Shortly after we met, Dave was standing slack-jawed in my kitchen, watching me cook my dinner. I had stripped the label off a can of peas, cracked the lid, and was holding it on the burner with a pair of pliers. When it was heated through, I strained the peas through the lid, opened it up the rest of the way, stirred in some mayonnaise and dug in. My can was ready to recycle and I’d only dirtied one spoon. I figured the look on his face was one of admiration.
Dave has been responsible for virtually every meal we’ve had since, and it’s been thirty-four years. He’s gifted. When he goes away for a few days, I peer into the refrigerator and come up with nothing. I eat peanut butter and when he returns, I tell him there’s nothing to eat. He starts pulling out this and that, and in no time at all he has assembled a delicious and attractive meal, and if all the neighbors happen to drop by at once, he’ll feed them too. Jesus never did any better.
Once Dave fell ill and lay moaning on the sofa for days. I polished off the peanut butter and then asked him if I could make him a little something. He allowed as how he might be able to get down a piece of dry toast and a poached egg. I looked up “poached egg” in the Joy Of Cooking–most people don’t bother–and it said to bring five quarts of water to a rollicking boil and stir it into a “mad vortex,” at which point you drop your egg into the center. Well, it takes a while to get that much water boiling, don’t think it doesn’t. And when you drop your egg in, the whites go flying off at a tangent to the mad vortex and settle out as shrapnel on the bottom of the pot. I served Dave his by-now cold piece of toast with an egg like a golf ball on top, and said, “there, I hope you like it–it took me forty-five minutes to poach that egg.” Well, it was almost a miracle. He was up and cooking again in no time.
But I still contribute. I like to put a little of myself in all my efforts. The Pot Roast with Diced Root Vegetables and Fingertips in Plasma Sauce was splendid. The Lemon Custard With Knuckle Zest turned out pretty well; hardly anyone can guess the secret chewy ingredient in the oatmeal cookies (shredded rubber spatula. It’s never raisins. If you see raisins in my cookies, they flew in on their own.) Crunchy Mousse is even good for you: eggshells are loaded with calcium.
I’ve learned along the way. If something calls for being beaten “until soft peaks form,” that means just a little after the point when pigs are observed to fly. If you have a liquid on the stove and are instructed to cook “until reduced by half, about one minute,” figure on a half hour. In the case of custard, which you are to cook over low-medium heat until thickened, you can go ahead and do that all day if you want to but then you have to crank the bastard up to high and swear like a sailor. If you then pitch in a cup or two of cornstarch, you can get that puppy to stand right up and bark.
There's a whole section of the grocery store reserved for you Brewster, well, actually two sections. One's the frozen food section. They even have these new-fangled things where you just pop the whole thing into the microwave. The other's the beer and wine aisle.
Oh yes. And rhubarb and custard was always known as thumb and custard at our place. Extra protein (or something).
At out house it's the other way around. Just before we got married I went to my husband's apartment to help him pack up. I volunteered to do the kitchen. When I opened the cabinets I found his collection of 1940s horror movie videos. 'Nuff said.
@Mr. Charleston: I don't think it's a good idea to let Murr anywhere near a nuclear device. Anyway, her time is better spent at the keyboard feeding our spirits.
Mayo in your peas?!?! The horror!
@swamp No, no…that was the GOOD part!
Heavens, Murr, your description of the can of peas caused my mouth to drop open in admiration. You are definitely one of a kind, and I'm sure glad. How did I live before discovering you?? It was a sad and dreary existence. 🙂
I can cook, I just choose not to, other than the very basics. When I was 35 I announced that I was old enough to say that I didn't like to cook and never would.
My husband, however, is an excellent cook, so it balances out. I do the basics for regular meals. He turns out the big feasts.
Hee! Parallel lives. Never forget the first time I saw Martha heat up a can of chili, just like that. That's when I knew. Took six years to convince her to marry me, but I finally did it.
I am the person who eats spaghetti out of the can with her fingers while standing over the sink. Less to wash that way. Also, you can punch two holes in a can of chicken broth and drink it for lunch. Quick, easy and relatively satsifying.
My oldest daughter, MayB, cooks like you do, she claims. She had a t-shirt at university which said "Do Not Assume I Cook".
Cooking stuff over low heat to thicken is an idiot's game anyhow. cornstarch works way better as you learned.
Tanya has been known to cook with Plasma sauce. I have learned NEVER to watch any woman use a sharp kitchen knife. it is hard on my pace-maker batteries.
I'll cook for you, any day!
At our place, I tend to cook most planned meals but Cuppa is the Queen of the Spontaneous (and leftovers).
