Tag Archives: bad food

Desired Chronicles from the Kitchen & Other Aspirations

Post-thunderstorm rainbow from the porch.

Post-thunderstorm rainbow from the porch.

I stopped writing.

It wasn’t so much that I was trying to get away or that I was too busy.  Had a lot more to do with being creeped out by who actually reads this and realization that the commentary that’s been running in my head as of late wasn’t appropriate for a public audience.  And since I didn’t know how to filter, I stopped.

But I also know that these posts are the best records I have of the best (and worst) memories.  I know that I’ve gone back to refer to them when something doesn’t make sense months, even years after the fact, and I’ve found that my old words hold a lot of truth in facts and stories that have had the been preserved without the filter of ex-post facto analysis.  Furthermore, I know that if I try writing them just for myself, as in unpublished, I simply won’t.

And so, curled on my bed last week, gripping my stomach over a very poorly prepared dinner, I thought about all my other bad cooking experiences, many of which are chronicled here.

This domestic failure (to clarify–it was really three failures, Monday’s dinner, Tuesday’s dinner, and Wednesday’s leftovers) mattered, and it mattered more than most.  It was the first time that I made a serious attempt at cooking and couldn’t, which was quite offensive because I’ve decided that now is the time to learn to excel in care taking.

In the last year, I’ve committed many Saturdays to grad school research.  I wasn’t usually making plans as much was I was filled to brim with hope and possibility and desperately looking for a direction to set my sails.  Of late, it’s occurred to me that a consequence of my incredible task-orientated behaviors (uhhrrmmm, extreme planning) is a little bit like Mario Kart.  In the game, when you hit the question mark box and get a red mushroom, you launch the power boost strategically, like when you’re neck-and-neck with Bowser and need just a little kick; I have to know where I’m going so I know when to peak, and this has repercussions for just about every area of my life.  It’s also why I plan.

So, I look back to that mid-fall day when I lived at Whaley’s house and stumbled across something intriguing on St. Andrew’s website and the moment it felt like a real possibility.  I remember discussing it in the car with Julie on the way to New London and everything that happened in the weeks afterward.

Come spring, I was pacing my new house with a bubbling idea in my stomach, caught in a frenzied prayer and with twenty fellowship/grant/scholarship tabs open on my Macbook.  They were all for American students pursuing postgraduate research degrees in the UK.  It was like planning classes, career, family, finances, and life purpose in a single simultaneous thought that’s so exciting I have to put it on hold for twenty minutes or so while I walk in circles.  I do this just so I can savor the synergy and excitement enough to focus on what it all means.

It was beautiful moment, but the St. Andrews day is not today, neither is teaching, blogging that is actually read, or publishing anything that is printed on real paper.  For now, those are just dreams, but they are all really just matured iterations of  things I care about and do now.

I’ll peak when the time’s right, and it will be glorious. But,in the meantime, I’m crossing my X’s, saving my dollars, and more importantly, drinking very deeply of the many lessons around me.  I mind the hows, whens, and wheres of communication, authority, and leadership.  I’m assessing the delegation and use of influence, and I like it.

It’s also why I’m learning to cook now.

Now, when I have no one to care for except myself and a roommate who never squabbles if the dishes are left in the sink a little longer than they should be.

Now, when no one will complain if I lose track of time and get home from work a little later than I should and when the relationships in my life are relatively simple and only as time-consuming as I let them be.

Because if I can’t learn to do it now, I’m not sure I ever will.


Things I email my mother

Homework complaints, work schedules, $3 off at Dominos because the pizza guy thought I was cute, time-wasting websites, 4am no-one-is-going-to-come-in-at-work-and-I’m-tired panics, caffeine, and bad dinners…I might live in Connecticut, but still tell my mom about everything.

…In honor of the day (click on the image to read it)

I less-than-three-semicolon-close parentheses-you—always

code: ❤ 😉


Stunning, SB: Day 15

On Mount Higby.

A homemade spring break for the best of them.

In perfect shorts and tank tops weather, I’ve sat outside on my newly-cleaned screened porch.  The same room that was so gross when I moved in that I decided to pretend it wasn’t attached to my house is now a beautiful, sunlit reading room (complete with an outdoor outlet).

Professor Elphick’s book recommendation arrived yesterday, and I’ve set at properly devouring it, my mind thoroughly jumbled at its crazy claims and what it means it the author is right.

When I realized 72 cookies was a lot.

My cooking disasters have continued, but with notable shining successes.

In between not paying attention to the fact that that cookie recipe yields 6 dozen cookies (2 1/2 cups doesn’t sound like much until you realize that it’s talking about butter), the panicked phone call to my mother because my drumsticks were bleeding in the oven (it was gross), and the icing that kept sliding off the cake, my cooking has been met with shining success.

I’ve actually made an array of full, edible meals, which really is quite a major feat for me.  I’ll analyze a boring book and write a great analysis, but ask me to cook a family sized meal and disaster is more likely than not.

