Cooking Catastrophes

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My messy hair skews in disarray and smoke fills my lungs as I frantically grapple for a slender, black spatula. My brother taps his utensils impatiently on the table with a clang as I exasperatedly wonder, “Why did I offer to make breakfast?” Bridgette, the family’s salt and pepper miniature schnauzer, stares with begging eyes and a growling stomach. I sigh. Even my own dog is astonished by my lack of cooking skills. With an overly tidy Japanese mother and a Greek father who was bred from cooks, I never obtained any sautéing skills, or basic food comprehension for that matter. For my eighth birthday, I was given an Easy Bake oven and, ignoring the fact that the oven was powered by a 100W light bulb, I was ecstatic. After burning multiple cookies and brownies, however, my Easy Bake became swallowed up my closet and I was given the honorable task of ‘Table Setter’. Unfortunately, my cooking fiascos did not end there.
Two years later I am given microwave privileges. Five days soon after, my privileges are gone. In my defense, the suggested cooking time on the side of the Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn box did read 2-4 minutes set on High. Thus, being the highly efficient ten-year old that I am, I crank the timer up to four minutes and scurry away for a moment. As I return, the popcorn is done cooking. On the other hand, smoke is billowing out of the microwave, the potential buttery golden popcorn is now charcoal black and as the smoke alarm begins to sound, I know this cannot end well. Three days and two bottles of Aerosol later, the burnt odor is barely noticeable. Needless to say, I do not enter the kitchen for quite some time after the popcorn incident.
Still, my mother is adamant that her only daughter is able to cook. Throughout my life, she constantly displays unwavering patience during my cooking catastrophes ranging from my scrambled eggs containing more shell than yolk to the destruction of her red velvet cakes by layering on butter cream icing and unintentionally peeling off the top crust. During the latter, she would gently place her hand on mine, gliding effortlessly over the top layer of the cake, fixing my blunders and smoothly whispering “Try moving all the icing in one direction, just like mommy, and then spread it out to the sides”. I would make another attempt, still unsuccessful, but with noticeable improvement. She smiles, “See? You’re doing better already, it just takes practice”.

The culmination of my disasters combined with the encouragement of my mother leads up to the climax of this moment, Sunday breakfast. A weekly tradition for my family, as we sleep until noon, saunter downstairs and enjoy breakfast composed of pancakes, bacon strips and eggs. Today, however, Mom wakes up with a terrible headache and, as a result, I offer to fill-in for her as she happily obliges. However, as my brow furrows with intense concentration, I wonder if I am in over my head. The bacon and eggs are simple enough as I heat up the pan and cook the meat to a chewy texture while I crack all four eggs without mishap.
The real challenge, however, lies within the bag of pancake mix. I take out four scoops of the mix, adding water to make the batter and plop the gooey substance into the pan making unidentifiable shapes. I take the spatula and prepare to flip the half-baked pancake over, only to realize that it is stuck. After a few minutes of scrapping, the pancake is burnt beyond edible standards. Throwing it in the trash, I spray a generous amount of cooking oil onto the pan before my second attempt. This time, the three pancakes slide around easily but my flipping skills are atrocious. For the first one, I end up only turning over half of it and make a semi-circle, while the middle remains uncooked. The next one, excessively floppy survives the flip until batter squeezes out the sides, giving the pancake a deformed appearance. Increasingly frustrated and close to tears, I make one final attempt before admitting defeat as I carefully place my spatula under the third pancake.
My brother jokingly teases “What kind of girl can’t even cook breakfast?” Admittedly, I do not fit the typical female stereotype, even when disregarding the cooking aspect. Ranging from my preference to play a muddy game of Ultimate Frisbee instead of shopping at Macy’s to watching a thought-provoking thriller such as Shutter Island over the vampire Edward Cullen and his shirtless friend does not scream the statement, ‘I am a teenage girl’! I have learned, however, that I do not have to fit the social mold of what others set before me. Instead of hiding my peculiarities, I embrace them. I have my own sense of diversity, the blending of two differing cultures and contradicting stereotypes. With the support of my family, I have become the person I am today, for better or worse. With the flick of my wrist, the pancake lands effortlessly, perfectly circular and turns a golden brown. Breakfast officially begins.





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