COOKING FOR DUMMIES

Despite being fully moved into my apartment for three months now, I just realized yesterday that I’ve only used my oven twice, my stove three times, and my microwave once. Look, some people are meant to cook themselves dinner every night. And some people are meant to rummage through their cabinets and/or refrigerator playing a game of what-can-I-snack-on-and-call-it-dinner (currently undefeated).

This runs in the family (sorry, Mom). In preschool, I politely outlined in a class assignment just how (un)gifted our family was in the kitchen. We were asked to share a family recipe with the class, in which I recited our favorite dish:

Step 1: Cook the vegetables.

Step 2: Burn the vegetables.

Step 3: Eat them anyway.

If there was one thing I wasn’t, it was a liar.

I personally didn’t attempt using kitchen appliances much, though, so who was I to throw the first stone. When I did, 1 in 4 times something went awry.

When I was 9, I put a bag of popcorn in the microwave. I didn’t realize that when I pressed 3 that meant three minutes and when I pressed 3-0-0 that meant three hours, so I pressed the latter. That was not only the longest snack I’ve ever had to wait for but that was also the day I learned how to call 9-1-1. It didn’t take the full three hours for the microwave to catch on fire and for the whole first floor of our house to fill with smoke.

When I was 14, I had to bake brownies with two of my friends for a school-wide bake sale. They ended up paying us not to sell our brownies when we brought a tray full of oily brownies, because apparently measurements are not a part of the recipe you can play by ear.

In college I grew up in a lot of ways, culinary skills not being one of them.

The freedom of having access to a kitchen I could use at any time was both liberating and dangerous. But the one thing it wasn’t was helpful or conducive to learning to cook, bake, or even reheat.

I did, however, learn some valuable lessons my senior year. A mimosa is not a meal. And placing a piece of cheese on bread and heating it up in the microwave will never taste as satisfying as real grilled cheese. And just because there’s a buy-one-get-one sale on a 1-lb bag of ziti pasta, doesn’t mean you should cook both bags at once, especially if all you own is a medium-sized pot. And adding 1 cup of flour and two tablespoons of cheese instead of 1 cup of cheese and two tablespoons of flour would not result in queso but in an uncooked cheesy bread that should never be dipped into with a chip (no matter how hungry you are).

You’ll be proud to hear, I don’t even need an oven or a stove to ruin a meal.

A few weeks ago, I went to my kitchen, opened my refrigerator, and saw the two avocados I had bought a week ago and was waiting (as) patiently (as possible) for them to ripen. I squeezed them. Finally, I was going to get to make guacamole with these beautiful avocados.

To give you a full picture of the scene, I was so focused on these avocados, I didn’t even turn a light on in the kitchen. I’m like an 8 out of 10 on the hungry scale, so I’m working hastily.

I use a knife to cut the avocado in half and this knife is so top-notch I didn’t notice that I had sliced right through my pointer finger in the process. The moment I see blood, I immediately release a sound oohwhoaaohh and start sliding down the nearest wall. As soon as I hit the ground I realize I’ve just simulated my own faint. I’m not afraid of seeing blood and I haven’t lost nearly enough to be dropping in and out of consciousness.

I chuck the avocado at the ground, because betrayal.

I stand up, and reach for my phone contemplating whether I should tweet about this first or call my mom, but ultimately I knew there would be time for crafting a witty 140-characters later.

What do I decide to say first? “Mom, there’s blood everywhere.” Not true. “I sliced through my finger in an avocado accident. It won’t stop bleeding.” It just started. “I’m going to head to the hospital.” I had been working from home so I then added, “I’m going to have to email [BOSS] and let them know what happened.

But my mom knows me. She instructed me to send no such emails and to, if anything, seek an urgent care facility. But to wait it out to see if it will stop bleeding on its own. I told her “But I don’t want to lose too much blood.” I’m not a doctor, but retrospectively, that was highly unlikely and/or impossible.

Eventually the bleeding stopped, I wore a band-aid for a week and it slowly healed leaving behind a scar reminding me that there’s a cost to “cooking” hungry.

All I wanted was guacamole.

On that note, who wants to come over for dinner tonight?

TROUBLE(F)AKER

Growing up, I was only sent to the principal’s office once. I don’t know the average, but it feels like a bragworthy fact.

