Friday, May 2, 2008

Seconds from (kitchen) disaster

“How do you expect to keep a marriage whole when you can hardly keep an egg yolk in tact?” my mom instinctively berates like a broken Beatles record each time she is reminded of my pathetic culinary skill.

I admit, I’m no Martha Stewart. When it comes to whipping up a wok-load of dishes, disaster is more like my middle name.

Throw me a mauve-dyed apron, and I’d maladroitly stain it with a reckless spill of tomato sauce. Toss me the pasta, and it comes out of a simmering pan looking like strands of poorly rebonded hair.

Thankfully, I’ve since mastered the art of sarcasm. “If all a man ever wants from me is Pasta Vongole and Oyster Rockefeller, then he better marry Wolfgang Puck!”

I have never truly appreciated the practicality (and gratifications) of cooking until I had to move far from home for a two-month training, and practically learn to feed myself. Not that I’ve never attempted to hold a skillet and a ladle previously in this lifetime. I have, and each time I do, my brother gets this sudden urge to leap out of Mactan bridge.

“Eat that, lest we both be punished by mom, no cable TV viewing for a day, for unceremoniously wasting food!” I would order my brother in Fidel Castro fashion, arms akimbo and hovering in front of him before the dining table.

With a jolt of culinary itch to whip up something mouthwatering at home, I snatched a pasta-in-a-box while on a grocery spree, believing that it was as easy as the instructions at the back of the box promised.

Apparently, I was misled.

“This looks like food served on Fear Factor,” my “genie pig” would lament without taking his gaze off the overcooked pasta drenched with sauce that looked as unappetizing as murky river.

“Should I’d suddenly twitch and freeze lifeless here from your crazy kitchen creations, my solitary death wish is for you to never hold a ladle again,” he would throw a punch line, hoping that a dash of humor might miraculously sprinkle some good taste into my dish, and perhaps some good sense into me.

After the many kitchen disasters, little brother has since been mortified at the thought of me anywhere near the oven. In fact, in one of my long-distance calls, I informed him that I had been among the food group’s designated cooks, frying bacon and hotdog for lunch. “Woe to them!” he said with a genuine concern to the people subjected to my cooking.

His statement is nothing short of prophetic. After the 23rd bacon meal, the boys—Joe Rhoniel, Jason and Kim Kessey–metamorphosed into disgruntled “groupies”, threatening to mutiny at the sight of another fried freezer meal.

“Slice me some onions and I’ll cook sinigang!” ordered Rhoniel, ostensibly aghast by the run-on-the-mill food we’ve been guiltlessly feeding them. For the first time in three weeks since we arrived in an unfamiliar place, thanks to his homemade sinigang, we finally got a taste of home through his labored sour stew!

But alas, his secret ingredient got lost in airport oblivion along with the “jetsetting” luggage – where a dozen packets of instant flavoring was stashed in and was supposed to replenish our dwindling supply – of unfortunate colleague Dexter! And yet, with or without a drizzle of flavors in a pack, the glaring disparity of kitchen skills between us and the boys was becoming apparent.

Crushed but hardly broken in spirit, I vowed to take up the culinary crusade as soon as I got home.

Announcing to my brother that I’ll once again be slipping on the apron to cook a borrowed dish from one of our engineers incidentally named in jest after him, “Adobo ala Mark Vic”, little bro froze half-way through my statement, perhaps conjuring images of him – being the poor younger brother that he is – forcibly muscling his way through a burnt piece of meat that could possibly taste and smell no different from a pair of two-week-old socks.

“Imagine the aroma of goodness wafting through the kitchen, the sweet taste of meat pillowed by rings of succulent pineapple, the delightful explosion of flavors on your taste bud,” I said, coaxing him into the idea. “It will be fun! I’ll do the cooking, you’ll do the tasting.”

Please, stay away from the kitchen,” he desperately implored.


caryn said...

hahaha! my grandma used to torture me with visions of my hubby leaving me if i didn't learn how to cook. she was pretty convincing when i was 6 years old; not to mention bigger than me. hahaha!