Tag Archives: humor

Warning: Don’t Talk to The Chef

29 Dec

My favorite muffin recipe lends itself quite easily to experimentation, which is why it has long been my most oft-used recipe.  I frequently mix and match ingredients, making spontaneous changes to the fruit and nut properties.

While originally calling for zucchini and pineapple with raisins, the recipe has also worked with various combinations of bananas, peaches, carrots, applesauce, strawberries, raspberries, pears, and orange juice.  Sometimes, leftover peanut butter, sunflower seeds or wheat bran have been involved.

In spite of all my baking whims, the only time the recipe didn’t turn out well is the time I had altogether forgotten two crucial ingredients… fruit and flour.

Without flour, the end result was more of a brittle than a bread.

What can I say?

I was distracted…very distracted, and not for the first time.

I am a good cook, but I am not a good multi-tasker. I am not able to divide my attention that way.  In fact, I recently hung a small sign over the stove-top reminding my family members not to speak to me (and most especially not to ask me any questions) while I am cooking.  My high susceptibility to distraction has led to various kitchen calamities and this warning must be heeded, for the protection of innocent foods.

The ever-changing muffins are frustrating for one of my boys.  He doesn’t share my appreciation for the element of surprise, at least when it comes to baked goods.  He likes a muffin to taste the way he expects it to taste.  I know this, but I can’t stop playing with the recipe, so it’s almost never what he expects.  The poor kid has to live with disappointment, batch after batch.

I almost accommodated him this week.  I was sticking to my basic banana bread formula, the one he likes.  Suddenly, I was overcome with a strong desire to add plump, frozen blueberries; I succumbed once again to the sweet temptation of recipe tampering.

As I folded in a big gob of the half-thawed berries, the blueberry juice seemed rather…aggressive.  I added another banana to try to balance the color of the batter.  No change.

The batter was such a solid, deep blue-green, I honestly feared that these banana-blueberry babies would come out looking like they had been baked from Play-doh. Worse yet, no one had distracted me, so it would be exclusively my fault.  Uh oh.

To my relief, the muffins came out a perfectly normal color, and were quite delicious, if a little flat on top.

One of these days, I might try adding pumpkin, or lemon, or dried cherries and chocolate…and I’m sure the muffins will be delicious, as long as nobody talks to me while I make them.

Kitchen Sync

1 Dec

I tried to save energy and water.

Honestly, I gave it my all.  But I’m through with that philosophy — at least when it comes to the dishwasher.

For years, I ran the dishwasher only when it was completely full.  I had high standards.  My standards were not as high as say, the super-competitive guys loading the dishwasher in the film Rachel Getting Married, but there were principles involved.  Principles!!

My high standards didn’t pay off. Some water and energy may have been saved, but our kitchen was a freaking disaster.  Every day.

The timing was always wrong.  The additional hours it would sometimes take to get those few extra dishes to fill the machine would knock our entire kitchen out of sync.

The dishwasher would invariably need to be run when it was time for a load of laundry or someone’s shower.  This may not sound like a big problem, but we live in a rented house with questionable plumbing and a crookedly installed dinosaur of a dishwasher.  If we run large quantities of water through the pipes all at once, the dishwasher can’t drain properly, and it leaves a puddle of dirty dishwater on the floor.

It took me a while to figure out why this didn’t happen every time I ran the dishwasher.  Someone even came out to “fix” the leak.  He took one look at the geriatric machine and said, “Aw, come on!”

He did his best; he studied it and changed a seal, but the periodic leaks continued, and I realized it was the plumbing.  If I time the cycle well, it won’t leak.

So, besides waiting for fullness, I had to wait to run the dishwasher until after the shower, or the laundry.  We would run out of clean spoons, cups, bowls and other crucial items.  The used dishes would pile up in the sink, on the counters, and even on the stove (!) before I could get the machine run and emptied.

Sometimes, if the boys couldn’t find an open space for their dishes on the counter, there would be plates ever-so-precariously balanced on the tops of glassware — eek!

Plus, it looked like I never cleaned the kitchen at all.  There used to be five of us in the house, and though we’re down to just four now, we’ve got growing boys, and that means constant eating and constant accumulation of dishes.

Maybe someday I’ll have one of those cool new dishwashers with separate small “drawers” that you can run individually for small loads, or even just a newer, more efficient machine.  Renters can’t be choosers; they can only be practical.

I decided to trade my standard of a full dishwasher for the standard of a clean kitchen.

Now I run the dishwasher once a day. I run it when the time is right, even if it is only mostly full.

Such a simple change, but what an effect.  The sink is empty, the counters are clear, I have space to cook, and there are dishes in the cupboards when we need them. 

I would have given up my high standards sooner, if I had known it would be this much easier.