My beautiful porch.

Over break, I’ve learned to make a biscuits and gravy that would knock you on your feet, and the beans and cornbread casserole I made for my friends might as well have been cooked by mother.

Besides the edible food part, my room with an oven and fridge finally has enough basic utensils and pantry items to earn its title as a kitchen.

The time apart from MS Word has been good for both of us, and I’ve watched the Dead Poets Society three times in the last week.

I’ve also discovered that 80s music does have a place in the world, even if it is restricted to morning kitchen music while making pancakes, and I finally explored that wooded path by 91, the one that leads to a mountain.

Chicken noodle soup, apples and peanut butter, and grapefruit soda on the porch.

Perhaps most notable has been the never-ending developments in my quest for a summer job, more appropriately referred to as Tori finally figured out what she wants to do with her life and, dare I say it, has a decent idea of what that means in terms of a career.

As frightening as each step in this process has been and undoubtedly still will be, it has been a lot of fun (…a word I never previously dared to associate with a job search)

Opposite of a cooking disaster.

I can’t even begin to explain all that’s happening other than to say its a lot, I never could have mapped a network this big, and it is so not over.  I still am not quite sure what’s going to happen this summer, but, bit by bit, it really is all coming together.

One of the first couple weeks of the semester, we started praying about jobs at Wellspring.  I was already well on my way down this crazy, exciting path with big dreams and a direction, but up to that point it wasn’t really going anywhere specific.

It’s been unbelievable watching opportunities that seemed so great completely fall apart (and my desire for them).

Reading on the hill.

Whereas, new opportunities, ones that wouldn’t have even caught my attention a year ago but are now all I want, are coming out of nowhere.

I know people that spent the break in Florida, Jamaica, Mexico, California, Hong Kong, Europe, and the Middle East.  Bet none of them have had a break as fulfilling as mine–right here in Middletown, Connecticut.

-best spring break ever-

I am my mother

Minus the clear complexion and cooking capabilities.

Inspired by the infamous CSS paper-return let down (that ugly moment when you realize you didn’t quite pull it off last week), I baked a cake.  Or rather, I went to Wesshop for the 3rd time today, because I was craving chocolate and decided to bake a cake.

Now, you know this project was destined to fail when I bought the mix thinking to myself “I’ve never seen a cake baked in a pan like the one I have, but if you can cook an egg in the microwave, this has gotta work.”

Rest assured,  the young adult demographic is still out there to prove that, just maybe, we could learn something from Heloise’s hints.  (sorry, inside joke for my mother.)

Imagine my excitement when I came home to find that I actually do have cake pans.  This was a significant realization.  I have a couple casserole-like dishes, a spatula, a cooking spoon, and dishes for three.  Notice missing kitchen basics (pots, skillets, etc).

I had all the ingredients too.  I thought I was home free.

But, of course, the moment I put it in the oven, failure started creeping my way again.  I didn’t set the timer again, so, it burned (just a little).  I peeled off the black parts and figured it would be okay.

I felt like such a homemaker when I set the loaves on the edge of my counter by the open window, where the chocolate scent wifted by the students walking home in the street.

Let’s call that the height of my triumph.

After letting it sit for some time (geez at least 20 minutes), I got bored with 20th century family dynamics in Vietnam and put my reading down.  Given that the cake was sitting under a cold window, it had to be ready by now.

The edge of the plates were cold to the touch, but it was still radiating substantial heat in the middle under the plates.  Again, I thought to myself…”It’s cool enough that the frosting won’t melt.  Why else would you actually need to wait until to frost it?”

So, with Heloise scoffing at me in the background, I frosted it (with bad prepackaged frosting no less), and I learned why you wait.

The poor thing crumbles apart if it’s not cool.


So, in summary, what did I learn?

1) Mom baking when she’s angry is a good habit to mimic.

2) Mom’s patience when she’s baking is also a good habit to mimic.

3) Making chocolate-something, instead of just eating chocolate-something will give me time to cool off, which consequentely leads to a drastically lower calorie intake.  That’s a good thing too 😉

“Four Queso,” she said.

Despite receiving very good instruction in my language class here about the best way to order food in different types of settings (for example, sandwich place vs. nice sit-down), I often bail on complete phrases by smiling and just saying the name of the food I want.*

…but at least I always order it in Spanish.  Veronica made our waiter crack a visible smile with her “four queso” pizza tonight, but then again, we laughed too.      #OriginalSplanglish

The food was bad, oh so bad.

*Important clarification: This does not mean I do not push/challenge myself.  It just means I don’t have to say or do anything for people to figure I’m out American, and in some settings, I acknowledge that, and to prevent embarrassment, because a lot of people are listening or something, I don’t test one of the new phrases I’ve learned to order food.

No foodie here.

