Cooking Disasters with Candace Neal
By Candace Neal
For The Salisbury Post
Nanny’s macaroni and cheese was all I really cared about as a child, aside from the other 8-year old affinities: Barbies, glittering indigo jelly sandals, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
A 30-minute trek to the grandparents’ country bumpkin getaway always brought with it an unmatched anticipation for those buttery noodles stacked deep in a piping vat of cheese goo. It was brilliant, that macaroni and cheese.
My mother’s culinary concoctions are no less impressive. From her fluffy marshmallow-blanketed sweet potato casserole to her triangle tuna-and-egg salad sandwiches for school lunch (sometimes accompanied by a napkin adorned in hand-drawn smiley faces and “I Love You’s”), Mama Neal excels at a wide spectrum of cookery.
Even Dad has been known to whip up a mean grilled cheese, whose match remains to be seen.
Surely this family tree with its many branches of master cooks should secure my spot in culinary heaven. My palate should be refined. I should be able to eyeball measurements of spices without a moment’s hesitation. Culinary insights should be swimming through my veins. I should be the next Paula Deen with my maternal inheritance of chefdom, right?
I’m currently in search of the hapless blip in my genetic makeup that has doomed me to a life of burnt brownies and starving offspring.
You see, when I moved into my first apartment as a junior in college, I came face to face with my unyielding tragic flaw: The Kitchen.
It began with minor disasters ó slightly overcooking the chicken, blackening the toast ó and quickly manifested into utter catastrophes: shattered blenders, convection ovens ablaze with fire.
In upwards of three years, I have managed to mold my life into something mildly reminiscent of the “I Love Lucy” show.
I am Lucille Ball and the kitchen, my tyrannical chocolate candy assembly line.
My stories, purely traumatic and humiliating at the time of their occurrence, have now become laughable topics of conversation among friends. In publicly recounting a few of these horrific tales, I hope to obviate your collegiate offspring’s future food-related mishaps.
Cooking Disaster 1: Banana Nut Something-or-Other
In college, midnight is when the night begins. 1 a.m. marks the cracking open of books to begin homework, and 1:30 a.m. warrants a well-deserved break. Such was the case for me, nightly.
One evening in particular came with a sudden nocturnal impulse to make banana bread from the bananas sitting atop our fridge. I haphazardly Googled a simple recipe and promptly began tossing the necessary ingredients into a mixing bowl.
It was only after I mixed in everything else that I realized we were fresh out of the prime essential: flour.
Not even I, night owl of the world, felt like making the 15-minute trek to Wal-Mart. Instead, I decided to do what any brilliant former Odyssey of the Mind member would do; I implemented a faultless plan of substitution.
“What’s a lot like flour?” I asked myself.
I opened the cabinet and there it was, glowing brightly amongst dusty bags of uncooked pasta and half-used containers of cooking oil: Bisquick.
Alas, it is too painful for me to discuss the results of my first ever banana “bread.”
Let me just say, never replace flour with Bisquick, no matter how late in the evening it is. Cooking Disaster 2: Pumpkin Soup With Fresh Parmesan and Shards of Glass
I am a pumpkin fiend. Naturally, when I stumbled upon a recipe for pumpkin soup, I had to give it a shot. How hard could it be? Measure out the ingredients. Toss them in the blender. Bada bing bada boom.
The catch is, you must properly know how to operate a blender. Aside from a smoothie here and there, the blender was more or less untouched territory in our kitchen. Our blender, like most, came with a lid that harbored a second inner removable lid nestled right in the center. I poured in my concoction and capped the blender. As I pressed the magic button, I decided to apply firm pressure to the lid so as to prevent any explosive action.Promptly, my firm pressure forced the inner lid into the whirling soup, causing the exact explosive action I was trying to ward off. Picture flying glass shards, cabinets spattered in orange, pumpkin-laden countertops and me, screaming. Cooking Disaster 3: Slow Cooker Tar
The 2 percent chance of icy precipitation in winter months always put me in “Snow Day” mode. In my four years at Catawba College, we never officially received a snow day. But, I can safely say that I had around three self-proclaimed snow days.
One such a Snow Day eve, I decided to whip out the crockpot my mother had so sweetly/ foolishly bestowed upon me to create a wintry heart-warming meal. I mistakenly told myself that the “slow” in “slow cooker” meant, “really, painstakingly, outrageously slow.”
I tossed in my ingredients and left that slow cooker on for, oh, 16 or 17 hours. The result? Inedible blackened chicken with the consistency of a brick.Every day, I am working to correct and improve upon my cooking skills or lack thereof. It is a long and arduous road to Rachael Ray status; but, I’m managing.
In the interest of all my kitchen-handicapped comrades, I would like to close with a newfound recipe that even I couldn’t mess up. Delicious, healthy, simple and cheap. Give it a go.
Easy Pumpkin Cookies
1 box spice cake mix
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
Mix together and drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for around 10 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool. Makes 48 cookies.
From DeeDee’s Weight Watcher Recipes www. angelfire.com/me/kyoddie/ diets2.html
Candace Neal is a recent graduate of Catawba College.
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