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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cooking lessons with Chicken Little

Clearly it’s an exaggeration, but it’s the nearest I can get to convey the abject panic in the kitchen. Kitchen’s are fraught with dangers for the unwary and the ever so slightly paranoid. The motivation is clear and present, the desire to create something yummy but the overwhelming amount of angst that swirls around the kitchen soon have us both heading up the vortex.

This is primarily due to my own ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and feed the OCD beast within.

Throughout this exercise there is the underlying ghost of tactile defensiveness, the abhorrence of dirty hands. I think there may well be a smidge of this phenomenon in many of us. It’s the reaction we feel when the unexpected happens. We stroll along on our own sweet way, when out of nowhere we find something deeply offensive on our skin. The sensation is so vile that it shocks the conscience, enough to see your own hand in 3-D, ten times it’s normal size, pulsating and alien. It’s the same as being in a concrete car park with no leaf to act as a wipe, no grass to scrape it off, where your only option is to sacrifice your top or your trousers and remain half clad. It’s the preferable option. Slightly preferable to the temptation to chop off the appendage and run away because you forgot to pack your machete. Or at least that’s my interpretation of what I witness daily.


The oven farts as the temperature rises, “what is dat sound is being?”
“Oh it’s just the stove coming up to 325. It sounds like it’s about to explode but it won’t.”
“Itz gonna explode? Agh!”
“No, no , no, it’s just a figure of speech. Lets go and crack the eggs, your favourite bit. Stand on the step but don’t wobble or fall off.”
“I am fall off and be hurted myself?”
“No, no, no. Here, concentrate on the eggs. Crack them on the post in the middle of the Cuisinart as it’s less messy but be careful you don’t cut yourself on the blade.”
“I am gonna cut my fingers off?”
“No, no, no. Here lets grease the pan shall we?”
“Grease is dah disgustin. I don wan dah disgustin on my bread!”
It may be only 72 degrees in my Californian kitchen but the beads of stress make it feel like a tinder box. At each and every step we meet with the unexpected or rather the ‘not thoroughly researched and prepared in advance.’ His progress in the art of chefdom is hampered greatly but the adult sized disposable gloves that hang like condoms from each finger. I am now deeply uncertain if this compromise really is an improvement on the alternative two minute hand washing ritual?
As we spoon the mixture into the pan the whole kitchen looks like a war zone but his excitement is palpable. He smacks his lips with exaggerated anticipation and an air of mischief as a centimeter of tongue protrudes.
“You’re not supposed to lick the spoons with the raw cake mixture these days or you might get Salmonella poisoning.” I look at his little furrowed brow. A child who has only eaten real food for about 6 months of his little life, and maybe a baker’s dozen of eggs. Do I really want to wipe out his digestive system with raw eggs?
“I am gonna be poison?”
His eyes are on stalks having navigated the total nightmare of his mother’s death trap clangers. “Tell you what?”
“Let’s lick the spoon and see if you get ill?” He looks at the smeared spoon just beneath his nostrils with the captivating combination of cinnamon, vanilla and sugar as fortunately zuchinni appear to have been overwhelmed by the other ingredients. “Do you think it’s worth the risk?” I watch as he squirms and racks his taut and tangled insides, both brain and body. “The hospital’s only a hop, skip and a jump away if anything goes wrong……” After much dog panting, eye squeezing and hand wringing he pounces, envelops the spoon with his mouth as little shivers, fire cracker through his elastic spine. I count, silently, although I’m not quite sure what I’m expecting. “Dat is dah greatest Chef’s triumph….even better dan Elephant Ears.”
“That good indeed!”
“Yes my chocolate chip zucchini bread is being manners from heaven!”

It’s cake actually, but that’s Americans for you.

Someone might be wondering where the other two were during this 30 minute marathon? That’s right! Electronics time was sacrificed in favour of cookery, although to be fair that probably added quite considerably to his angst.

My angst? Well I left out the fact that during this same period, with a cacophony of ‘electronic’s time’ musak, Mr. B was very kindly washing up in our very narrow galley kitchen. Mr. B, a Portuguese speaking Brazilian, had numerous questions regarding the English present tense imperfect. Thatcher had two accidents which needed attention, as puppy training can never be neglected. My daughter arrived home from work, hungry and determined to make cheese rolls in the very same kitchen. All conversational exchanges were fraught due to her waterlogged ears, a mild improvement upon water on the brain. It’s a miracle we all survived. And if that was you who kept phoning and leaving messages, then forgive me as I had the volume turned off.

p.s. I wrote that a week ago. I just thought you might be interested to know that he can now cook without using up a whole box of disposable gloves. I hope Mother Earth takes pity on environmental whores like me?

Here’s a "link" to the recipe we used for "Zucchini Bread" or rather Courgette Cake. We added a cup[ish] of chopped up mangled Walnuts and half a cup of chocolate chips. It’s very, very sweet.

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