I like to think I’m a pretty good cook.
When it comes to making actual tasty food – I am good at it. I love to cook. I find it helps me de-stress after a particularly stressful day.
Plus by cooking dinners I save money.
While Monday at the office wasn’t particularly stressful, I decided that evening to make a fancy homemade mac and cheese recipe I’d never tried before. I had tried simpler versions of the same idea. I thought I was up to it.
As I said, I like to think I’m a good cook. I make food that tastes good. Often, though, I have trouble with the journey to that delicious plate of food.
My cooking knowledge has been gained through trial and error. I once added two tablespoons of dry sage instead of two tablespoons of coarsly-chopped fresh sage (tasted like gunpowder. I had a cold and even I could taste it).
I once put in a frozen pizza and forgot about it for two hours.
I once burned and undercooked rice at the same time.
In Moose Jaw I almost burned down the apartment.
Monday night was one for the ages.
The food – fondue-style macaroni and cheese. The recipe said it was fondue-style because it used gruyere, gouda, wine and a pinch of nutmeg.
I modified it a bit for my tastes, as I’m wont to do. I added two fresno chillies and a bunch of bacon.
I started alright enough. I knew making the sauce at the end, as it was a cream and cheese sauce, would require constant stirring so as to not burn. So, I decided to cut and dice and measure in advance.
The bacon would add extra time to the recipe. I compensated by cooking the bacon in the oven while prepping the rest of my ingredients.
This is where things began to go wrong.
I breezed through the shallots, which meant it was time to chop the fresnos. Learning from past mistakes, I put a glove on my hand to avoid unpleasant sensations after I was done.
I can be a bit absent minded, and I have nervous ticks, such as touching my face.
You can see where this is going.
Bacon in the oven, chilli all chopped, but glove still on, I absent-mindedly scratched that bit of skin between your lip and your nose, and then proceeded to also scratch behind my ear.
The burning pain was almost instantaneous. Gloves off, I rushed to wash my face – at which point I realized that prior to cooking I had used the last of my hand soap. The dish soap was empty too. And all the water managed to do was spread the pain around.
I quickly googled how to get the sensation to go away.
Folks, don’t trust everything you read on the internet.
One of the suggestions was to rinse with vinegar. Apparently an acid helps lessen the other acid. Nope. Now the burning was all over my face. So I saw the tried and true method – rubbing alcohol and dish soap.
Of course, I had neither. So I substituted – aftershave and bodywash.
The pain was instant, the burning unbearable. I was near tears. But after what felt like an eternity of excruciating pain, it all subsided. It worked.
Kitchen 2 – Me – 0
Back to the kitchen. Somehow in the chaos I managed to nail the bacon. One point for me.
K: 2 M: 1
Things went smoothly – for a while.
I was almost done prepping. One step left – take the sourdough bread, tear it into small pieces and buzz it in the food processor.
I don’t have a food processor. I have a mini chop, but last time I tried to use it, it didn’t work.
But I thought I’d give it a shot. I dug it out of my storage area, and the blades had managed to wedge themselves inside the container part of the tool.
I pulled on it a bit, and it had a bit of give. I pulled and pulled until it popped out, and the two sharp blades cut me, on my thumb and ring fingers. Off to the washroom again, this time for the first aid kit.
All that, and the mini chop didn’t work.
Kitchen: 4 Peter: 2
I started the sauce – this was the delicate part. Every few minutes another step. Melt the butter. Add the fresno chillis and shallots. Add flour. Add cream. Add cheese. Stir like mad.
I was stirring with a cheap plastic spatula.
And….it melted. Yay. Grabbing a new kitchen tool I kept going.
While I was multitasking on the sauce, I had the bread in the oven, crisping up so I could crumble it by hand.
Now, I have a very small kitchen. And no trivets to rest hot things on. My stove had the cooked pasta waiting on the back burner, sauce in progress on the front, and pan with cooked bacon on the other two.
When the bread was done, I had nowhere to put it. So I rested it on the bacon. But I needed the bacon, so I grabbed the hot pan with my bare hand
If you’re keeping score: Kitchen 6, Peter 2
I added the bacon. The sauce was almost ready. Three more ingredients. All of which… I forgot when prepping. But I can’t stop stirring because, you know, the cheese.
Good thing I have long arms. I get the dijon mustard in, and the pre-chopped jarred chives.
Now, just a pinch of nutmeg. I’m right handed. I was stirring with my right hand. With my left, I managed to grab the nutmeg.I went to add it, and, my non-dominant hand jerked over at the crucial moment, throwing about 5x the required amount right into the pan.
Kitchen 7, Me 2
I added everything to the baking pan. But I needed melted butter to drizzle on top.
My right hand wass bandaged up. But I didn’t think to put a glove on it. I melted the butter. It was scalding hot. I went to even it out because I sort of dumped it in the middle.
A logical move would be to grab a spoon or something.
I used my bandaged hand.
It was hot. And it got into the cuts on my hand.
I pulled back, dropping the bowl.
Reacting, I grabbed it with my other hand. My fingers hit the hot butter.
Kitchen 9, Me 2.
But the food went into the oven.
It turned out amazing.
Times scalded by grabbing hot objects: 3
Places that came into contact with hot pepper juice that shouldn’t be in contact with hot pepper juice: 3
Utensils melted: 1
Ingredients accidentally overused by a slip of the hand: One dump (instead of dash) of nutmeg
Bottles of wine finished: 1 (about half into the pan, half into the stomach)
Delicious meals cooked: 1
I won. Maybe. But the kitchen got the best of me.
Will I make it again? Probably. Here’s hoping next time the wound list won’t be so long.
Peter Lozinski is the managing editor of the Daily Herald. When he’s not destroying the kitchen or complaining about other drivers, he’s at his desk trying to be less of a mess at work. He can be reached at 306-765-1302 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org