My son took culinary arts in high school because he believed he would starve otherwise. I think I just made him believe that. I love to cook when I have the time, energy, desire and no one is driving me crazy with the What's for breakfast/lunch/dinner question.
Wheee! I got Kat to agree to cook for me! Mission accomplished. One of my chief skills is getting other people to take care of me. It's the forlorn-puppy-on-the-porch gambit, only now it's just the old-dog. Either works.
Murr, you're always such a good egg…any which way you serve it up!
If I come up to Portland to visit my cuz, Jen, and try to look you up, remind me to not expect or accept any vittles…….
However, I eat up your words with much joy. You are amazing…..brilliant…..can, stove, pliers, yes, brilliant. Mayo on peas….not so brilliant.
If you do something poorly enough the first time, you don't get asked to do it again. Pliers and mayo! Why didn't I think of that?
Problem is, my husband hates to cook and doesn't care whether he eats or not. I love food and eat as frequently as I can without requiring a shoehorn to fit my butt into my chair. (If you use a shoehorn for shoes, would I need a butthorn? Hmmm, yeah, patent pending.)
Anyway, you can guess who cooks.
So…I guess I'm the first to comment on your photo..which when I first looked at it, caused me to look a second and a third time. I thought you were trying to squeeze a miniature giraffe into that can. At which point I thought, she may think she "can" cook, but she surely shouldn't!
You know, I thought the same thing about the giraffe. And may I remind everyone that mayonnaise is a classic respectable French sauce?
I think we are twins, separated at birth. Cooking is not my friend.
Re the photos, Murr is even good at looking clueless. (Or is it just an act? heh heh) Rosemary
Love it- this post gave me a great laugh, Murr. My husband would starve to death left to his own devices so I read it to him and he laughed, too. Thanks.
I love to cook but hate doing dishes. George cleans the kitchen brilliantly and I feed him well. I love your blog. I don't know how to post this so I'll try the anonymous but it's me…
There is a moment in time when soft peaks form. This moment is so small that it coincides with the moment that the whatever is neither caterpillar nor butterfly. I have never achieved it. I have no peaks or I have post-peaks.
Speaking on a more personal level, I definitely have post-peaks.
But at one time they were somethin'.
I almost spit out my peanut butter, which I was spooning in to my mouth all by myself. The kitchen and I are mortal enemies: thankfully I married a cutie who can cook. He takes good care of me. After he puts in a 12 hour day at work, he comes home and whips up something for me.I'm not a total loser; if I'm not too full, I clean up after him. Murr, you went to WAY too much work heating up those peas-I got tired just reading about it!
We could never live together. We both starve to death.
When we refer to kitchen essentials in my home, we mean the drawer full of takeout menus! Talk about meals that require dirtying only one spoon!
OMG, my dearly beloved eats canned peas right out of the can too! If I had known before we got married 41 years ago, I might have had second thoughts. It must be something in the genes, our grandson and granddaughter (ages 1 and 2 1/2) think they are all that and a bag of chips! :o)Caroline
I cooked simple meals for my boys when I was a single mom. Then I met my husband who loves to cook. Fortunately.
My mom hated to cook and she displayed that disdain with every meal. Her preferred instrument of food destruction was the pressure cooker – she would render mashed potatoes down to their basic molecular structure. A chicken would be reduced to a state where you could bend a drumstick back over on itself so everyone could have a wishbone.
I remained quite skinny until I went away to college and learned things like cooked chicken could actually be CRISPY!
I am fortunate now in that my wive can make a seemingly empty refrigerator into a magician's prop box, extracting a wonderful meal out of practically nothing. Culinary Magic it is.
Yep. That's pretty much the extent of my culinary skills, too. God, the picture of the can of peas over an open burner was priceless. And the poaching of the egg! BAHAHAHAHA!
I'm scheduled for a minor surgery shortly and Mr. Mature is required to do the comestibles for a couple of weeks. He tried his hand at this a few years back when I was pushing for full equality in the household (yard and cars are guy work, naturally). I ate stir-fried cucumbers and banana omelets and I liked them. In both directions.
Mayonnaise? With peas? Was there a childhood precedent for this dish?
Hmm. You got me thinking. We never had canned vegetables (we had frozen). Or mayonnaise, which was (along with baloney and Wonder bread) a revelation to me in my teenage years. Mom cooked with rice, string beans, and cans of Campbell's Cream Of Mushroom and Cream Of Celery.
LOL, DH does all our cooking, I can cook but hate it, I would rather iron and hate that too! He loves it, and won't iron. So we are even with our tasks.
That's a great list of recipes you have there. 🙂 I'll be sure to request that you just bring a bag of chips if I ever invite you to a potluck.
Canned peas are nasty, Murr…glad you've got your writing talent to fall back on…