I’m not a very good cook.
Let me rephrase that…I’m REALLY not a very good cook. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t think of fun flavor pairings and get inspired by seeing a group of food items randomly tossed together.
Most of the time when I’m cooking, I try to follow a recipe, get nervous about it, and inevitably find that I’ve skipped an essential step.
Plus, I get impatient while I’m waiting for the potatoes to brown, or the water to boil. I take my eyes off whatever is happening for “one minute” and wind up burning everything, smoking up the kitchen and setting off the alarm.
I think there are two main reasons why I suck at cooking. First off, I’m just not that creative when it comes to food. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to eat well. However, I don’t see flavor combinations the same way other people do. The refrigerator could be stocked, but when I open up the door, I just think, “We don’t have anything to eat.”
The second reason why I don’t think I’m a good cook is because I just don’t like doing it. It’s boring and tedious and then- all of a sudden- super stressful! I can’t seem to get the timing right on anything.
Just to really drive home the point about how much I am NOT a good cook, I have actually set fire to Pop Tarts in my toaster; which then proceeded to shoot up into flames and burn the bottom of my cupboards. Granted, I was fifteen at the time, but I pretty much took it as a sign that I should try to avoid the kitchen as much as possible.
Ok, ok, I’m not quite that bad anymore. I’ll admit I can do one or two dishes very well. For instance, I can make a yummy fried rice and a reasonably good beef and broccoli. In fact, pretty much anything stir-fry comes out decently. (My dad saw to that.)
I’ve also got a knack for making BLTs. What? Yes, I know that’s a sandwich. You still have to cook the bacon, so it counts.
By some fluke, the other dish that I’m pretty good at putting together is chicken piccata. Random, I know. I didn’t even have to follow a recipe when I learned how to make it. I’m sure it’s not even close to being authentic, and Italians world-wide would be offended by my interpretation.
However, at one point in my life I was a waitress for an Italian restaurant. I used to work the lunch shift with my best friend and the head chef was this really old guy named George. (Who, incidentally, had a pair of the grayest, bushiest caterpillar eyebrows anybody has ever seen. Think: Denis Healey.) Thankfully, he also made scrumptious food that would insinuate itself into your dreams.
I remember him saying that chicken piccata was basically just lemon and capers. When I was taking care of my mom in Switzerland (after her skiing accident,) and trying to keep us both fed, I decided to take a crack at it. Lo and behold, not only did we not die of food poisoning, but it actually tasted pretty good!
Terry, on the other hand, is an amazing cook. Which, I suppose is a good thing. Otherwise, I would be subsisting on BLTS and fried rice. Needless to say, he does most of the cooking in our family. I say most because if he doesn’t feel like making dinner, then we usually just go out or order in.
So, you may be wondering why am I mentioning all of this. Well, this year, for his birthday, Terry asked me to make him chicken piccata. Isn’t that pathetic? I would seriously fail at being a housewife. He actually has to request that I cook for him as a birthday present!
How could I possible say no?
So, I went to the store and got all the ingredients on Wednesday (which was his actual birthday,) but then ended up getting stuck at work with a client and got home super late. I’m a really slow cook. Instead of starving him, I took him out to a fancy restaurant and promised him I’d make him dinner this weekend.
Today I was determined to make him a nice meal. The menu for the evening was chicken piccata, mashed potatoes and green beans. For dessert, I made strawberry and blueberry shortcake. (The shortcake was store-bought. No need to go crazy.)
I’m one of those people that has to cut and get everything prepared before I get started, otherwise I’ll forget some main ingredient and mess everything up. I started prepping at 5:30. I didn’t even turn a burner on until 6:30. We ended up eating around 7:25. Yes, it took me two hours to make dinner. Did I mention I’m a slow cook?
Overall, cooking the meal was going pretty well. I was remembering to do all the little things, like season the meat on both sides. The water was boiling for the potatoes. I had the oven preheated. I hadn’t forgotten to buy any of the ingredients…I was feeling pretty good.
So, I start cooking the chicken, plopped the potatoes in the pot and turned on the burner for the green beans. Then I took a minute to start picking up the kitchen and doing preliminary dishes. All was going according to plan.
After the chicken was cooked, I started making the piccata sauce, which actually takes a bit of finessing and attention. I’m doing that, and then I suddenly realize the potatoes are done and they are needing mashing. Also, the lid for the grean beans should probably come off and the heat turned down. Oh! But, the sauce is starting to boil, we don’t want that…
ACK! This is the part that totally stresses me out. How the hell am I supposed to mash the potatoes and season them, turn the green beans in the skillet, and keep the sauce stirred while adding the lemon, flour (for thickening,) and capers?!
I get really grumpy when I cook.
However- I am happy to report that I did manage to juggle everything and Terry’s birthday dinner came out fabulously! (If I do say so myself. Which, I don’t have to, because he went back for seconds and that HAS to count for something.)
And it only took two hours, nicking my finger, and burning myself once!