A Tale of Two Measurements

25 Sep

I have a small machine designed to make frozen desserts.  I enjoy using this fine appliance, but I do occasionally encounter some problems.  I must admit that each difficulty has been what my father would call An Operator Problem, rather than a problem with the appliance itself.

The most common Operator Problem occurs when The Operator forgets to store the freezer bowl in the freezer overnight before using the machine.

Not frozen.

In case you are unfamiliar with the idea, a freezer bowl is a container into which one pours a liquid mixture, so that while churning, it may freeze.

Surprisingly, in my boundless enthusiasm for the production and consumption of chilled desserts, I have forgotten this crucial step on more than one occasion…okay, three times.

In other words, I’m a slow learner, and rather easily distracted.  To the amusement of my family, I have mindlessly switched on the machine, set a timer, and returned after thirty minutes–to an embarrassing realization, and a bowl full of liquid.

Not today.  Today…something else happened.

To be honest, today was the third day I had planned to make strawberry ice cream.

On Day One, the children had already gobbled up most of the strawberries…and the freezer bowl wasn’t frozen.  No go.

On Day Two, the strawberries were in full supply, and the bowl was actually frozen! Conditions seemed to be in my favor.  Unfortunately, I had neglected to read the recipe fully.  The strawberries would require an additional two hours to “macerate” ahead of time, before being added to the mix in the last five minutes.  No time.

Today, I carefully allotted time in my busy day to prepare the strawberries, and macerate them for two hours.  This “maceration” business was new to me, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, and as I guessed, it is just a fancy term meaning that my strawberries would get soft and come apart easily from soaking in sugar and lemon juice for a long time.  No problem.

Day Three took a wrong turn when I added the macerated strawberries–as directed– to the semi-solid ice cream base, for the last five minutes of the freezing process.  At this point, the ice cream quickly lost its frozen texture… and continued to gradually increase in volume.  I became suspicious.

You can probably guess where this story is headed.

Initially, the pale pink ooze was just around the top edges.  When it began slowly dripping down the sides, my suspicion turned to concern, but I remained cautiously optimistic.  The drips seemed to freeze against the side of the bowl.  There were only a few moments left on the timer.  It would be fine.

After less than four minutes, The Operator turned off the machine, conceding that melted ice cream dripping inside the motorized base might result in the demise of a useful appliance, not to mention a tragic waste of ice cream.

Today would have been an excellent day for detailed photographic documentation, but I was a teensy bit busy, and I didn’t want my camera to get sticky.

In the end, the machine was saved from Mount St. Strawberry, the dessert was stored safely in the freezer, and The  Operator was left to wonder how she ended up with too much ice cream.

Conclusion:  A conversion problem.

I am certain the milk, cream and minor ingredients were measured correctly.

The strawberry requirement, on the other hand, read as: a pint of strawberries, stemmed and sliced.  My strawberry container said 16 oz, which translates to two cups, and two cups is a pint.  However, the amount of strawberries in the container will not fit into a two cup measurement…and whether I slice before or after measurement, a pound of strawberries is not a pint of strawberries.  Of course, I didn’t measure at all, since I read the 16 oz label and decided it was what I needed, without considering the relationship between weight and volume.  Oops.

I actually minored in math, believe it or not– but I never did like conversions!

All’s well that ends well.  The ice cream has a lovely strawberries-and-cream flavor, and as an added bonus, I can now spell the word macerate, and use it in a sentence.

Wall of Irrelevant Text (Less is More: Part Three)

9 Aug

Today’s topic is journalistic minimalism.  (I’m for it.)

I just clicked on an article (from Yahoo/New York Times) about a person who did something pretty interesting.  At least, that’s what I thought I clicked on.

What I found were two or three paragraphs on the interesting person, followed by 35 to 40 more paragraphs on a bunch of stuff I didn’t care about at all.

Moments of my life seeped away, as I scrolled and skimmed.

There were quotes and references from:

  • financial analysts
  • psychologists
  • professors, associate professors, and scholars
  • economic advisers
  • consulting groups
  • warehouse store spokespeople
  • industry professionals
  • retailers
  • researchers
  • magazine articles
  • more psychologists, more professors, and more analysts
  • a film maker
  • and… my personal favorite irrelevant commenter… a “home entertainment adviser”.

My scrolling paid off.  The end of the article returned briefly to the interesting person, with a link to her blog.

If you are interested:  Tammy Strobel is the interesting person, what she did was downsize her life to the extreme, and her blog is called rowdykittens.com.  I like her blog.  It has a lot to do with simplicity, and I’m all for that.

All I needed were the two or three paragraphs that were actually about her, and the blog link.  So why did I need to scroll through an endless stream of quotes and tangentially related information?

Sorry, Yahoo/New York Times…I’m not interested in what a warehouse store spokesperson, a consulting group, or a home entertainment adviser have to say about…well, about anything.