I like cooking, but it doesn’t like me

by Jim Lee: PNT columnist

Someday I’ll figure out how to cook without cussing, without stuff falling on the floor, and without third-degree burns.
Maybe I won’t come up with anything as good as Bobby Brunson’s rolls, Charles Brooks’ steamed turkey or Gene Bundy’s biscuits, but I’m determined. A road paved with good intentions doesn’t have to lead to you-know-where.

I have no idea why my otherwise wonderful wife will not recognize my culinary skill and refuses to admit my spaghetti sauce is better than hers. Maybe she just fears getting shown up. That’s probably why she always declines when I offer to fix dinner as I reach for the food processor and the bandaids. On Saturday morning, though, I do occasionally manage to sneak into the kitchen chuckling madly.

If I can just get the project started before Saundra sees what I’m up to …

If I get caught in the act, she pretends to look worried. When I go through the drawers and cupboards searching for cooking utensils or approach the stove, she herds the dog to the back yard and shuts the cat in the laundry room. Then she looks up the vet’s phone number muttering something about the expectation of falling skillets, spilled grease, and accidental poisoning.

In spite of my tremendous skill in the kitchen, sometimes things do go a bit wrong. This is never my fault, so why should I accept responsibility? These unfortunate events result from a vast conspiracy among culinary inferiors and skillet manufacturers.

I therefore refuse to use written recipes because they always have errors that result in less than tasty or attractive concoctions I place on the table. So I create and memorize my own.

I don’t care if this does amuse or enrage cookbook publishers or so-called chefs. A pox on them all, I say. After all, I certainly know how to prepare what I intend to serve. Who should know better than I?

Let Saundra keep my toolbox virtually empty all she wants, for this is not home repair or a task requiring a nine-pound sledgehammer. Cooking tools abound in the kitchen — and I know where my wife hides the sharp and pointed objects necessary for my gustatory genius.

OK, so I have a slight problem preparing my special corned beef hash and cacklefruit. The idea is to smush a can of hash into a big patty with two or three over-medium eggs cooked on top of it for a yummy-good weekend brunch. The hard parts are getting the hash patty turned over without falling apart and not burning my finger on the skillet. This happens because no skillet really has a “non-stick surface,” even with the assistance of margarine, lard, butter, cooking oil, non-stick spray, and yak grease.

Because of inferior skillets, I never got the hang of flipping eggs without redecorating the kitchen ceiling. So I turn them over by dumping the small skillet onto the hash patty in the large skillet. Even if the eggs don’t stick as badly as the hash, they always come out kind of cockeyed with smashed yolks — but blame the skillet manufacturer, not me.

Finally, after putting some disinfectant on the burns, I sit down with Saundra at the table to actually eat this stuff. She tries to compliment my cooking without laughing while I cuss out the skillet company and the stove. To make a short story shorter, I think this dish tastes almost good with a splash of steak sauce or ketchup. The outcome is what matters, right?

So what’s my wife laughing about, and where did she hide that sledgehammer?

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: