My parents were both excellent cooks, but I was never too interested in learning. Too girly. I could make grilled cheese and boil water; I was set. And that was fine for college and grad school, where cheap accommodations meant knowing how to use the microwave was enough. But once school was over, and once I had an actual kitchen, I developed an interest in cooking.
I’m pretty good. But I haven’t always been.
1. Bread Batter
The summer before I left for college, I became enamored with the idea of baking bread. Bread seemed so. . .charming, and was not something my parents ever made.
One afternoon, while Mother was at work, I set about making bread. Unfortunately, I only knew the most basic of basics about reading recipes. The one I chose must have been for making enough bread for an entire village; I needed 11 cups of flour. Eleven! And I only had about half of that.
But I preserved. I created a batter and put it in the oven. Cakes are baked from batter and they are delicious.
Two hours later, my bread was a slimy mess.
2. Thai Caramel
In grad school, I was fond of a Thai-Vietnamese place a few blocks from campus. The menu was limited but notable because it served dishes beyond the usual pad thai. I was particularly fond of mi krop (also known as mee krob), and I’ve yet to find the dish anywhere else.
Anyway, it’s pretty simple, fried noodle with a sweet sauce and protein. Since I couldn’t find it anywhere, I decided to make it. The sauce, a mixture of tamarind juice, lime juice, and brown sugar (and some other ingredients) was bubbling away. I turned from the stove to grab a spoon. When I want to stir it, the sauce had thickened so that my spoon stuck straight up out of the pan.
I think I had to throw the pan out.
3. Dessert Explosion
I’m not particularly good at making desserts beyond the usual cakes and cookies. I just don’t have the patience for the chemistry. But I’m particularly inept at Indian desserts.
I decided to try a microwave version of milk peda, an Indian dessert of milk and butter.
It exploded in the microwave, covering the walls with a sticky goo.
4. Cheese and Salmonella
A rice cooker is a wonderful tool and my only regret is not getting one sooner. Rice cookers, especially the fancy ones, can cook more than just rice. I was excited to try a chicken-rice-cheese recipe I found goodness-knows-where.
I excitedly removed the lid at the appointed time to find a mixture of raw chicken, raw rice, and gooey cheese.
I threw it away and ordered pizza.
5. Chickpea Float
Despite my misadventures with the milk peda, I continue experiment with Indian desserts. One day I’ll get it right. (That day has not arrived yet. Even my jalebi, which is just fried dough, were gross, and my kheer [rice pudding] is too runny or too thick.)
Last year, I wrote about how thrilled I was to find mysore pak for sale at a local Indian grocery store. Mysore pak is similar to fudge, made of chickpea flour and butter.
My mysore pak never set. It was a layer of chickpea paste floating on a bed of butter. And it tasted like chickpeas. Which is good for hummus, bad for a dessert.
6. Teriyaki Sadness
Last week, I spent an exciting night in the kitchen, creating a lunch for the next day. A bento-inspired Spam and green beans with homemade teriyaki sauce.
I followed the recipe exactly, whistling a jaunty tune as I thought about lunch the next day. The sauce tasted terrific. The Spam smelled porktastic. Once it all cooled, I packed it up.
The next day, I unwrapped my food while sitting at my desk. I thought how clever I was to have cooked this the night before.
Maybe it was never good to begin with. Maybe being in the fridge or lunchbox did something to the sauce. But after two bites I had to put away. Don’t worry, though, I subsisted on applesauce and candy from the bowl at the front desk.