I know my longtime readers are looking at this title and thinking, “But JYP, don’t you suck at adulting tasks (including cooking)? I mean, your own mother is unimpressed with your cooking skills, and you only have one recipe you don’t suck at?” Yes, dear reader, that is correct. Today’s response to E.M. Kingston’s Ramble Questions (which I have modified to maximize entertainment value – you’re welcome) features stories of my incompetence for your entertainment. However, I have a couple useful gems of advice here as well as a discussion question.
1) When you are in the kitchen cooking, do you have anything playing in the background?
In my case, it would be more accurate to say that I watch shows of other people cooking, eg. America’s Test Kitchen– a remarkably underrated show, to procrastinate on actually cooking. Then I get too hungry to do any cooking, so I eat something requiring preparation so minimal that there’s no time for a background task.
2) & 3) Weirdest Food Story
E.M.’s original questions here were “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten that someone else cooked for you and did you like it enough to ask for the recipe?” I think the weirdest thing I’ve eaten was a sweetbread appetizer from a catered wedding. It was fine, but there’s no way I’m making sweetbreads, even if I had a recipe. The more interesting question in my case would be:
“What’s the weirdest thing I made for someone else and why (and did they actually like it)?
Get ready for a story!
When I was a child, I learned a recipe for no-bake peanut butter cookies. It’s a simple recipe of peanut butter, honey, and powdered milk. To be honest, I think it might have been a recipe for edible playdough, actually.
~15 years later, I was seeing this guy long-distance and he had come to visit. The purpose of This Guy’s visit wasn’t solely to visit me, but it was clear that he thought that we’d be engaging in various sexual activities during his visit. This wasn’t a completely ridiculous assumption on his part given the context. But note that while I will talk/write about all sorts of sexual things (there’s an NSFW tag on this blog for a reason!) the gap between the sex that I talk about and the sex that I’m actually willing to have is wider than the Mariana Trench.
Of course, The Guy didn’t know that because I hadn’t actually said this. During his visit, he went to the grocery store and came back with chocolate syrup, with obvious implications that we would use this in the bedroom. The use of chocolate syrup in this context did not fall under the limited list of sexual activities that I was willing to do.
The Return of the No-Bake Peanut Butter / Edible Playdough Cookies:
Faced with what to do with this chocolate syrup that wasn’t an uncomfortable sexual act, I convinced my roommates and The Guy that we should make the no-bake peanut butter cookies / edible playdough with the chocolate syrup as a fun, random activity.
It worked! The Guy and my roommates loved the idea, and we made batches upon batches of these crappy no-bake cookies topped with chocolate syrup. They even liked the taste, which is particularly impressive because I forgot to mention that this whole episode took place in another country and I’m not sure we managed to buy proper ingredients since nothing was labeled in English. Like, I’m pretty sure we bought coffee creamer instead of powdered milk. Eventually though, we got sick of these crappy cookies before using up all of the chocolate syrup, and I came clean to The Guy about why I came up with the idea in the first place; he was very understanding.
JYP’s Cooking/Life Advice Tip #1:
Use your direct and unambiguous words to set clear boundaries so you don’t need to make a million batches of shitty no-bake playdough cookies to get out of unwanted sexual activities.
[Epilogue: This relationship eventually ended for reasons that had nothing to do with The Great Chocolate Syrup Incident.]
4) What’s the food you usually refuse to share?
I don’t think that there’s any food I’d refuse to share as a matter of principle. Even during Chol Hamoed Pesach when I can’t eat any normal food, I brought an extra box of kosher-for-Passover cookies to the office so that my coworkers could taste the wonders of baking with potato starch. I’m not being sarcastic; I actually like the kosher for Passover cakes. In fact, I like them better than doughnuts (which I can’t stand). Yes, I am weird.
Anyway, I’ll share pretty much anything. But that doesn’t mean I’ll share it evenly. 😉😋
5) Do you use recipes when you cook?
Backstory: I majored in science. I used to think that because of my scientific background, I imagined that when I had a proper kitchen of my own, I would follow recipes with scientific precision. When inventing new recipes, I would document all of my steps to ensure reproducibility, like a lab notebook.
