Saturday, January 27, 2007

Firehouse chili, and other cooking disasters

Part of the reason for this blog is to make playing with food accessible, and I realized that I might have given the impression that I know all about food and cooking. You might say- oh it's easy for her to experiment, she is an experienced cook, that will never work for me. First of all, I try to learn all the time - that is the main reason I started this blog. It helps me to share my ideas and experience... and allows me to benefit from the ideas and experience of all of you. While there are some natural cooks, most of us have to practice, practice, practice. And the results of those practice sessions are not pretty.

In my case, much of my earlier experimentation was done in my teens. I had a working mom and three younger brothers, and so I started by cooking dinners, looking through cookbooks and picking things to make that I thought they would eat but often my experiments did not always work out. During those years, I learned that combining a lot of biscuits into one large biscuit for hamburger stroganoff did not work (hard to believe, but I tried this), and that Pyrex could not be used to heat milk, even briefly, on top of the stove( I am lucky that I wasn't picking glass out of my face for a week).

As a young wife I was anxious to demonstrate my domestic skills to my new husband. I was so excited to make my first bread, following the recipe and what I had seen my Grandmother McKinney (she was a great bread baker!) do. I mixed, I kneaded, I rested , I rose, I baked. The finished product smelled heavenly and yeasty. It was perfectly browned and looked just like a magazine picture. I could hardly wait to serve it. I sliced it, slathered it with butter, and...It was like a brick... and about as tasty!

Even after years of practice, there were still some interesting dishes. One of my favorites was when we lived at our house in Hilton Village. I made a new recipe for a Firehouse Chili, that you made in the oven. I was so excited, since the recipe sounded really great and as it started cooking the house smelled great... for awhile. Then we started to smell something that smelled like burning rubber. Smoke was coming out of the oven!! When I looked inside, the top heating element was arcing!! We called the fire station and told them what was happening, that it was contained (it was working its way around the entire element) but we thought we should let them know. We began to hear sirens getting closer and closer, and then two fire trucks pulled up and three firemen were in our kitchen. The most danger anyone was that they would bust a gut when I told them what I was cooking in the oven.

Just like in science, when you experiment with food, the result might not be what you had hoped. Such was the case when I made a recipe for Cauliflower soup that my sister-in-law had raved about. Truly, when we tasted it we wondered if this had been her idea of a joke. It was awful!

So don't be dejected if things don't always turn out the way you want. Cooking is like life that way. The best laid plans... And when those plans don't turn out, at least you can have a good laugh!

2 comments:

.:[G]:. said...

I love your blog! I experiment all the time. My favorite way is to pour through antique cookbooks (library) until I find one of those old school recipes that's just waaaay too far from vegetarian these days. My favorite so far is candied bacon. I kid you not. I made it and took it to a party and everyone wass rolling their eyes and making fun of me and when I wasn't looking (they really ought to be smart enough to realize I was standing in front of a sliding glass door) they'd eat it by the handful. It's delicious.

Tracy Simpson said...

I am an experimenter/inventor myself. Although my recipes are vegetarian. I especially like to play around with meat substitutes like quorn. I have a collection of cookbooks from Betty Crocker to Jaque Pepin. I love the philosophy of your blog. Food really should be fun.