Kitchen Disasters and Two Good Books.


My friend Kim can relate a story about having her family over for Thanksgiving dinner, going into a cupboard and finding her black cat Sam asleep in one of the baking pans. My own Sam-cat also celebrated pre-Thanksgiving dinner by falling asleep in someone’s plate before the guests showed up. It was a sunny spot, and he seized his chance. I’m not saying whose plate it was, but a note to my family: It was washed again after he awoke.

Kitchen work is most enjoyable to me. I find the chopping and cleaning and measuring therapeutic. Not saying I’m a great cook, but I do enjoy the process, and my dream job (I think) would be cooking meals for a big family where none of the members were dieting or lactose intolerant.

But I digress.

Last weekend I bought a bag of 15 bean soup mix, which was so beautiful and which I was eager to make. Fall weather and soups just go together, don’t they? I read the first part of the instructions about soaking the beans in cold water for at least 8 hours. Before I left for work on Monday morning, I put the beans in a large plastic bowl, covered them with 2 inches of cold water, and set them in the refrigerator. Weekday mornings are not long and leisurely at my house, so I was in a rush, but I remember thinking geez, that seems like a lot of beans.

When I arrived home that evening, I opened the refrigerator and saw that the beans had multiplied by about 10 times and all the water was gone. (That bowl was heavy!) I went back to the recipe and read the first line again: “Soak ONE CUP of beans in a plastic bowl for 8 hours…”

Well, hell.

I felt like a witch stirring a cauldron. Needless to say, I now have a lot of bean soup. Enough for gift giving and freezing. Enough so that I probably won’t be making bean soup any more this fall.

A few weeks ago, I was making rice in my lovely yard-sale waterless cooking pot. I don’t know why it’s called waterless cookware because it doesn’t cook food without water, but it can cook rice like nobody’s business, an art I had never mastered. I love this little pan, and I even remember exactly where I bought it and what I paid for it. (Howard Gnesen Road, one dollar.)

So there I was, nearly at the end of cooking rice, when the phone rang. It was my friend Cathy from Pennsylvania, and time flies when we’re talking. I had shut off the pan, but didn’t realize that it would seal itself shut like King Tut’s tomb. After we got off the phone, I went to the kitchen to check on the rice.

The lid was cemented to the pot.

I pulled and pried. I banged on it with a knife. I used a screwdriver to try to break the seal. I ran cold water over it, somehow thinking something would contract and the lid would pop off, but I was never good at science or whatever it is that rules those kinds of things, and that obviously was not the fix. I envisioned throwing away my wonderful cookware AND the not-cheap basmati rice.

Google to the rescue! I looked up waterless cookware troubleshooting, didn’t find what I wanted, and then went for the lowbrow line “cookware lid stuck to pan” and found my answer: Reheat the pan. And so I did, happy that the pot was not lost for the sake of a great phone call, and happy I didn’t dent or scratch it in earlier attempts. I heated up the pan, the lid came off, and guess what? Perfect rice! Perfect!

You can be too specific or hoity-toity with Google and not get what you want, a lesson I’m learning. It reminds me of a story I read years ago about a man who sent his radio back to a department store with a note saying he’d just bought it and it didn’t work. They sent it back with a long form to fill out. He filled it out the best he could, mailed it back, but they apparently rejected his form and returned the radio. He repacked the radio with this note: SHE DON’T WORK. The next week he had a brand new radio from the store. And it worked!

Sometimes simple is best.

If you are weary of your own kitchen disasters and just want to relax with some good food books, I highly recommend Laurie Colwin’s “Home Cooking” books. They are gentle, humorous and fascinating books about food, recipes, friends and living the writer’s life. They are the books I wanted to write, but she saved me a lot of time. Even the covers are beautiful:

Oh, fooey. I was going to make them the same size and put them side by side in this post, but I can’t figure out how. But you get the idea anyway. I love these books. If I had a box of 100 of them, I’d send you all copies. They’re just that good.

Read on, MacDuff.

9 Responses to “Kitchen Disasters and Two Good Books.”

  1. Cathy says:

    I read a similar wonderful story in a book about the old Sears Roebuck catalogs; a man had bought an iron that didn’t work so he sent it back with this note: “My iron she no get hot.” They fixed it!

    I forgot all about our phone call and the cooker lid that got stuck. Goes to show you that anything is fodder for blog material. :-) I read the one Laurie Colwin book (Home Cooking) at your recommendation, and I’d STILL love to find a good recipe for Black Cake. It sounds like heaven on a plate.

  2. Rosy Bradley says:

    Thanks, Patt! Just the chuckle that I needed today!!

  3. Marilyn says:

    Love the bean soup story. I used to buy Nona packages of soup mix and she once did the same thing with the beans. Maybe that’s why the two of you got along so well :>).

  4. Camila says:

    You should have just invited everyone you knew over for an impromptu bean soup party. I’d have gone. :)

    I grew up cooking for a small army. And sometimes my brain secretly switches into auto-pilot mode when I’m the kitchen (happens a lot more frequently when I’m pregnant) and I don’t notice it until my husband asks, “Who’s gonna eat all this food?!” :)

    One night, I noticed before he did and decided I needed to find some people to feed FAST, so that I’d finally have an answer to that dreaded question of his.

    I thought I bet my neighbor is hungry. And he was! And then one of my husband’s friends just happened to call. I explained the situation and I begged him to come over as well. He had a couple of mutual buddies over so told him to bring them along as well.

    Next thing you know, I’m standing there telling them all that I’d already eaten because I was wanted them to be able to go back for seconds if they wanted to do so. :)

  5. Patt says:

    Oh, that’s funny. Cooking is a joy; even when you’re making way more than you intended. I still like your story about the unlabeled cans. Those are getting harder to find. Great to hear from you!

  6. Patt says:

    What can I tell you? Great minds think alike.

  7. Patt says:

    Good to hear from you, Rosy. Hope everything’s going well! We miss that kid of yours, though I’m sure she doesn’t miss us very much. (Boo hoo.)

  8. Patt says:

    If you wouldn’t keep me on the phone so long, maybe I wouldn’t have to take a hammer to all my good cookware. (I blame you.) I had forgotten the Black Cake. Surely Google would give us a recipe? Or maybe she put it in one of her other books. I will have to read them again, I think.

  9. Patt says:

    Why oh why do my replies not show up under the original message? Sorry if they don’t seem to make sense. They belong to these people, in this order: Camila, Marilyn, Rosy and then Cathy. Back to the drawing board…

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