Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Step Away With From The Kitchen

Have you ever felt on some nights that you'd rather a QUANTITY-type dinner instead of a QUALITY-type dinner? Both have distinct differences: quantity is the pizza and pasta variety, quality is pretty much everything else! Males prefer quantity (so long as it does the job who cares), women prefer quality (variety is the spice of life).

Tonight I felt a little strange and was preferring a quality dinner.

See, I came across some of my mother's old cook books and as I fanned through it I really began to like some of the meals that presented themselves... it was difficult trying to find just one meal, so what did I do?

I decided that I was going to mix-n-match.

But then I reflected on the LAST time I mixed-n-matched...

I was 13 years old and one of only two boys in an all-girls class called "Cooking & Clothing". [No, we weren't gay - we did it for the chics, and boy did we have a blast (all those poor sorry sweaty sods doing woodwork! Pffft!).]

As the name of the class suggests there were two components to the class: cooking and clothing. Cooking was where the unit started and our first task was to cook some fried rice.


Who can't cook fried rice: just throw in some rice, add a little bit of chopped capsicum, maybe some pineapple to sweeten the deal, and possibly some sliced sausage for "variety".

Even *I* could cook fried rice at the tender age of 13 and probably with my eyes closed too!

Nope, if I was going to impress the women with this class EARLY I was going to do something outrageous... I was going to cook Fried Rice Soup!


My plan was to have the fried rice floating in a miso-like soup. The plan was BRILLIANT! Even Jamie Oliver would've been proud.

So there I was, on my lonesome (my dear friend abandoned ship) cooking like a soup nazi. Chopping the capsicum, boiling the water, cutting up the tofu, dicing the spring onions.

I was a machine.

Heck, I even began feeling proud of myself - I had found a hidden innate talent! Everyone else was meticulousy following instructions, but no not me I was going to pass this class with FLYING colours!

And then my teacher walked over...

TEACHER: Making yourself some green tea?
ME: No.
TEACHER: Making *someone* else some green tea?
ME: No.
TEACHER: Then what are you doing?
ME: (by now she's beginning to cramp my style, I would either have to let her in on my secret or bury it and surprise her later... women love a little suspense so I thought the latter) It's a surprise.
TEACHER: Oooo I like surprises.

It worked: she left me alone.

About 15 minutes into the task everybody was just about done. Some of the more talented girls were done in about 10 minutes, others took longer: mainly the boys.

"Are we just about done, Ryan?" asked the teacher from her cooking pedestal.

"Yep, nearly done," I replied working at a frenetic pace to try and get the miso *just* right.

Another 5 minutes passed and my fried rice was well and truly done. My miso was done and I placed both dishes onto my finished table.

Everybody was waiting for me... and all looked quizzically at just what the hell I had done!

I was confident: this was going to be a STUNNING dish.

"Okay, well considering you finished last why not bring your food up the front Ryan and see how you did."

This was my moment. This was going to be my glorious moment. The time where my cooking career was going to be defined!

I stood up, carried both dishes over and told her what my dish was...

"Allow me to show you... Fried Rice Soup!"

As the words came out of my mouth I slowly poured the fried rice into the miso soup. The smooth silk-like waterfall of fried rice spilled effortlessly into my welcoming miso soup dish... it was divine.

But my teacher wasn't impressed.

Her face went from a curious happy smiling face to one of shock horror.

I beamed away with a big smile and as the process ended raised my hands and made the sound affect of, "Tadaa!"

All that was heard were crickets chirping out in the grassy quadrangle and I looked at my dear friend to see him shaking his head with a cut throat finger movement across his neck.

You're dead, his lips mimed.

What happened next was all a blur... all I remember was the teacher's tight grip on my arm, followed by my Fried Rice Soup being emptied into the sink, my now empty dishes being thrown onto my section of the classroom, and a lengthy walk to the principal's office. She didn't even SAMPLE my creation! On our walk to the principals office she yelled at how I just wasted a *whole* bunch of food, how there's people starving in Africa that would've appreciated it more than I did and how I am just going to make a mockery of this unit.

It was a loooong day from that point on.

In fact, the "Cooking and Clothing" class had more moments like this... such as the time when we made something using tomatoes and I used really underripe ones!

Heck, I didn't know they were underripe... I'M COLOURBLIND!

They all looked the same to me!?

Thankfully *that* "moment" wasn't met with another interrogation by the school principal!

One other infamous "moment" was met when I nearly burnt the entire school down!! See, I was running behind on one of my cooking lessons, so I thought, if I can increase the oven temperature by 50% that means I can halve the time taken!


I didn't know why other meals were created like this... but I guess that's what microwaves are for, right?

So there I was, making good time, cleaning up my stuff with the oven on at a tad below 300 degrees Celsius. I was making GOOD time... until smoke began to emanate from my oven no more than 10 minutes into baking.

I opened the oven door and as my teacher came running over screaming just-what-in-the-frickin'-hell-do-you-think-you're-doing-this-time-smart-ass I felt the fury of 300 degrees pound my face and singe all facial hair. I fell back trying to blink furiously so as to re-moisten my eyeballs and in the process kicked the oven door shut with my foot.

My cooking teacher was having kittens as the smoke alarms went into ultra-terrorist alert and all kids in the school evacuated their classes.

It wasn't until the smoke dissipated that order in our class, and our entire school, resumed. Everybody wondered what was going on, but didn't complain with the small break.

In a way I was a hero to the world for disrupting classes, but was scathed by my cooking teacher as being the "worst student" she ever had.

But... as fate would have it at the end of the year I was given a pass mark along with the following comments on my report card which said: "Good luck!"

So as I sat there looking at all the good food pictures from these wonderful cook books, I began to feel more and more for QUANTITY rather than QUALITY.

And boy did pizza hit the spot.

Stuff quality.

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