Among the many skills that I have been eager to hone lately, there is cooking. I’m not much of a cook, for all of my bachelor years I stated that I knew how to ‘prepare food,’ but not cook as such. It’s basically true. I can make simple food that was sufficient to stave off scurvy while I lived alone through my late 20s and early 30s. Lately though I have been looking for new things to learn and Mrs. Portmandia is more than appreciative that I might be willing to cook meals for her for a change.

Last weekend I attempted to make a couple of meals. My plan had been to cook a meatloaf, as we would both like to find a good recipe for this, on Friday and a macaroni and cheese on Saturday. I spent a few days thinking about these dishes and trying to decide what recipes to use. Of course, I waited until Friday morning to thoroughly examine the recipes and make my shopping list.

This is where my frustration began. The website that I was planning on getting my recipes from was on the blink. It required a subscription to view the complete recipes, but every time I tried to log in, it bounced me back out or just choked. I spent an hour trying to get it to work, to no avail. Eventually, I had to fall back to another plan and get a physical copy of the book. This lead to a trip downtown and some other chores while we were at it and a half a day passing before I finally looked at the recipes in their entirety.

So, I’m finally home with the book in the early afternoon. I crack it open and read the recipes all the way through. They won’t work. The meatloaf recipe requires a bunch of equipment that I don’t have, including a working broiler. The macaroni and cheese recipe wanted me to have a food processor, which I don’t. Oh, and a broiler too. It was like some cruel joke that I was playing on myself. I got petulant and stomped around and tried to figure out a plan C.

Eventually, Mrs. Portmandia gave me a good slapping and helped me get my act together. We decided to fall back from the meatloaf and simply make burgers. I am good at burgers. They are easy to improvise, I have a great pan for them and they never fail. Done. For the macaroni and cheese, she offered to write down the recipe that she uses so that I could adjust that to make the dish that we had originally intended. Disaster averted for now.

Friday night I made burgers. I mixed spicy mustard, chili flakes, garlic powder and salt and pepper into my ground beef. I kneaded it together and made three patties. A fat one for me,  and littler ones for the Mrs. and the Jr. I smeared a dab of olive oil on them and tossed them on my cast iron grilling pan. I cooked them to each of our likings and we ate them up. A great meal, if not as adventurous as originally planned.

Saturday night, a friend came over and I was prepared to make macaroni and cheese with blue cheese and bacon. Thanks to the wife I had a simple recipe that even I should be able to follow. It went together pretty well. I managed to make a bechamel without blowing up the kitchen. Our friend assisted a bit, but my fail was in the multi-tasking. I waited too long to cook the bacon and while trying to get it done, I boiled the bechamel. Now I had cheese sauce all over my stove and nasty smoke through the apartment. Lame.

Luckily everything salvaged. I finished the bacon, chopped it up and combined it with the cooked macaroni noodles and crumbled blue cheese. I poured the remaining bechamel (thankfully there as more than enough left) over the noodles and popped everything in the oven. By the time that Mrs. Portmandia came home from work I had a tasty mac and cheese coming out of the oven. The apartment was only a little cold from having the windows open to disperse the smoke. Though it wasn’t perfect, dinner was great.

I’ll try again next weekend. Maybe with a few more successes under my belt, I won’t be so quick to despair when preparing to cook. After all, most of my attempts at cooking have actually turned out pretty good. Fingers are crossed for the next experiment.

2 thoughts on “Cooking”

  1. I’ll email you a short list of good cooking books. Gary was (is) a fantastic cook. I found a few of his books that were easy enough for me to use and fancy enough for him to in joy the result.

    I planned a dinner party one time and did not read the whole recipe before the big day. First some things had to be prepared the day before and chilled. Other things were simply to complex for me to try. We had pasta and sauce from a bottle. I burned the noodles! Well the ones on the bottom of the pan. We still ate up and it was okay. Mostly we just laughed and laughed. Apperently any food tastes good through laughter.

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