I’ll admit, I spent a chunk of time in after school detention throughout high school. But only because I didn’t like the idea of waking up in the morning. And I didn’t see the importance of wearing matching socks the way my teachers did. And I didn’t care if my shorts were peeking out of my skirt because I craved to sit cross-legged in class despite the constraints of a uniform (#allgirlsCatholicschool).

But my trip to the principal’s office was in the fourth grade, so it counts about as much as an expunged underage drinking citation (which I would know nothing about because I’ve never been caught drinking under the age of 21, and I’ve never had to call my parents to pick me up from a party to be released from police custody, and I certainly did not have to go to a three-day course watching videos about the dangers of alcohol with my boyfriend-of-the-time and his best friend – but hypothetically if any of this were to have happened this may or may not make an interesting blog post topic in the future).

Give or take a few moments, I was a good kid.

I know I liked to challenge authority. Not in a delinquent way, but in a kid-who-always-asks-why kind of way. And if I had an opinion or a witty comment, I more times than not felt inclined to say it out loud (and still do). Especially if I could get a laugh. Moments of silence were moments of opportunity to me.

I remember one day my class took a field trip, and for some reason that is even less clear to me as an adult, we left our backpacks back in the classroom. When we returned about 30 minutes before the end of the school day, we were greeted by our Language Arts teacher who let us know she had taken the liberty of taking our composition notebooks out of our backpacks so she could grade our assignments that were due that day. Despite the school-planned field trip (pause for reflection).

Immediately, I turn to a classmate and whispered just loud enough for the whole class to appreciate my comment (without thinking about how that would also include the teacher), “doesn’t she need a search warrant?

You would have thought I had whispered that she erotically fondles pears before falling asleep every night. Zero-to-sixty, “Elizabeth, could I speak with in the hallway NOW?”

I zoned out while she dished me a lecture (mild-to-moderately deserved), but I snapped back into focus when I hear this come out of her mouth:

“Your ideas are crapola.” 

Here I thought I had made a relatively intelligent remark for a fourth grader (one I still predominantly stand by today). But she thought it was crapola. There was some pride in riling up a teacher enough to come at me with a pseudo-swear word. But that wasn’t even my intention. I truly wanted to know.

Should I have kept the comment to myself? Maybe.

More importantly, could I have kept the comment to myself? Less confidently, maybe.

Still this isn’t what led me to the principal’s office.

It was after recess, when adrenaline is high. One of my classmates, whose personality could best be described as like sweet-and-sour chicken, decided to stretch her leg out to trip a not-so-popular classmate claiming it was an accident. My fourth-grade self called bullsh*t.

I still don’t really know what my thought process was during these next few moments, but what I do know is I lifted my leg, swung back, and gave her a solid kick in the shin.

Before I knew it, sweet-and-sour and I were headed out the door, down the long hallway to the principal’s office. I was starting to get a little sweaty-nervous. Sweet-and-sour (not a first time offender) picked up on this, turned to me and said, “if you don’t say anything, and I don’t say anything, they can’t prove anything. Do you promise you won’t say anything?” I nodded.

Okay, I thought, I can play it cool.

The problem? I couldn’t play it cool.

As soon as my body crossed the threshold, from the hallway into the front office, I broke down sobbing, and erupted like a volcano of emotions, “I’M SO SORRY I KICKED HER BUT IT WAS ONLY BECAUSE SHE TRIPPED SOMEONE AND CLAIMED IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, BUT I KNEW IT WASN’T, IT WAS BULLYING, AND BEFORE I KNEW IT I HAD KICKED HER IN THE SHIN BUT I KNOW I SHOULDN’T HAVE. I JUST DIDN’T WANT HER TO GET AWAY WITH IT. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING. AM I GOING TO GET IN TROUBLE? ARE YOU GOING TO CALL MY PARENTS? I’VE NEVER EVEN BEEN TO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE BEFORE. I’LL NEVER KICK ANYONE AGAIN, I PROMISE.”

I looked over at sweet-and-sour and she was furious, with a capital F.

Looking back, I imagine her calling me a little B-word. But I grew up fairly sheltered, and I don’t think we were introduced to that kind of language yet. I vividly recall getting scolded by my bus driver for telling a classmate to “shut up” so I doubt little b*tch could’ve flown under the radar.

Once I finally closed my mouth, I looked up at the principal not knowing what would happen next. I tried to make eye contact with sweet-and-sour, but she wasn’t having it.

