Cooking Adventures with my Mom


If you read the previous post about my mom and her cooking skills, you'll know that she is famous for burning well...everything.

As a kid, I honestly thought that most food came burnt. I didn't realize that it had everything to do with cooking skills....which my mom was obviously lacking. Before I share a burnt food story, I'll share a meal my mom liked making but my dad and I could not stand.

She told me that my grandfather used to eat this meal when he was a kid. It was simple...carrots and potatoes cut up into bite size pieces and ground beef, all cooked on the stove. Which doesn't sound horrible until you add the 'gravy'. Basically it was just flour and water mixed together and heated up with the vegetables. Can you imagine how gross that is?

I was a teenager before I realized that it was a meal made from what was on hand during the Depression. And while it was probably a great meal during that time, warm, somewhat hearty and completely lacked all flavor and taste. So, not once in the 40 some years of making this meal did anyone think that it could possibly be spiced up. Beef broth, real gravy, a bay leaf, oregano, garlic, someone in the spice or condiment family could have completely saved this meal. But no one did.

And now for the burnt food stories. I was about 5 or 6 years old at a family friends cookout with my parents. Hamburgers and hot dogs were on the grill and when they were done, someone served me a hot dog. I asked my mom why mine wasn't cooked. When she asked what I was talking about, I explained that her hot dogs were black all over and tasted like chalk on the outside and hot dog on the inside. Of course everyone that overheard my description was laughing. My dad explained that my mom liked her hot dogs much darker than most people. It was then that I realized my mom had some cooking issues.

Grilled Cheese. Its a simple and fast food that kids love. Well, I never really loved it because my grilled cheese was always burnt and crispy. I used to think that there was something wrong with our stove and that was the reason why a grilled cheese would go from white to black in a matter of minutes. Finally, tired of eating charcoaled bread, I stopped asking for grilled cheese. Would you believe that I was 23 before I finally had a real non-burnt cooked on the stove grilled cheese? My fiance made it for me. And for what its worth, I can make my own grilled cheese on the stove without burning it.

The toaster oven was another real issue for my mom. As a kid I used to think that it had two settings, white and burnt, because everything that went into it started off white and came out burnt. Obviously, it was my mom, not the toaster oven. Okay, honestly thats not completely fair to say. I think I was 16 or 17 before we finally got a toaster oven that wouldn't instantly burn your food. But still, you would think that if you knew you had a device that burned food, you would watch what you put in it very, very closely to avoid eating burnt food.

Nope, not my mom. Here's where we bring up the goldfish memory again. I swear to you, my mom will put something into the toaster oven and then go sit down on the couch and completely forget she was cooking anything. She also can completely manage to ignore burning smells until the toaster oven is filled with smoke and the food is usually on fire and the smoke alarm is going off begging to be put into a house with people that know how to cook. For the life of me, I can not figure out how this is possible. No one would believe me when I would tell them this either. Then, my fiance saw it first hand. He was in the dining room and watched her put a slice of pizza into the toaster oven to heat up and go sit on the couch. A few minutes later, he smelled the cheese bubbling and figured it was done. My mom never moved. Now the couch is approximately 5 feet from the toaster oven. Then the cheese smelled burnt and my mom still didn't move. 3 or 4 minutes later, my mom finally gets up from the couch and goes to check on her pizza. Its been in the toaster oven for 9 or 10 minutes now and was completely burnt. And you know what she does? She starts complaining about how crappy the toaster oven is.

There were a few more times where my fiance saw my mother do this and managed to save the food for her. Honestly, I think he was just being too nice and should have let it burn since thats how she likes most of her food anyway.

And now because that story reminded me, I'll tell you about what my fiance did. We were at my mom's house and decided to make something with chicken. The kitchen is small, honestly its the fridge, a small amount of counter space, the sink, another small amount of counter space, the stove and then a window. Facing the window we had a small storage area with more counter space. I'm standing at the small counter space with my back to the window, doing something while Tom is cooking the chicken. On the wall I can see some pretty colors and shapes and since its a few days after the 4th of July, I figured my neighbors were setting off fireworks outside the window and I was seeing the reflection. So, I thought "ooo pretty fireworks." I can't remember what Tom said, or if he even said anything at all, but I turned around and the chicken is on fire. Not like the actual chicken breast is on fire, but the entire pan has 4-5 foot flames coming off of it. Before I can react, think, talk, just about anything, he moves the pan down by his side so the flames aren't reaching the ceiling and coming precariously close to the curtains on the window anymore. My brain started to register to get him to move so I could open the window or the door to throw the flaming pan outside but I couldn't react fast enough. By the time my brian had started to work and think of solutions, the chicken had de-flamed itself and was now just sizzling nicely in the pan.

Of course, Tom felt pretty bad about damn near setting our kitchen on fire but since I've dealt with so much with my mom it didn't even register as a blip on my "hmm this could be an issue' radar. And would you believe that the chicken wasn't actually burnt? I think what happened is the olive oil he was cooking it in jumped out of the pan onto the flame and lit up the entire pan but once he took it off the heat, the fire just contained itself to the pan. Who knows.

And honestly, he reacted way better than I did the first time something was on fire in the kitchen. I was about 16 and my mom and then boyfriend were in the living room. Somehow a tea towel got too close to the flame and caught on fire. I didn't realize it until I pulled the towel away and it was flaming. Instead of tossing it into the sink which was mere centimeters away, I did the smartest thing I could think of while holding a flaming towel. I screamed. And since that I didn't put the fire out, I screamed again. Not actual words, just "AHHHHHHHH". After about 3 screams the boyfriend ran in, grabbed the towel out of my hand and threw it into the sink and turned the water on. I just stood there dumb founded for a few minutes until I realized what happened.

So yeah, even those of us who can typically cook have some really dumb moments in the kitchen. :-)

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