I’ve been asked more than once about where my love of cooking comes from. Oddly enough, even my mom has asked me this question and she’s one of my food heroes, so maybe the explanation’s not as easy as it would seem.
My mom always had a vegetable garden and almost always made us home-cooked meals. I waxed poetic about some of my food memories in a previous post, but I guess my real love of cooking was a combination of events. Threat of starvation was one of them.
I ventured out on my own in my late teens and it didn’t take me long to realize that eating out was expensive. So, thanks to my mom’s ability to put almost anything in a pan and make it taste delicious, the insane, irrational part of my brains said “I can cook, too!”
Very early on, I started a new look with half-singed eyelashes and eyebrows. This, from opening a gas oven at the exact moment of ignition. To my credit, I never did that again.
My brother taught me that I could buy big slabs of bologna from the deli at the grocery store and save money by slicing it myself. With a cheap loaf of white bread and an even cheaper head of iceberg lettuce, I had sandwiches for a week on less than $10. (this was a few years ago, mind you…let’s not get too specific, shall we?) I try not to dwell on the saturated fat I consumed between the mayonnaise and the bologna. I’m pretty sure the white bread and the lettuce weren’t enough of nutritional powerhouses to save me that year.
Chicken was also super cheap at the time so I’d buy a bunch of chicken, some onions, a bag of potatoes and some cream of mushroom soup (arrggg…there’s that dreaded can of soup….) and put it all together in a pan and bake it. I’d eat that stuff for a week. But, to my credit, I could also pay my rent, damn it.
Fast forward a few years, into my very early twenties, and I cooked my first turkey. Oh, I know you think where this is headed so I’ll tell you now that I was smart enough to take the bag of giblets out before roasting that bird. I wasn’t a complete moron.
Except that after a few hours of cooking, a strange thumping sound seemed to be coming from my oven. Thump. *pause* Thump. *pause* Thump.
I opened my oven to find small clumps of stuffing stuck to the sides and door of my oven. My turkey was literally blowing it’s stuffing out. Those “Don’t over-stuff your turkey” warnings typically apply to being sure the stuffing and turkey reaches the correct, don’t-send-your-family-home-with-salmonella temperature but now you know…it can also get a bit messy. Maybe I do have a bit of moron in me, after all. Baked-on stuffing is not a joy to clean up off the sides and bottom of your oven.
Just a few years later I moved into an apartment with a yard. A real yard, with real grass. So, of course, I proceeded to dig up some of said grass and plant vegetables. Ta da! Come to find out, I could actually grow stuff. Like food. Amazing.
By that time I was a much better cook (practice makes perfect, y’all), so growing my own veggies made me want to cook even more.
A garden is not without its own problems though. Like slugs the size of your foot. And tomato caterpillars that you don’t see until you’re right in their little face because they look just like the tomato stalk. Eek! And those problems were minimal compared to the mysterious disappearance of almost-ripened veggies that seemed to occur late at night. Oooohhhh that used to make me so mad.
What’s your most memorable kitchen disaster?