Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)
TITLE: Kiss the Cook
By Kristen Hester
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I held my grocery list in my left hand and tried not to be distracted by my sparkling diamond ring. I wanted to do a good job and make Jake proud. He had teased me before our marriage about not being domestic, and I’d playfully feigned offense. Then I’d called my mother in a panic over his joke.
"Mom, Jake says I’m not very domestic and it’s true," I whined. I did what any daughter does when discussing her deficiencies with her mom: I established blame. "You did everything for us and you never taught me how to cook."
"It’s true, I spoiled you," My mother said with resignation in her voice. "But, relax. If you can read, you can cook."
Her words calmed me, but only temporarily. A few days later I told my mother-in-law about all the cookbooks I’d received as wedding presents. "I don’t have much cooking experience, but I’ve received many wonderful cookbooks. I’ll be fine. After all, I can read," I said, trying to reassure her that her son wouldn’t starve.
"If you can cook, you don’t need to read," she said in her usual matter-of-fact manner.
The conversation with my mother-in-law replayed in my mind as I filled my cart with the items for my first home-cooked, married meal. I was determined to prove my husband and mother-in-law wrong by preparing an exquisite dinner. How hard could it be? I’d browsed my numerous cookbooks, searching for the perfect recipe. The one I’d chosen had “gourmet” in the title, lots of ingredients, and numerous steps. Surely it would impress my mother-in-law and husband. Martha Stewart, watch out.
As I pushed my cart down the aisle, I realized I had a problem. Two ingredients on my list were items I didn’t recognize. I thought when I got to the store, it would become obvious to me where they were, but it wasn’t happening. I didn’t even know where to begin looking. A helpful employee seemed as elusive as my mystery ingredients, and I was too embarrassed to ask another customer for assistance. Finally, I found a pimply-faced teenager wearing an apron that said, "May I help You?"
"Excuse me, sir?" I used my best manners and flashed a friendly smile. I didn’t bat my eyelashes, a technique I would have used in my single days. "I’m having trouble finding the shallots and capers. Could you point me in the right direction?"
The young man scratched his head, "What are they?" What did they teach kids these days?
"I’m, um, not sure. I was hoping you could tell me."
When the young employee couldn’t help, I switched to plan B: simplify the recipe. I should’ve chosen an easier recipe for my first meal, but it was too late now. My grocery cart was already filled with most of the ingredients, and I didn’t think I’d have another use for salmon. I headed home, feeling defeated, without the shallots and capers. I hoped they weren’t crucial ingredients. They couldn’t be that important since I’d never even heard of them. It wasn’t like leaving out an onion or anything.
That night I worked tirelessly on the meal. By the time I placed the fish in the skillet, I had completely mutilated it trying to remove the pin bones - whatever they were. I set the table with our new wedding china, a tablecloth, linen napkins and candles. I thought this might divert attention from the unsightly salmon. I was horrified when the fish didn’t "flake easily" as the recipe indicated it should, but instead stuck to the pan in blackened chunks. The pretty table setting was not going to be an adequate distraction, so I served dinner in my honeymoon lingerie.
This plan worked beautifully. My husband didn’t eat any of the salmon, but he didn’t complain either.
I learned my lesson that night. I threw out my gourmet cookbook and began using one titled "Four Ingredients or Less" with much greater success. My thin husband even gained some weight. It wasn’t until we’d been married three years that he asked, "Honey, when do you think you’ll be ready for five ingredients?"
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