Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Less of a chef, more of an....arsonist

Most people know that I am not a competent chef

Most people don't realise quite how bad I am... 

And I'm bad. I'm bad as in 'burnt-on-the-outside-frozen-on-the-inside-pizza' bad. I'm bad as in 'survived-on-waffles-and-alphabetti-through-university' bad. And yes, I chose alphabetti and not normal spaghetti hoops because I could spell my own name with my food while I ate it. What can I say, grown-up life isn't for everyone.

Now what surprises many people about precisely how bad at cooking I am, is the fact that I actually studied Home Ec in school. For those of you who don't understand the implications of that, I took cookery lessons. And not only could I still not cook by the end of the 5 years of that class, but my family would no longer even try my attempts after I food poisoned them that one time. God, some people can hold a grudge!

But what I did discover in the last few years, was that I am a surprisingly good baker. Sweet shit. Not savoury shit. Which is probably because I much rather eat sweet stuff, so it makes sense that I'd be able to make it. Now, lets be honest, I discovered this fact because of a fundraising project we did in acting school where someone would bake something every day that would be sold for 50c or a euro to the other students (really popular project for hungry students). And because the other students didn't have the bias of my family's history with my cookery, they were happy to eat my wares. Yes. I used them like guinea pigs. I experimented on my friends. And to cut a long story short, I was good at baking cakes and biscuits and shit. But pride comes before a fall, my friends, and oh fuck me, did I fall.

It was late one night, not so long ago, that I decided that I wanted some chocolate. We did not have any chocolate in the house apart from drinking chocolate, and with no access to a shop, and the clock reading 12am, obviously I concluded that the most sensible thing to do was to make my own chocolate. In the form of brownies. And I did. I mixed that butter and sugar and chocolate powder, I added the flour and the beaten eggs. And all those other things that I don't remember because I was using a recipe that I didn't memorise and this is not a cookery class. Who am I, Delia Allen? Is that her name? It's not, is it...

Now, the problem with our old oven is precisely that. It is old. In fact, it was a wedding present for my parents, so it's almost 30 years old. I know what you're thinking, replace that shit. No. It's not a fan oven, so the temperatures need to be adjusted accordingly when using it. And bearing in mind that it was 12am and I was tired and am also incredibly stupid, I must not have adjusted correctly, because altho the cooking time had come and gone, the brownies were not cooked. They were still runny on top. A fact that I discovered to my dismay when I took the floppy silicone container out of the oven and brownie mix ran out onto the floor mat and it looked like poo and I panicked and had to clean it up fast while juggling a hot baking tin with a glove that had a hole in it. Now to speed up the process, I decided that it would be exceptionally clever of me to put the brownies in the grill to finish them off nice and quick and crispy on top. And so I did.

About 10 minutes later, watching tv with my younger siblings, I remembered the brownies and sauntered into the kitchen to check up on them. To my horror, there was a shockin smell of burning. And smoke coming out of the grill... Which I had closed... Accidentally. Now, remember that the container in which I had placed the mix was made of silicone. And for some reason, the fact that silicone might catch on fire in a closed grill situation did not cross my mind when I shut that grill door. But fuck me did I realise when I opened the grill and was greeted with a roaring flame pit!

Im not going to lie. I panicked. I panicked like a little bitch. I T-Rex armed and looked around in confusion and shock and then I called to my siblings to come quick, something horrible had happened. Knowing I was cooking, they figured something bad would happen eventually, but they didn't figure that burning down the house was a possibility. So they stayed in their seats watching the television. At this stage I was getting frantic, and something in the way that I was now hollering the place down, or possibly the smoke billowing out of the kitchen finally caught their attention. Obviously, my younger brothers initial reaction was to piss himself laughing, but as the flames grew and began to reach towards the wooden ceiling, they realised the gravity of the situation. I went for the fire extinguisher. I could not reach the fire extinguisher. My very tall younger brother got it instead. He declared that he had always wanted to do this, as he pointed the nozzle. There was a cloud of powder and as the dust settled, we realised that the night had just taken a very dark turn. Not only had the powder extinguisher put out the flames in the grill by coating it in dust. It had coated every single surface of the entire kitchen, as well as ourselves in powder. It was like an explosion in a flour factory. And my brownies, in their melted silicone container were fucking ruined.

We toyed with the idea of waking my parents. And by toyed, I mean, my brother declared he'd love to see the look on my mothers face when she saw the kitchen. But eventually, and possibly convinced by the frantic look in my eye, it was agreed that my sister would photograph it, we would do our best to clean it, and THEN we would tell my mother, showing her just how bad it had been and what a great job we had done in cleaning it from what it had been through photographic means rather than in person.

6 hours. It took 6 hours to clean that room. My brother was the first to drop. And then my sister. And fair fucks to them, they hadn't almost burnt the kitchen down, so they didn't need to stay up as long as they did to clean the place. Especially when it was in every single crevice and crack in that room. Presses with doors? Not a barrier to the powder fairies. Drawers? That won't stop the dust! Inside sealed containers? Now I don't know how the fuck that one happened but it did. I took the oven apart. I washed every pot and pan. I got up on the highest shelf and into the lowest press and the place was still covered in dust. At 7am I took a shower and sat in the living room waiting on my fate. The wraith of an Irish Mammy.

She entered the room cautiously. No doubt confused by the sniveling she could hear coming out of the room. Lets be honest, I had no sleep, Id had fire extinguisher powder in my arse crack for hours, and I had inhaled a serious amount of dust (which on further inspection of the extinguisher was apparently a bad idea, as the instructions were clear that you should let the air clear and wear protective gear and masks before cleaning the room) I was miserable and waiting for my death sentence.

There's been a terrible accident, I declared ominously, as she entered the room. 

She didn't look impressed, and seemed to ignore the statement, continuing on her way towards the kitchen door. I panicked. A theme of the night, it seems, and before she could reach the door, I had the whole story pouring out of every hole in my face in its hurry to get out before she could witness the devastation that lay behind the door with her own eyes.

Did you stay up all night? She asked. 

I was taken aback. This was not the reaction I had expected. There was no smoke coming out of her ears. I had all of my limbs. Now, I had gone through every scenario in my head. I had run through the numbers and this was not looking good for me. But I did not expect the mindfuck that she laid on me next.

You know that's not good for your sleep cycle, dear. In future, I was informed, no more baking at night (read: when I can't supervise you) and next time you set something on fire, use the mini extinguisher beside the cooker. It would have made so much less of a mess. (I'm sorry. What fucking mini extinguisher?? Who buys a mini extinguisher without telling anyone, and hides it- granted, in retrospectively plain view- beside the cooker so I don't know it's there in an emergency?!) Don't worry, dear. Nobody got hurt did they? ...Did they??

Reassured that everyone was safe and sound the world returned to normal when she declared,
You did a good job trying to clean it. Go to bed, I'll wake you at exactly 4.20pm, that's 8 hours sleep. We'll clean the kitchen properly later. ...And for the rest of the week...

It is a number of months since the fire incident. My mother suggested yesterday that I bake some gingernut biscuits. She's pointed out the new fire blanket that she put in the kitchen and the new mini extinguisher. And reminded me that if she's not home, the oven does not go on.

On the plus side, it's been a while since anyone suggested I give cooking the family dinner a go. It's the little things...