Never in my life have I felt like I had to throw up twice in one meal before tonight.  The program pays for occasional fancy dinners (legit 4 star fancy).  Now, I’m not really the steak and lobster type, but, hey, if I have 6 forks in front of me I know which one to use.   Unfortunately,  I didn’t get to show off my utensils selection skills tonight.  Instead, I showed my wild inaptitude and dis-appreciation for the so-called “finer” foods in life.

It started as an unassuming meal.  The table was set with your typical white linens, wine and water glasses, and artsy appetizer and bread plates.  I was impressed by the hot, crispy wheat bread, but unfortunately, I do believe that might have been the best food I ate all night.

The first appetizer was some kind of vegetable toast with something that looked like shiny, flat bacon.  Think of what bacon would look like if it were made of liquorice.   It was probably ham.   The bread it was on had a flavor I couldn’t identify.  As a whole, the dish tasted a little bit like Thanksgiving.  It really wasn’t that bad, just new.

I had no idea what to make of the next dish.  In all of my years of rubber chicken dinners and the like, I’ve never been served a palate cleansing dish before.  I did have the sense to turn to my friend who was a bit more familiar with gourmet food and asked how to eat it.  Apparently it was basil leaves, some kind of cheese, other items I couldn’t identify, and mint ice cream.  I put a small bit on my plate like everybody else, (who by the way thoroughly enjoyed it.)  I took a petite bite, and involuntarily crinkled my nose.  After the second bite, I started crying from the taste and rolling stomach pain.  I traded plates with a friend so I wouldn’t have to smell it, because the scent started making me nauseous.

Appetizer two was some kind of orange potato dish with cheese, paprika, bread crumbs, and a scallop.  It was thoroughly edible, although after commenting that I liked it, I got to thinking.  If I was eating it anyplace else at any other time, I wouldn’t finish it.  It was just good in comparison.

The main dish started with promise, but ended in failure.  It was pork, although it looked a lot like steak. Other than being way too salty, the meat was good.  I was excited when I saw potatoes that looked like potatoes, but they didn’t taste good.  I asked my friend what the flavor on them was and he said it was probably made with duck fat, like all good potatoes.  There was also an applesauce with the meat.

Dessert looked like mashed up chocolate cake with dulce de leche in the shape of seashells.  It tasted fine, but it was quite rich, and by dessert my stomach couldn’t quite take anymore.

The worst part of all of this, everyone else was calling it the best/one of the best meals they’d ever eaten.  I know I don’t have particularly refined taste buds (this is obvious if you know me), but I do appreciate a savory, elegant meal and the many forms it can come in.  This one just didn’t do it for me.  My evening at the restaurant concluded with a stomach clutching, not-so-elegant sprint to the ladies room.

Quick Madlib: _______ (adj) Culinary Catastrophe

A few of unflavorful words could be used to describe my dinner tonight.  There really was nothing savory about it.  An onlooker might call it inedible, under cooked, or quite simply just gross.  I prefer the adjective “distracted.”  I think that’s what I’ll call my cooking style from now on, because it is that bad.  However, it is only “distracted” and not “forlorn,” because I have not let go of the hope that I will one day be able to prepare a perfectly delicious meal.

Tonight was definitely a new low though.  It was epically inedible.  I have really gotten to the point that I must really, really try to find amusement in my lack of culinary skill (I’m trying to smile, because the alternative is to get frustrated and that doesn’t do any good).  How bad is it that I am almost 21, and I messed up spaghetti?  I literally had to throw it out.  A few ladies in the kitchen got a real kick out of my dumping my dinner in the trash, but hey, at least they were polite enough to keep straight faces until I brought it up. 😉

undercooked spaghetti, freezer burned hamburger, microwaved vegetables, and leftover McDonald's smoothie

I think I’m so bad at cooking just because, right now, food is such a low priority for me.  I find it boring.  I’m also only cooking for myself and as long as it is as healthy as I can make it and fills my stomach, it doesn’t seem worth the effort to spend any considerable time/energy/money on cooking something exceptionally appealing.  I guess I’ve pushed that button as far it can go, because tonight’s meal really failed on the “fills my stomach” part.  I mean, seriously, I had the sauce on the pasta before I realized it was still crunchy.  In my defense though, I had good reason to be distracted tonight.  The kitchen is the hottest part of my un-air conditioned home.

I promise the day will come when I will be able to cook a good meal.   Someday, I’ll cook and all the dishes will be hot and ready at the same time, and yes mother, some bright day I will bring the corn cake to all the funerals and church carry-ins.  I look forward to the time when I don’t have to call you three times to figure out how to get the pasta jar open (with dad laughing in the background) or ask how I can tell if something has been in the fridge too long.  I desperately hope that my future husband will be willing and able to share in cooking responsibilities with me, but there will be a day where I will be able to prepare something delicious for my own family and do it on a regular basis.  And after I do all that, I’ll learn how to make a dessert besides dump cake or boxed brownies.

So all this is really just to say, I’m not giving up, but I still got a long way to go.