Once upon a very long time ago, my children believed that I was a gourmet chef and we lived happily ever after. But that’s when they were young and naive and also believed in the tooth fairy.
Things are different today. As it turns out, wisdom really does come with age. With two of my kids now in their 20s and my younger two having recently grown into teenagers who know everything, hiding the truth from them is a little bit more of a challenge. And when I say “a little bit”, I really mean impossible. Despite any attempts to hide my disability, it’s now a known fact in my household: I’m terrible in the kitchen.
I’m really not sure how this happened; how I’ve managed to reach “this age” without somehow picking up the skills required to take food from the fridge, to the microwave, to the table with a certain level of enticing panache. All I know is that I’ve reached an age where I simply can’t hide from my shortcomings any longer.
I have to face the truth: me learning how to cook is equivalent to a mentally challenged person learning how to fly a commercial plane. And according to my kids, both share the same level of life-threatening risks.
Although my culinary skills are limited, in my own defence I’d like to state that I can make spaghetti sauce with my eyes closed and according to my kids, nobody makes toast with peanut butter like I can.
(Confession: sometimes I suspect that this is what my kids tell me just so that I’ll stop harassing them out of bed in the morning.)
To be perfectly honest, I’ve come to terms with my disability. Truly. I’ve reached a state in my life where to sauté or not to sauté is really not an issue for me. I just fry everything. My inner Martha Stewart is – admittedly – a short-order cook with a passive-aggressive attitude towards the cult-like belief in 365 ways to cook hamburger meat.
Although I will admit to one regret; and that is that I’ve lost my touch at fooling my kids into eating anything with my stamp of culinary-challenged to it. The smiley face ketchup across their scrambled eggs just doesn’t work anymore. Partly because the said scrambled eggs are always supposed to be a pair of sunny side ups (to which I blame the delinquent eggs) but mostly because my kids now know the difference between “real” cooking and the stuff I over-zealously try to pass off as delicious. (In case I forgot to mention, the word “undelicious” is a common and very real word in my house.)
You would think that cooking eggs without breaking them into a state of yellow-yoke-havoc mess wouldn’t be an issue, right? I mean, how hard can it be to fry a couple of eggs or, for that matter, make soup from scratch? After all, they both START with a chicken.
I mention “soup” because just last week my second oldest daughter called me to ask if I knew where her grandmother was.
“I don’t know. I think she’s playing bridge today. Why?” I asked.
My daughter responded with an almost defensive demeanor as though I was about to ruin everything: “I want to ask her how to make soup.”
“Oh. Well I can help you with that,” I answered.
“I’ve tried your soup. I used to live there, remember?”
“Yes, but I make it better now,” I said, pleading my case.
“Mom, have you met yourself?”
How could I argue with that logic?
And speaking of chicken, my younger teenagers still think that EVERYTHING I make is poultry-based. And now that they’re older and their taste buds have more experience in the way of eating at their friend’s houses and therefore venturing into the land of “real” home-cooked meals, the expression, “I don’t like this chicken” has become the most often-used descriptive term of my recipes – even when what they’re eating is macaroni casserole.
Which makes me realize that I’m still fooling them in a way, because even I know that there’s no chicken in macaroni casserole.