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"An Idiot In An Apron Does Not A Muffin Make"
The women in my family cook. When I say cook, I mean three courses, complete with sprigs of parsley and some lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate. My Grams would verbally slay the woman who thought that cooking meant tossing the kids a Lean Cuisine and running out the door so she could have that brief on the boss’s desk by nine. Admittedly, the women of my clan may not be the perfect models of a modern homemaker, but by God, can we cook. Of course, by “we,” I mean every woman (plus my brother) in the family but me. I can not cook. I can not bake. I can not! I will not! Not with a mouse, or in a house, or on a train, or in a plane!
My rather explosive problem (we’ll get to the “explosive” part later) has drawn attention from all of the folk in my family, but Grams is the one who is most vocal about it.* “Sarah,” sighed Grams as she pulled out a perfectly baked two-layer chocolate cake that she had just whipped up from scratch, “It’s simply directions! If you can just pay attention and follow…” By that time, I was completely mesmerized by the shiny aluminum foil behind her and didn’t quite hear the next 15 minutes or so of her speech. However, the point of this quote was not to illustrate my remarkably short attention span, but instead to highlight the importance of cooking to my female kin (and my brother). Using “bonding time” as a clever ruse to draw me into her kitchen, Grams handed me a spoon, pointed me towards the stove top, and told me to make the icing, assuring me that the icing I made would undoubtedly be the crown jewel of the cake. Holding the spoon as though it were a carcass of a diseased rodent, I gingerly placed the utensil on the counter and backed away slowly before fleeing for my life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love open flames as much as the next guy, but there are just some things I refuse to do with fire and confectioner’s sugar.
*Except Dad, but he’s generally more vocal about the various small fires, damages done to the kitchen, and bowel obstructions that resulted from my concoctions.
I’m sure you are thinking, “Well, that’s silly. There has to be something she can cook.” That, my friend, is where you are wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Unless pouring milk and cereal into the same
bowl counts as cooking (I make a mean Fruit Loops, although my specialty is Honey Bunches of Oats), I have failed at even the simplest culinary tasks. Take, for example, hot apple cider. All that is required is to pour the cider out of the carton and into a pan and let the cider heat until it boils. You’d be astonished at how much smoke a little cup of cider makes. Enough to fill at least 5 rooms on the bottom floor, and still have enough to make the top floor a little smoggy. Did you know that the fire department in Pittsburgh has a 5-minute response time? Pretty darn quick, I’d say.
Of course, there was once a carefree time in my youth when I loved to cook (and I use the word “cook” very loosely). It was the time of scoop and bake cookies, when a naïve youngster could eat as much dough as she baked. I made an excellent sugar cookie, but my chocolate chip cookies were famous ‘round the block. People would come to my lemonade stand for the top-notch lemonade (I ran a quality joint), but they stayed for the Pillsbury cookies. But, as I said, it was a time of naiveté and false hopes. After a traumatizing incident involving noodles that I would really rather not discuss, my love of baking and talent in the kitchen was shattered irreparably.
Needless to say, that particular chapter of my life is now closed. I have been reduced to scavenging the baked goods of others. After three months of painful rehab, I have only just now shaken free of my addiction to Betty Crocker’s Mixed Berry Muffins (only three minutes from pouch to oven!). My inability to produce a decent meal that did not originate from a box and dependency upon the pre-made meals from the grocery store is a constant source of shame for my family. To the cooking aficionados that are my family, the words “order out” are considered just as shameful and dirty as any cuss word.
“Good gracious, Crash,” My aunt never calls me anything but Crash, for reasons that are irrelevant
to this particular anecdote, “you were just made for college. Now, stop eating the Chinese right out of the
box and help me broil the Crème Brule.”
“Jack!” My brother thinks it’s funny to call me Jack, also for reasons that are irrelevant to this story, “Heavens to Betsy*, all you eat are those muffins. You need to learn to make something of substance. Come here and we’ll whip up a nice chuck roast real quick.”
“I swear, Rosie,” My mama really only calls me Rosie, “All of that Domino’s is going to be the death of you. Why don’t we make a Brunswick stew?”
*My beloved brother’s language choice has been altered to enhance your literary experience.
See? There’s no escaping from my family’s skill with the spatula. At times, it’s hard to be the only one who is completely useless with a ladle (and it is also unpleasant to be on clean-up duty since I don’t help with the cooking). But on the other paw, I can’t deny that I don’t enjoy some of the benefits of having a culinarily adept family. Whatever cunning plots and devious tricks they plan on using in the future in order to get me to try and cook, I will endure. After all, they’re my family. And they make a positively scrumptious chicken pot pie.