It turns out:
- Getting shitty grades in science that were barely good enough to graduate, then pursuing a career in a field only tangentially related to said science background, does not lead to becoming a scientific method-oriented chef. (Or even a mildly-competent home cook).
- Cooking during the Friday rush before Shabbat is not an atmosphere conducive for proper scientific experimentation – either the proper following of an existing recipe or the proper development of a new one. And I never felt motivated to cook outside of cooking for more than 1-2 people on Shabbat.
- I tended to get too bored, hungry, or impatient mid-cooking to finish the recipe as written, even if it was written that way for good reason.
A True Story…
Once, after reading a bunch of food porn recipe blogs, I decided to make Dijon Chicken. Of course, this was Friday before Shabbat and of course I made this decision without regard to what ingredients I had, and of course I was running wildly late, so I was already making a bunch of substitutions and skipping time-consuming steps like “measuring”. Then, in the middle of making Dijon Chicken, I had a brilliant idea: It would save so much time if I did one of those recipes where you make the rice in the same pan as the chicken. Then I’d have chicken and a side dish. Brilliant, right?
Except now I had to pivot and look up how to make oven-baked chicken and rice, which, by the way, is a totally different recipe from Dijon Chicken. And again, I didn’t have any of the ingredients I needed. In went the wrong kind of rice, various liquids because I didn’t have vegetable or chicken broth (of course, I still wasn’t measuring because why start doing something intelligent in the middle) along with the chicken already mis-prepared for Dijon Chicken, baked for an unknown period of time because the different recipes I had been consulting had different cooking instructions and also because I was too stupid to remember to set the timer. And due to my incredible time management skills (ha), I ran super late and committed numerous violations of Shabbat to finish the chicken.
In the end, Franken-recipe chicken turned out kind of good, surprisingly. But whether I really succeeded in following the recipe, or in inventing my own recipe is debatable.
JYP’s Cooking/Life Tip #2:
If you’re going to use a recipe, read the recipe before you start trying to follow it. And don’t try to follow two contradictory recipes at the same time.
6) Pick three smells in your kitchen that make you happy when you smell them
Cookies, lasagna, but really, isn’t the smell of anything that you like eating and haven’t managed to screw up and accidentally incinerate going to be pretty good? I have more interesting answers to the flip side of the question:
“What are the top 5 worst smells in the kitchen?”
In order of “not as awful” to “the very worst”, here’s my list:
- Fish – I love eating fish. I hate the smell of fish in my kitchen. I want someone else to take a piece of fish, cook it in their kitchen, and then serve it to me.
- French Toast – I hate French toast. But not only do I hate the taste/texture of French toast, I also hate the smell of French toast.
- Garbage/Spoiled food – needs no explanation
- Any food you managed to accidentally incinerate – needs no explanation
- Burnt plastic/rubber – needs no explanation, but I’m going to share a story anyway
A story about #5…
Husband’s favorite kitchen appliance was this George Foreman indoor electric grill. He loved it and used it all the time.
Once upon a time, in a moment of stupidity, I managed to set the cord of the electric grill on fire. I can’t even remember how I did this. I quickly put out the fire, but let me tell you, nothing lingers like that acrid smell of burnt plastic/rubber.
JYP’s Cooking/Life Advice Tip #3:
Don’t set your George Foreman indoor electric grill on fire.
Anyway, Husband was very alarmed to wake up to the pungent smell of burnt electrical cord. I explained what happened and apologized profusely for setting his favorite kitchen appliance on fire. We had to throw it out because it was not salvageable. Husband forgave me.
JYP’s Cooking/Life Advice Tip #4:
Marry a man who will forgive you if you accidentally set his favorite kitchen appliance on fire. And,
JYP’s Cooking/Life Advice Tip #5:
Buy your husband a new George Foreman indoor electric grill if you should happen to set his on fire.
What is your cooking/kitchen disaster story? I’ve shared at least three here and I have more. Tell me in comments or link back with a post!