The principal sighed, opened the door leading back out into the hallway, and said I could head back to class. She didn’t have to tell me twice. I hustled right back down the hallway to my classroom. There was a part of me that felt that was easy, but there was a larger part of me that felt I don’t want to experience that again.

But that was the day I realized I wasn’t about that lifestyle. A few weeks later, I joined the Math Olympiad team (and came in first place that year, trophy and all).

RENT-TO-OWN

It has been one year since I’ve written a blog post (and my last post was my first).

Growing up, my mom used to tell me that if I haven’t worn a piece of clothing in a year it was time to donate it. Donate it or wear it. That said, I’m going to try on this blog one more time, see if it still fits and attempt to make it a more fixed part of my wardrobe.

I have a tendency to be drawn towards shiny objects (hobbies) but lose interest in them just as quickly. It’s not something I’m proud of. I have a closet full of yoga mats, crocheting needles, instruments, tennis rackets, and workout DVDs telling me to break the cycle. So let’s (re-)kick this blog off with how I fell in (and out of) love with the idea of learning to play the clarinet.


In elementary school, learning to play an instrument was a rite of passage. And more importantly, a right to leave science class twenty minutes early (because that was the “only” time they could squeeze an extracurricular into our busy fifth-grade schedules).

When choosing my instrument, I don’t think I really cared. I probably wanted to do what’s popular, because #elementaryschool. I switched school districts mid-year in the fourth grade, and I think it took me longer to feel like I had lost the ‘new girl’ title than it should have.

Push came to shove, I selected the flute.

But according to the instructor, I wasn’t suited for the flute (fluited, if you will). “Your fingers are too fat, and it’s only going to get worse.” He was right. It did only “get worse” – my fingers today are larger than they were in the fifth grade.

And what’s the solution to fat fingers? A clarinet, clearly.

For a while I was really enthusiastic about that clarinet. I liked missing twenty minutes of science class, just due to the feeling that came with having two places to be. I liked carrying around the instrument case that gave the impression that I had a skill. I liked when the song ended and the teacher praised us. I even liked when we were all told it we needed to practice more, because we were working towards something, together.

What I unfortunately did not like was practicing.

And even more crucial, learning to read music.

Instead of learning, I just spent hours drawing a diagram of the clarinet below each note and coloring in the holes I needed to cover, or keys I needed to press, to play the right note. My sheet music looked like a hot mess of misaligned priorities.

In my defense, this method was fairly sustainable.

What this method wasn’t was good enough to get me a spot on the Maryland All State Band. Technically, I did get a spot. But that was because there were four spots and only four students auditioned. And apparently not playing the entire song and crying wasn’t enough to be disqualified as a candidate.

I passed on the opportunity.

But this didn’t break my stride.

The night had come for the biannual band concert. Let’s just say I was as prepared as I needed to be for the circumstances in which I was anticipating for that evening. It’s not like there’s a way to ‘steal the show’ at a band concert. Showboating seemed frowned upon, it was more of a collaborative exhibition. We either all sounded good or we all didn’t.

I was ready to autopilot through this concert until the curtain came up and my instructor made an announcement. “We are so fortunate that our principal is an advocate for arts education at this school, and since she is a clarinetist, we’d like to invite her to the stage to join us.”

Okay with me.

The more the merrier.

Let’s do this.

Why is she walking towards me.

Why is she pulling a chair up next to me.

“Excuse me, would you mind if I shared your sheet music?”

I’m not sure I played one single note that entire concert because I couldn’t wipe the shocked-mortified-concerned-dumbstruck look off my face as my principal used my pathetically doodled sheet music. I just sat there holding my clarinet staring at sheet music, then my principal, then my sheet music, then my clarinet, then the audience, then the principal.

I figured that if after a year of “practicing” and playing I wasn’t convinced to learn to read music, it probably wasn’t in the cards.

I was over it.

My parents and I took the clarinet back to the music store to let them know we no longer needed to rent it.

“Ma’am, you’re actually two payments away from owning this clarinet. You’ve been on our rent-to-own plan this whole year. It’s practically yours.”

Fourteen years later, that clarinet is standing upright, still assembled (reed and all), in between the piano and the bookshelf in our living room taunting me.


Just like the clarinet, this domain name is mine and I might as well use it.