I’m not sure if even the best of chefs are immune to traumatic kitchen moments, but as an amateur, I know I have my fair share of them. With time I’ve learned to let them roll off my back and learn all I can from them. It’s probably a good thing too, or I’d be too afraid to set foot in the kitchen… burned fingers, crappy bread, etc. etc. Yep, I’ve been there and I’m sure I’ve got my fair share still coming to me.
A few years back I wrote a short, frivolous story for a writing seminar/class all about a terrible cooking day I’d experienced in the kitchen of my wife and I’s first apartment. We lived in an 8-plex’s basement in a one bedroom apartment. It was small, but not unbearable: it had a decent kitchen. Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about cooking, it’s that it has a way of humbling you when you least expect it… here’s my story. Reading time is approximately 8 minutes.
Of Soup and Crackers
by Chris Mower
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and pride myself in being a good cook. My mother’s talent of knowing just the right spices and mixtures seems to have passed on to me in some degree. Shortly after I was married, my wife understood that truly, I had talent in the kitchen department. I’ve often wondered if she immediately began to dream of all the days she wouldn’t have to cook. She must have done so, because I ended up cooking a lot when we first got married—and still do. One gloomy day, however, she might have reconsidered.
Not long after my wife and I moved into our first apartment, I found myself, once again, in front of the stove. We were both starving after a long day of school, and were having a hard time deciding what to eat. We had a barren pantry, and even less in the refrigerator. After what seemed like many stretched out minutes of looking at the stove, I pensively pulled out a pan and placed it on the burner with a clank. A few minutes later I decided to add a couple cans of cream of mushroom soup to the pan. I planned to make stroganoff, which is a sloppy mixture of meat, sour cream, and cream of mushroom soup, deliciously poured over a plate-full of white rice or egg noodle.
With nothing but good intentions, I watched the warming up soup like a hawk, or maybe that’s what I should have done. I nonchalantly left the room, forgetting about the soup. I remembered it only when I heard splattering and smelled scorched mushrooms, and nervously bolted into the kitchen. It stunk worse next to the stove then it did in the neighboring room. After a split second evaluation of the situation I immediately began to blame the “stupid stove” for burning my food.
I’m not one to allow my temper or emotions run away with me, and after a quick cool down session, I began to clean up the mess. Unfortunately for me—the amazing chef—my wife came into the kitchen before the mess was clean and began to laugh at me, a ‘oh man, that sucks’ sort of moan intermingled with the giggles; I admit, it must have been a funny sight. Nearly all the soup had literally bubbled out of the pan and onto the stovetop. Most of it had pooled up around the burners, but the rest of it, to my dismay had fallen in the burner hole and spread itself inside that annoying compartment between the oven and the stovetop. Despite the laughter, I was feeling frustrated inside. Any ideas of being sweet and cooking dinner had left me. I had been lazy and obviously didn’t care enough to pay attention, thus scorching our dinner; what’s more, any bragging rights of never burning food would never be mine again.
After salvaging what I could of the cooling soup, trying to leave the crispy, over-cooked flakes out of the pan, I gave it an experimental taste. Not only was most of it gone but it tasted like burned mushroom crud. “Whatever,” I disgustingly thought and threw it down the disposal. I might not have been so eager to throw it away if I would have known what was coming next. I opened the pantry for some more soup and found nothing more than some chicken flavored Ramen Noodles, wild berry Pop Tarts, saltines, and marshmallows. I’ve never tried it, but I doubt they’re the finest toppings for rice. I opened the refrigerator. The cold, blue rush of empty air hit me. The air reflected how I felt: cold, empty, and at the moment, rather useless. Not many choices were left for dinner, and my wife ended up cooking the Ramen soup while I nursed my injured pride.
Still hungry after the Ramen, I decided to make a treat—a chance for me to earn back my respect. Roasted marshmallows on top of saltines had always been a hot commodity in my house on a Monday night family gathering, especially when my sister was in charge of treats. Perhaps my desire to have such a dish after eating Ramen Soup was the inward desire I had to feel safe and free from stress. Besides, it was a snack I couldn’t mess up.
A few minutes later, our smoke alarms sounded off and our apartment begin to fill with a light-grey, semi-dense smoke. Trailing the smoke came a knock on our door. Our neighbor Jeff came to the door. “Are you guys okay?” It sounded like an insult to me, thinking only of the so-far crummy evening.
I had ruined nearly all the food we had and my pride at the same time. I didn’t want help; I wanted to slam the door in his face and shout, “YEAH, GREAT!” Thankfully, I didn’t slam the door, but dismissed him gently instead.
We had no clue why our apartment was smoking, and finally discovered the charcoaled crackers in the oven, now brimstone still broiling in hell. They had passed the stage of liquification and now rock-hard, smelled heavily of burned sugar.
I angrily turned the oven off and grabbed the pan out of the oven. I had ruined it with permanent marshmallow stains and where the salt from the crackers had gotten too hot, the pan’s coating had peeled. I felt the heat of anger filling my body from the face down. I had ruined the crackers and marshmallows, and to to top it off, our apartment reeked of burnt mushrooms, crackers, and marshmallows while a thin smoke still hung in the air. My last resort was to walk away—and I did.
For those of you who are interested in the cracker and marshmallow snack even after reading my story, here you go:
- Cut jumbo marshmallows in half.
- On a baking sheet, lay down the saltines and place one half of each marshmallow on top of a saltine cracker.
- Place on bottom rack in oven. Set to broil.
- Pay close attention and pull the crackers out when the marshmallows are golden brown on top.
Misery loves company, so I’d love to hear some of your funny or tragic kitchen stories in the comments below, or you can submit them via my Contact page.