My family does not trust me in the kitchen. Even the dog. Mrs. Pain in the Butt, our golden retriever, paces and pants every time I turn the stove on – just because I happened to set off the smoke alarm a few years ago while I was cooking. My husband is just as bad. Since I had never operated a gas stove before we moved into this house, he is convinced that I am going to blow us all up. This paranoia stemmed from the fact that, the first night we moved into the house, I placed a box on the counter next to the stove, inadvertently turning one of the dials ever so slightly. We woke up in the middle of the night to the distinct smell of gas. I try to tell him, “But I wasn’t even cooking when I almost killed us!” He does not find that reassuring.
The only family member that meets my rare trips to the kitchen with delight and anticipation is our bulldog, Wonderbutt. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he steadfastly clenches to the belief that I am going to give him food scraps while I am foraging for a Diet Coke.
And our daughter? Here is how confident she is about my kitchen skills:
My husband, who usually prepares breakfast in the morning, had to leave early one day, and reluctantly left it up to me. My daily breakfast is cereal, but my daughter is used to gourmet meals made to order by Cap’n Firepants. That morning, at 6:20, I went to wake her up.
“Hey, sweetie. Time to get up.”
“Umm. Daddy had to go to work early, so it’s just me today.”
“What would you like for breakfast?”
Silence. Then a hesitant, ”You know how to make waffles, don’t you?”
“Well, I probably could. I think it has a recipe on the side of the box. But I think I would need to use the mixer (don’t I?), and that would take a lot of time. Plus, you know I’m not good at doing multi-step tasks early in the morning.”
She sat up, and looked at me.
“You. Just. Put. Them in the. Toaster,” she said slowly.
“Oh! Those kind of waffles! Sure, I can do that!” I said with great confidence.
“Okay,” she said, looking at me doubtfully.
“I can!” I said.
I marched to the kitchen to prove my point, thinking, “Geez, why can’t she just have a darn Pop Tart like every other kid in America?”
Oh yeah, because we don’t have Pop Tarts.
Another thing no one trusts me to do – the grocery shopping.
My husband was sorting through his 83-year-old mother’s bills yesterday, and suddenly said, “Hmm. This is sad.”
“Well, this is a bill from Southern Living Magazine, and it lists all of the gift subscriptions Mom has given to other people. A lot of people. Everyone on the list is dead.”
“Wow, that is sad.”
He started reading the list out loud, and then paused.
“Oh, except you of course.”
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Southern Living is plotting to kill me.
It could mean that his mom is out to get me, instead.
After 43 years, I realized that my refusal to garden and my near boycott of cooking have absolutely nothing to do with my gross inability to perform these tasks. It’s because I like to be efficiently productive, and neither of these chores fits my requirements.
Basically, according to my calculations, Work Worthy of Me needs to fit the following formula: time spent working<time spent enjoying.
Now, I think you can see where this is going.
Let’s start with cooking.
I do not understand the need to slave in the hot kitchen for two hours to create a food item, or even a meal, that people will spend 45 minutes, tops, on appreciating. (Except for my daughter, who drags out every meal for two hours. Even then, though, the formula does not work. Because time spent working must be LESS THAN time spent enjoying. Not LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO. Even though I was going to put that, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that with my keyboard. Oops, I just figured it out. ≤ Too Late.)
Now, the gardening thing is a bit trickier. Let’s take annuals first. First of all, this a dumb categorization. Annual means “once a year” – implying that it happens repeatedly. For example, I have to annually ask Cap’n Firepants if annuals are the ones that keep coming up or the ones you have to replant.
So, let’s say you take an hour to plant some annuals that will last about three weeks. Technically, that would seem to fall nicely into my formula. But, here’s the problem. Of those three weeks, I will probably spend 1 minute/day noticing how pretty those annuals are. Hmm. So multiply by 21, carry the 3, subtract the 50, and – wow, that’s a whole 21 minutes I spent enjoying those flowers. Trigger big ole annoying buzzer sound here. Annuals – you’re outta here.
Perennials don’t work either. It would take nearly 3 years of repeating themselves for three weeks a year to earn their Time Spent Enjoying Minutes. And nothing lives 3 years in our yard. Between armadillos, Texas droughts, and a bulldog named Wonderbutt who tramples anything in his path, cacti are about the only thing that are sturdy enough to withstand nature and the Firepants Family. And I do not enjoy cacti. So, there’s that.
In conclusion, it is fortunate that I married Cap’n Firepants. Because he does not like math, and can both cook and garden. So, I should probably revise my formula a bit.
time I spent working < time I spent enjoying
time Cap’n Firepants spent working = time I spend enjoying
Cap’n Firepants + Mrs. Cap’n Firepants = A well-fed couple with a beautiful yard and a perfectly calculated annual tax return
We’re perfect for each other.
I don’t know how I missed this, but there is apparently one reality show I should have applied for last year.
Frankly, I am shocked that the casting directors did not come and hunt me down for this one.
If there is anything I excel at, it’s this: Worst Cooks in America.
I read about it in the paper, and was immediately insulted that I had not been chosen for this series. I raced to the computer to look up the website to find out more about the participants. As I scanned the members of the teams, I became pretty confident that you couldn’t find a better worst cook than me. Except for the lady who put her husband in the hospital with food poisoning. She might give me some competition. On the other hand, the only reason I haven’t added that misfortune to my resume could be because I have a smarter husband.
When I met my future husband, Cap’n Firepants, I was living off Ramen Noodle and Diet Coke. I was a little intimidated by the fact that his mother was a nutritionist. And, in the elder Firepants household, meals were a big deal. BIG, BIG Deal. Like slave half the morning in the kitchen over making lunch, then half the afternoon in the kitchen cleaning up lunch, then the other half of the afternoon making dinner, then the – well, you see where this is going.
I consoled myself with the knowledge that, at least the Cap’n knew how to cook.
I did try when we got married. Got lots of recipe books, mostly bestowed upon me by in-laws. Got subscriptions to Taste of Home and Southern Living – also, now that I think about it, gifted to me by the in-laws. Hmm. How did I not pick up on those subtle hints?
The true testament to my ineptitude in the kitchen was initiated by an incident in which I decided to pre-heat the oven, not realizing that something had dripped on the bottom during my last use. Apparently, a lot of something. I turned the dial, and left the room. Minutes later, the smoke alarm went off. I ran into the kitchen, and there was smoke everywhere. Our Golden Retriever, Mrs. P.I.B., who was only a year or two old, freaked out, racing around the room frantically panting while I shut off the oven, opened doors and windows, and grabbed a broom to beat the smoke away from the smoke alarm.
Yep, I hadn’t even started cooking anything that evening, technically, and still managed to almost kill us.
Here’s the kicker, though. From then on, anytime I turned on a burner or the oven in the kitchen, Mrs. P.I.B. would back out of the room, tail between her legs, and hysterically pace near the front door the entire time I occupied the kitchen.
You know you’re a bad cook when even your dog won’t come in the kitchen if you’re anywhere near the stove.