The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Food Network Has a Lot to Answer For

It started, as such things often do, with an innocent comment, this time from Mr. K: "Honey, what do you think about having our friend, Daniel, come over for dinner Sunday?" to which I replied cheerfully "Of course, Sweetie--it'll be good to see Daniel." And things sort of went downhill from there.

For those not in the know, I do not cook well. In fact, I barely cook at all and the best thing that can be said about my culinary talents when I DO attempt to cook, is that I can be charming enough to distract my guests from whatever it is they happen to be eating (their guess is often as good as mine). That, and I do bake pretty well, so I can always cleanse their palette with enough nicely-prepared chocolate to give a moose seizures.

Keeping the above in mind, wouldn't you think I'd have said something like "Great--let's get Chinese and I'll make brownies"? Or something of that ilk? Hell, if I make the caramel brownies and serve them with vanilla bean ice cream, it might not even need to be GOOD Chinese food. But no, I said this instead: " about if I make some creamy potato soup, and some fresh bread?" This is actually not too bad so far--there's a company that makes a pretty passable potato soup mix that I've used before--it's fine if you dump in some cheese and corn and some kind of meat. But I just wouldn't shut up, try though I might to SHUT myself up. I then said "But I think I'll make it from scratch. And you know what else? I think I'll try to make a roasted potato soup. Roasting gives such good flavor." Like I know what I'm talking about. Like I'd know a roasted potato from a baseball mitt in a blind taste test. Please.

It was at this point that things might have gone differently, but for Mr. K's cruel and unusual comment: "Sounds great, Honey. I know you'll make something really wonderful." I know, you're thinking "What a sweet and encouraging husband." But no. This is not encouragement. This is fostering dangerous delusions of competence. You must know that no good can come of it.

To put it another way, I think that if I went on the reality show Top Chef, I'd be told to pack my knives around the time I approached the world famous chef judges--most likely after a fellow contestant just offered braised duck with a ginger fig sauce and a cauliflower puree seasoned with things I've never heard of--and said something like "Good evening, Chefs. Tonight I have for you a plate of rice-a-roni brightened with frozen veggies and weenie coins. I've got some pre-shredded kraft cheese if you want to garnish it properly. I'd recommend the 2007 diet Pepsi to compliment it. What? It's seafood night? No problemo, Pierre. Let me just whip open this here can of tuna."

Anyway. I then proceeded to make matters even worse--there's got to be a demon living in my head, I swear--by finding multiple recipes online, reading them carefully, AND THEN DECIDING TO WING IT. Don't ask me, I don't know. And yes, I was sober.

My plan was simple--cut up potatoes, place in pan with olive oil and herbs, roast. Take out half the potatoes and puree them with chicken broth and milk. Mix the resulting puree with more chicken broth, the rest of the potatoes, and some veggies and ham. Simple, no?

No. Because I am to estimating amounts, what Brittany Spears is to parenting. Or underpants. I never think a mere 3 pounds of pasta looks like NEARLY enough food for two people, one of whom just had oral surgery and can only eat water. The same holds true, it seems, for making soup. I roasted two pans of potatoes. Two entire pans. For three people. Moreover, I somehow skipped the part about stirring them frequently, so spent an unholy amount of time scraping the crispy bits out of the bottom of the pans. I splashed potato puree on every conceivable surface, I almost choked the blender with too much potato and not enough liquid, I got olive oil on my favorite shirt and one of my favorite cats.

From then, it was just a nightmare of guilt and recrimination, as I tried to balance liquid and spices and seasonings and so on (you know the drill--"oh, it's too spicy--add some more broth. wait, now it's not seasoned enough--add more seasoning. Wait, now it's too spicy again..."etc.). At some point, Mr. K came in and helpfully offered things like "I think it needs some heat. Did you put pepper in?" and "I have some great hot sauce we could try." Men are confusing. They SAY they don't want to be swatted viciously with half an onion, but then they do stuff like that. Anyway, the soup doesn't taste all bad at this point...but would you all like to come to dinner? You and all your friends? And would you like a doggie bag of oh...say, three quarts of roasted potato soup? Each?

To add insult to copious soupy injury, my kitchen now looks as if a hurricane hit it. The blender is potato puree coated, the stove looks like it has soup brail on it, there are onion bits from here to hell and back--and speaking of onions, how did I forget that whole "stand there blinded with tears while holding a sharp implement" thing? It's been awhile since I used fresh onion, apparently, and clearly my boycott was justified. The things are vicious and obviously do not wish to be cooked. But back to my hurricane--I cook as if there were an award for "most dishes and utensils used in the preparation of an only average meal". If only there were. Hey, the award could be a year's worth of take-out....

The soup and I, by the way, are no longer speaking and will not be seeking counseling to try to repair the rift. We know when a thing is not meant to be. It is clear that I should stick to things I know more about.....Yep--blankie number two, ready to go. Breathtaking in my estimation. And in someone else's, too:

I'm not sure if you can tell, but I was stitching the thing together when this was taken, and Miss was actually underneath the finished portion with only her head sticking out.

I think she likes it.

I think my poor guests will be here soon. I do have some cookie-dough brownies for dessert...maybe I'll float them in the soup like croutons. At least it'll be a dinner they'll be talking about for awhile.


  • At 5:40 PM, Blogger Lynn said…

    I feel your pain. Until the last five years or so, when the girls asked, "Is this homemade?" they were hoping that the answer was "no". But like you, I can bake like nobody's business. Except today, when I discovered that my oven has no baking rack{s).

    For someone who is only intermittently inspired in the kitchen, I sure seem to have a lot of cookbooks and cooking toys.

    I cannot for the life of me figure out how they got here; must be my evil twin, or something.

  • At 11:38 PM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    I cook simple for family .Luckily we tend not to have dinner guests as I am not sure serving "thing" and "whatsit" would sound impressive. Years of marriage has enabled me to do these family meals but I'd definately serve take-out for visitors .Holly reads cook books and looks longingly at lovely pictures .If you could eat knitting we'd be laughing .

  • At 12:02 AM, Blogger Jo said…

    I'm not much of a cook either Flo, but I can bake, if we had a dinner party, when my house gets better, K would cook!

  • At 8:00 AM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    Oh yeah; Mr. K was just asking for an onion. (Sounds like something Pratchett would write, no?) And how, one wonders suspiciously, do you know that moose are even capable of getting seizures from chocolate over-indulgence? Is the Forest Service aware of your efforts on this front? If so, why aren't they giving you credit?

    Oh, and you get extra good-cook stars if you still used the onion you swatted Mr. K with in the soup.

    Love blankie number two, and oh yeah, Miss is in ecstasy. Just look at those eyes slitted in bliss! That's one happy cat. Now, the question is...Were you able to pry it out of her claws? [g]


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