Too Hot In The Kitchen? Or Why I’ll Never Be The Naked Chef!
If you follow me on Twitter, or you know me personally (God help you!), you’ll know that not only is my kitchen probably the most underused room in my house, it’s also the one with the most scorch marks in it.
Regretfully, my early years at my extremely expensive private school in the Domestic Science Room (cookery class, to everyone else) did nothing to encourage my culinary skills to beyond the term ‘When It’s Brown, It’s Burnt and When It’s Black, It’s Buggered’, although sales of fire blankets and extinguishers do peak at around the time I pull a stupid stunt like, throw a Dinner Party.
Yes, that bastion of middle class terminology and anyone who votes Conservative’s favourite pastime besides ‘Let’s Do Lunch’ (Do Lunch? What the fuck are you going to do with it? Throw it in the car, drive like the clappers up the M6 to the Lake District and climb Scafell Pike? Although if it was me, I’d head for Skiddaw, which may resemble a motorway on a summer’s day because EVERYONE starts off with Skiddaw, but it’s an easy climb and you won’t ruin your lunch).
‘Let’s hold a Dinner Party’. When I get this daft idea into my head, there’s no stopping me, and the local fire brigade are delighted because it usually means extra overtime for them and they get to take anything that hasn’t been burnt to a cinder back to the station with them for a midnight snack.
‘Let’s hold a Dinner Party’. A phrase guaranteed to involve Planning On A Military Scale and who knows, the Army MIGHT just turn up because let’s face it, I’ve produced Yorkshire Puddings that could well make great ammunition in the past. Then there was the Incident With The Rhubard Crumble, when I accidentally mistook Cumin for Cinnamon. The Army might well have wanted to invest in it as an alternative to Nerve Gas.
Anyway, Planning A Dinner Party for me involves MONTHS of lengthy preparation and pouring over recipe books, sussing out ingredients, testing out the method – I once had to ask my then boyfriend, who I admit is Quite Good At Cooking – what ‘searing’ meant and he said that you cooked something – I think in this instance I was cooking scallops – over a very high heat and blackening it. I was quite puzzled at this and told him Bloody Hell, I do that every time I cook – at which point he promptly refused any offers to cook for him that I ever made.
So, yes, I would plan my attack – sorry Dinner Party, for months in advance and then, there’s the problem of the guest list – finding an assortment of souls brave enough to actually chance me making something that they were forced to eat on account of the fact that they were in my dining room and I’d double locked the door into the hall, thus rendering escape futile.
The day of the Dinner Party would dawn. There would be a general nervous tension in the house as I approached the kitchen and the dog would give me a baleful look and retreat to the half landing where he sits when he knows I’m Doing Something That Might End In Imminent Disaster. He also didn’t want to get lumbered with the left overs.
I have a nice cooker. God knows why, but when I moved into this house, I decided to buy a Range which is basically a bigger than normal cooker with eight rings and a Wok Burner thing in the middle.
There were also two Ovens, as well as a grill that could also be a microwave. Confused? So was I. The two Ovens didn’t help because one was a fan assisted oven and the other was a normal oven and I never could quite get the hang of the fact that ‘fan assisted’ meant ‘it cooks faster than a normal oven’, so I blame modern technology for several of my cooking disasters, most recently, there was one involving a nut roast, and the Army DID use that for ammunition.
Anyway, back to the nice Cooker. There I am, Menu in hand, ingredients strewn across the work surface, cookery book open on the stand, the kitchen door locked to avoid anyone coming in (a habit from the days when The Offspring lived at home. Number 3 in particular was a pain in the arse having studied Domestic Science AND Event Management – he used to stand behind me in the kitchen while I was haplessly murdering some recipe or other and he’d say ‘Are you sure you want to put that much in?’ At which point I’d threaten him with having to eat it, and remind him that in my day, we didn’t need a degree to tell us how to have a party). The dog by this time would be a safe distance away and all my potential guests would be growing nervous and be wondering if it was too bad form to cry off at such short notice.
So, there I’d be, sweating buckets into the mixture for the starters while the meat was glaring at me reminding me in its dead animal type of way that I should have actually put it in the oven by now, and it’d never be cooked in time and while I’d put the wine out to breathe, I’d actually decide it was dead and try giving it the kiss of life. Yes, I often cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
Then there’s the problem (well, it is to me because I had to cook a separate meal for myself) of being a vegetarian, not just in having to cook a separate meal AND trying to time it so that it gets to the table in roughly the same year as the undercooked meat, but also there’s the problem of being a vegetarian and buying a turkey with its INSIDES STILL INSIDE IT and then having to get its neck and GIBLETS (What the Fuck!) out from its bum. Another glass of wine came in handy, I can tell you.
So, by the time I’ve actually got around to thinking about the Cheesecake I probably should have started earlier, I’ve drunk most of the wine that was supposed to be doing breathing exercises and this isn’t going to help the guests because usually they can drink themselves into a stupor and therefore, they’ve lost their sense of taste and my meal is almost palatable. It’s at this point I get even more distracted because I have to GET READY.
Again, another Military Operation is planned and as any man will know – particularly my ex boyfriend, who spent many hours patiently drumming his fingers on his dashboard, or sending me plaintive messages on Whats App saying ‘Outside’. It was amazing how much fear that one word could instil in a woman getting ready for a date.
Anyway, back to the Dinner Party preparations, which aren’t going well because I’m not actually in the kitchen watching whether or not the baked stuffed mushrooms now contain more carcinogens than any other known substance on the planet – Hell, a girl has got to look good at her own dinner party and who knows, if I look good enough to eat, maybe the guests won’t bother too much with their dinner.
© Amy J Steinberg 2017