and failed) to teach me culinary basics. Each of them has viewed it as A Challenge. Despite everything, to this day, my culinary repertoire is limited to ordering takeout and Kraft Mac and Cheese with a side of PB and Marshmallow Fluff.

Restaurant Refugee recently claimed that “anybody can cook” and diagnosed my lack of Kitchen Abilities as “too much heat.” He theorized that if I kept my stove’s burner set at medium or below, I’d achieve cooking success. I replied his method only worked for The Patient, and Myers Briggs repeatedly indicated I was not part of that group. As further evidence that my problems extended beyond overly aggressive burner use, I mentioned that I had yet to successfully toast a Hot Pocket. Still, I figured people pay Restaurant Refugee semi-obscene amounts of money to cook fancy 80-course meals involving things like glaze and sauté and flamingo meat; there might be a wee bit of validity to his theory.

Last night I was feeling adventurous, and quasi-domestically-inclined, so I decided to see if Restaurant Refugee had properly diagnosed me, if my cooking improved over reduced heat. But I needed to keep it simple; there had to be something dumbed down enough that even I could cook with minimal char. Requiring inspiration, I googled “easiest recipe in the world.” The Geniuses Of The Webbernets directed me to Easy Recipe World: Because Anyone Can Cook. While I felt that statement was a tad optimistic, I was willing to give Easy Recipes and Restaurant Refugee the benefit of the doubt. I played around the website for about half an hour, but quickly realized that “easy” is relative. Vegetable Schezwan Spaghetti might be straightforward to the Alton Browns of the world, but it was beyond my 101 Skill Level. In desperation, I decided to skip a recipe and just attempt popcorn. With only two ingredients, one pot, and no stirring, I figured I couldn’t screw it up.

Confidentially, I poured the oil, fired up the stove, and put in a test kernel. After it popped, I poured in a few more and waited. And waited. And waited. The low heat thing took For. Ev. Ah. But I had faith in The Wisdom Of Restaurant Refugee. I kept telling myself that his whole damn career was food-centric, that he couldn’t be wrong, and that keeping the stove burner below A Million Degrees was the only way I would be able to take Papa John’s off speed dial. After two centuries hours minutes, the popcorn began to do its thing. I’d seen my father, the reincarnation of Orville Redenbacher, do this a thousand times. In perfect mimicry, I shook around the pot and kept the lid slightly askew. Except my father never had ninety gajillion pieces begin to fly out of the crack between the lid and the pot. And even if it did, it never landed on the electric burner. Nor did an errant kernel mysteriously and inexplicably catch fire.



While my first instinct was to saw eff it and just let the damn kitchen burn, I was pretty sure that would qualify as arson. So, I grabbed a dish towel and attempted to beat out the flaming kernel. Except that little sucker wouldn’t go out. I hit it harder, but all that did was set the towel on fire. Since I am not inclined to hold onto anything flaming, I began Girly Panic Yelping, turned around and dumped the rapidly burning fabric into the sick. Seems some dirty dish, covered in combustion-prone Chinese takeout leftovers, was in the sink. Two seconds after the cloth made contact, flames were shooting a foot into the air, my smoke alarm was blaring at obscene decibels, and Bionic Kitty was confirming her demonic heritage by dancing manically on the counter. Plus, the lone firey kernel on the stove was still blazing. Having recently couch-orgasmed over Dennis “I Make Firepants Look Fine” Leary, I knew fire-extinguishing protocol; I grabbed the sink sprayer, yanked the hose as far as it would go and aimed. Within minutes, I had the sink fire out. Still in full-spray mode, I swiveled and doused the stove. Then, just because I was feeling particularly malicious and angry with the Universe, I took at pot shot at Bionic Kitty.

It seems Restaurant Refugee is wrong. Too much heat is not my problem. And contrary to declarations on the Interwebs, not everybody can cook. But some people? They order Chinese real good.


9 Responses to “Fire! Or, So Long Security Deposit”

  1. flipflopsintherain Says:

    “Then, just because I was feeling particularly malicious and angry with the Universe, I took at pot shot at Bionic Kitty.”

    You’re fantastic. And seriously, you handled the whole thing better than I would’ve. Have I ever told you I have a fear of fire?

    I fully expect to go home to a house full of cat vomit. It would be Bionic Revenge. And also, you didn’t see me go to bed and cry afterwards.

  2. pithycomments Says:

    I want to give you words of cooking encouragement, but I know when I’ve met my match.


  3. matt Says:

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  4. J.M. Tewkesbury Says:

    I’m speechless. Utterly gobsmacked speechless…

    Sure you want to rent to me?

  5. Maxie Says:

    I think he was right about the heat thing, but I also think you should stay away from oil in any quantity more than say… A few cap fulls. try a casserole or something. Just dump some shit in a pan and bake it. As long as cheese is involved you should be good to go.

    Cheese is nature’s version of culinary cover-up.

  6. JFo Says:

    I was envisioning a scene from this book, which I read about a million times when I was a kid


  7. Laina Says:

    Honey, you need to google “Culinarily retarded” with those kind of mad cooking skills.

    Or buy a fire extinguisher.

  8. J.M. Tewkesbury Says:

    If you’re still interested, yes. But I think I’ll write a non-cooking clause into the lease agreement. 😉

  9. Jennifer E. Says:

    Kudos to you for repeated attempts at mastering this life skill. However, perhaps this just means your dating partners are required to be able to cook, so that you get home cooked meals occasionally. Other than that, there’s nothing wrong with takeout! (I HATE to cook.)

    Please get a fire extinguisher, though. And don’t put it too near the stove or sink, just in case the flames get too high for you to reach the darn thing.

    A friend recently sent me links to a fire extinguisher I could order online and several sites that explain how to put out various cooking fires. I took copious notes.

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