Guys and kitchens make uneasy friends, and friends uneasy. But despite the challenges of handling hot and cold things, one can learn to be a merely competent cook about as easily as learning how to recognize when mold can’t be trimmed away and to realize the months on expiration dates don’t really matter, but the years do. This is the first and most basic of lesson for guys who find themselves facing the need to prepare food in a room that has been largely off-limits. I haven’t thought of any more lessons yet since I’m usually not asked back.
What you’ll need:
Two cookie sheets. For the first, it doesn’t have to be a good one. It can be dented, wrinkled, stained, as long as the stains are baked in. You’re not going to cook cookies on it, unless they’re the kind that come in the tubes, ready to slice and bake—they can always use the extra flavor. Of course, this only holds if you don’t eat the raw dough first. The second one should be top quality—primarily for cooking the chocolate chip-less chocolate chip cookies. Enough said.
Sugar, salt, pepper
Italian Spices – you can get the individual spices if you don’t like to get those rosemary spikes caught in your gums, but you usually can get a fairly large bottle of the mixture at the dollar store. The mix includes thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil and sage, in addition to the rosemary, so if you have the opportunity to impress you-know-who with a recipe, give her the full, individual list.
Garlic bubble gum
Garlic scented toilet paper (sorry, got carried away to make a point)
Peanut butter – melted on toast, its flavor changes to four out of five stars (five stars being equal to the taste of bacon). In a pinch, eat a big dollop right from a tablespoon.
Toaster – Pop-Tarts actually taste better if you toast them. Don’t butter anything BEFORE you put it in the toaster.
Aluminum foil - to cover every sheet or pan that goes in the oven. If it holds, you’ve just saved yourself a messy washing job. Don’t put it in the microwave unless you’re at your friend’s house and the party sucks (claim ignorance if the beer hasn’t kicked in).
Paper plates (the cheap ones, not the kind with compartments). Get ‘em by the hundred and double them up if the grease starts soaking through. There isn’t a more versatile kitchen necessity than the paper plate. It’s dinner china, microwave cookware, cutting board and ladle/spatula rest all rolled into one. And we’re not talking about the innovative uses that occasionally strike us, and not just in the kitchen.
Butter! Screw margarine. And, get it in the sticks. The wrapper has measure marks so you know exactly where to slice it to get twice what the recipe calls for.
Onions. If you cry when you chop one, you’re not fast enough. An apron is in your future.
Measuring cups that can go in the microwave.
A good knife – one that doesn’t bend when slicing through a whopping onion.
A good saute pan so you can saute your onions in butter for nearly every main dish.
A large Teflon-coated frying pan, large enough to prepare a full box of Hamburger Helper. If the Teflon is peeling, throw it away. If the Teflon is scratched, use more butter.
A Teflon-friendly spatula. They don’t leave marks on Her butt—when you give her that “get out of the kitchen” swat (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
Lettuce – You don’t need any of that fancy stuff. Just break up iceberg, thrown in cut up onions, shake on sunflower seeds and bacon bits, and top with mozzarella or cheddar shreds and dressing (screw the Lite stuff—it isn’t spelled right). The rule of thumb: If you like the other kinds of greens, go for it. If you’re using them because you want to impress someone, get that apron. And don’t let anyone sneak spinach in there. I hate the stuff. My Ex put some in and informed me later, with a victorious wink, “See, you ate spinach.” My response—well, the outcome shouts. Slipping in spinach is equivalent to me slipping my . . .um . . . never mind.
Cooking Oil – it doesn’t have to be olive oil (extra virgin sounds like jail bait). And just get the small bottle. You only need a little. No matter how good a sport she is, she probably won’t let you bring the bottle of oil into the bathtub for a little slippery rasslin’. If you have one of those deep fryers, bless your heart, you’d better buy the five-gallon drum at Sam’s Club. And don’t forget the oil change disposal tub they sell at the NAPA Auto Parts store. They don’t check to see what kind of oil is in them. Just don’t mix in bacon grease. That’s a smell a man can detect down to a few parts per billion, from a mile downwind… No, wait. That’s a male moth smelling the female’s pheromone. Make that a few parts per trillion from two miles downwind for bacon grease.
Bacon, and calm yourself on this one. If women learn the power of bacon, they’ll never again do that thing their mothers told them only bad girls do, to get you to do things you don’t want to do, or to get you to let her buy things you can’t afford. Pity the man who doesn’t have bacon and a solvent credit card.
How to dispose of bacon grease.
· Let it harden and use it as a deodorant stick
· Mix it with Elmer’s glue and use it as a dog chew
· Use it as a reward for teaching the dog to fetch brassieres off of clothes lines, or swim suit tops at the beach.
· Smear it on your wife’s cat and turn your dog loose
· Dip your lime wedge in it before inserting the wedge into the bottle of Mexican beer (and it goes in a lot easier)
· The morning after a night of heavy drinking in which your buddy hit on your girlfriend, soak a piece of toast in bacon grease and put it on a double paper plate. Warm it in the microwave. Place the plate on his pillow, as close to his nose as possible. Lock, then close the bathroom door from the outside and move the little key thing on the door molding to another door (randomize if you do this more than once). Leave the house.
· Vaseline? Please…
Pork Rinds. They don’t need guacamole or French onion dip, and don’t even whisper the words spinach and dip around a big bowl of rinds.
Finally, the most important rule of bandaged thumb—unless otherwise stated, everything and anything should be cooked at 350 degrees. I don’t know why the knobs have all of those numbers. Three-fifty and four-twenty-five take care of ninety-nine percent of the baking needs.
Above all, remember that pasta slathered with ketchup or catsup or whatever you want to call it, is just as worthy of the checkered table cloth on the TV tray and any other gourmet fare or faire or fair. At least I think I spelled gourmet right. Right?