I had this terrible dream where the newspaper I work for put on a cooking show and even though I said over and over (and over) that I can’t cook, I mean it!!! I showed up and was told:
Oh, you’ll be cooking….
In front of a live audience….
of 700 people…
…a task that apparently makes me look like I ride the short bus.
“Isn’t a cooking show more of a watch-it-on-TV-kind of thing?” I asked, trying to get out of participating.
“No, it’s a big, live event,” I was told. “People are very excited. We need you to volunteer on stage.”
“Ok, but I can’t cook,” I said. “Really.”
“All you’ll have to do is pick up dirty dishes,” my co-worker said.
That was a lie. When I arrived before the show wearing all black, (as requested) the on-air chef threw me an apron.
“Are you my helper?” the chef asked.
“Um, I think so.”
“Here is your pre-show checklist.” (I was also given a mid-show AND post-show checklist.)
I gave the list a nervous glance, since my culinary skills are limited to the microwave and toaster oven.
The first task? “Browning” maple sausage.
“What about the dirty dishes???” I pleaded.
The chef ignored me.
In addition to “browning” sausage AND chicken, I had to melt chocolate and butter (“don’t let the butter start to smoke!!!”) and “zest an orange” which I still don’t know how to do. The list was starting to give me a headache.
Thankfully, another “helper” (who was a high school senior and aspiring culinary student) looked very capable. He was wearing a chef coat. I made him zest.
I’ve seen Emeril Live on TV and I’m a big fan of Top Chef, so the cooking show itself was pretty interesting. There was a female chef who cooked TEN dishes on stage live in front of the crowd.
She does 40 shows a year all over the country and has been doing it for the past 8 years. She’s a pro, and she knows how to cleverly plug Velveeta cheese (a sponsor) while making the dishes.
(“Don’t you hate when Velveeta cheese sticks to your knife? No problem! Just spray your knife with cooking spray first! There! Slather up that creamy goodness!”)
The crowd, mostly women excited about the raffle prizes, laughed and clapped and were genuinely amused by the chef’s banter.
“I always watch what I eat,” she said as she mixed ingredients for a pie. “I never close my eyes.”
We politely laughed. The crowd roared.
Us "helpers" were on our feet for three hours running around backstage, changing the temperatures on the stoves, getting more food out of the fridge and I even cleaned up dirty dishes. ONCE. I was very good at it.
Clearing dishes. Easy.
But, really, the whole thing made me panicky and sweaty.
Intensely waiting with the "checklist." P.S. Cute orange zester huh?
As a “thank you” we were given one of the on-air dishes to eat backstage, which happened to be the chicken pot pie (I BROWNED THAT CHICKEN Y’ALL!).
Afterwards, I told the chef that it was the best chicken pot pie I had ever eaten. (Which is pretty much hers vs. Stouffers).
She suggested I make the pot pie at home on my own, but I reassured her that THAT was a bad idea.
The last time I decided to cook something all by myself was spinach lasagna and I didn’t realize that I needed to cook the noodles before layering it.
I spent $30 at the grocery store and a half-hour stressfully preparing each layer, when my friend (and avid cook) Lauren stopped by to see how the dinner preparations were coming along.
She surveyed the scene.
“You know that you have to cook the noodles, right?” she asked.
I looked at the hard noodles and slapped my spinach-stained hand on my forehead.
I got so annoyed at my slip-up that I had Lauren take over the dish while I drank a beer and played on the Internet.
About two months ago, I cooked homemade pot roast — 4 minutes in the microwave.
My friend April (also an avid cook) was equal parts amused and mortified when I presented her with the pre-cooked roast with a chewy brown Minute Rice accompaniment.
April routinely cooks homemade meals for her boyfriend, which includes things like “stuffing a pork chop with apples” and “finishing it off in the oven.” That’s what she said!
“That’s so funny how you put something in the microwave and call it cooking!” April told me, pouring another glass of wine from the industrial-sized bottle.
“Well, at least it wasn’t frozen first, so that’s a step in the right direction,” I said.
We agreed that the pot roast was actually quite delicious ThankYouVeryMuch, but she still teased me about my cooking heating skills.
April has yet to witness a true Jenny disaster in the kitchen. Some of the highlights include:
1.) Pesto mashed potatoes. A seemingly good idea until you start mashing in the pesto and realize that no one (including you) wants to eat green mush.
2.) Fried chicken. Hot and crispy on the outside….raw on the inside. And it leaves such a pleasant lingering smell, too.
3.) Dill sandwiches.A delicious recipe from my dear friend Tatiana that is basically cream cheese and butter and dill and cucumbers spread on thin white bread. I made a big batch for a work party, but left it on the counter overnight and it spoiled. Probably had the measurements wrong anyway.
4.) Boxed Birthday cake. This was supposed to be something cute for my boyfriend last Christmas but I apparently didn’t put enough oil on the baking pan so half of it refused to come out and it looked like a sad, deformed cake that a crazy person would have cooked. My mom even tried chopping off the offending side but it just looked worse.
5.) Stir fry.Turns out, there is such a thing as too much soy sauce.
So no, I will not be attempting homemade pot pie, no matter how much Velveeta cheese is in it. But, if anyone wants to make it for me, I’d be happy to be a “helper.” I look pretty good in black, too.