When I was in seventh grade my home economics teacher Miss Harrington told the cooking class to tie long hair in a pony tail or put on a hair net.
I chose to tie my hair back in a pony tail. Or Two. Or ten.
I used to wear my hair quite short in those days and I needed a dozen elastics to tie my hair back in pony tails. I followed my cooking teacher’s instructions precisely and after I finished tying my hair back I returned to my station where I sat quietly until the rest of the class burst out laughing.
A spluttering, red-faced Miss Harrington took one look at me and told me I was going to the principal’s office for disrupting her cooking class.
To say that she was not impressed was putting it mildly.
The principal couldn’t still the smile that played at the side of her face as Miss Harrington explained my misdemeanor. I stood meekly by, with all 12 pony tails sticking out of my pixie cut hair style, waiting for my punishment to be dished out. Literally.
The punishment fit the crime. I had to clean the kitchen every Tuesday after class was over. Dishes, pots and pans, you name it.
When I look back, I think it was then that I developed a love-hate relationship with the kitchen. It has become a necessary evil in my life. One to be embraced. One to be avoided.
Perhaps that is why I have always been attracted to men who can cook. Perhaps it is because they complement that part of me that is sadly lacking.
My children are very forthcoming in their appraisal of my cooking disabilities. “Dad is a waaay better cook than you are Mom,” says my youngest. He is right. My ex is a better cook. So is my boyfriend.
My mother was very good at burning things. There was a standing joke in our house growing up. “What are you burning for supper Mom?” we’d ask. She’d become quite indignant and reply: “Nothing.” Poor Mom. She has no sense of smell and would often put a pot of something on the stove to simmer and forget about it. Needless to say we had lots of burnt pots in our house.
The same year I began burning, I mean cooking, with Miss Harrington, another heat-related incident occurred. I returned home from a basketball game one cold January evening and after I emerged from the shower I sniffed the air and smelled a faint burning smell. Mom, I thought. She’s at it again. I quickly pulled on some clothes and leaned over the banister on the top floor and yelled. “Hey Mom, whatcha burning for dinner?”
“Nothing, “ she replied defensively. “I’m not cooking. We’re going out tonight.”
My spidey senses started to tingle and I followed my nose to the source of the smell. I ran down the stairs to the main floor and checked around. Mom was right, she had nothing on the stove. I opened the basement door and quickly slammed it shut after a wall of smoke blasted me.
“Fire, fire!” I yelled. “There’s a fire in the basement.”
We grabbed our winter jackets and rounded up the cats and dog and got out of the house as quickly as we could. The neighbours called the fire department while Mom called Dad. I watched as the hungry flames ate our home.
We had to live in the Dreadful Arms Motel in Halifax for four long months while our home was fixed. At first, my sister, brother and I thought it was great eating in a restaurant every day. French fries, hamburgers, more French fries. But we soon tired of restaurant cooking and longed for Mom’s burning.
Eventually we did return home and I began to appreciate my mother’s culinary efforts, crispy as they often were.
Today I appreciate her efforts even more. A couple of months ago, I purchased a frozen pizza from a local grocery store. I looked at the instructions on the box and preheated the oven just like it said. I cut the plastic wrap off the pizza and put the pizza on a pan, just like it said. I popped the pizza in the oven, just like it said.
But when I took the pizza out of the oven it was not crispy and beautiful like the picture on the box. As I lifted the pizza off the tray I noticed a round of cardboard stuck to the dough underneath. I had not removed the cardboard from the frozen pizza and the bottom was ooey and gooey!
Geez… the instructions didn’t say remove frozen cardboard from bottom of pizza.
Cooking isn’t as easy as it looks. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and I know what mine are.