One of my questions this week was, “Can you cook?”
My first thought was, “Huh?”
Of course I can cook. Mom insisted. I just can’t eat any of it anymore. Vampires can taste – we’re very good at tasting – it’s just that we can’t digest food…and yes, like an idiot, I’ve tried. Let’s just say I don’t use the facilities the way I used to and what goes down must come up through the only orifice it still can…violently.
Truth to tell, I hated the idea of cooking – I just wanted my food NOW – but it taught me things I later learned to appreciate. My mom is very domestic – the hostess queen – and she thought I should have those skills. No dust bunnies, no cobwebs, and crumbs were strictly forbidden.
But going back to cooking: it’s food, yes, but it’s also art and planning.
Cooking to me used to be deciding what kind of cereal to pour into a bowl. It was orderly: cereal first, add milk, and as my dad used to say, “You’re not floating a battleship.” Did extra milk make cereal taste better? Or making toast. I was the toast master.
Mom fixed all that. She asked what I wanted to make…anything at all. I used to like Happy Meals, just a simple cheeseburger and fries with a Coke and a toy. You ordered at the counter, waited for what felt like an eternity, and got your colorful box. It was like unwrapping a present for dinner…hey, I was seven, okay?
She agreed we would make homemade Happy Meals but without the pretty box and movie-themed toy. We got everything at the store late one Saturday afternoon before coming home and unpacking it all. My mom sat in her favorite kitchen chair and informed me she wasn’t going to help: making dinner for the family was on me.
“Cooking,” she said, “was about both taste and timing.” If each ingredient tasted good separately, the final dish will be better when everything is combined; spicing the meat was especially important. So why did we have to start the fries first? That was the timing part. If we didn’t start the fries baking before we made the burgers and buns, they’d be cold before dinner time instead of fresh out of the oven. It made sense, and cold fries sucked.
After the oven was warmed up and the fries got to baking, mom said we had some time to go over the plan for the burgers. She directed me to set out spices for the ground beef and got the buns ready to lightly toast. Ketchup, mustard, pickles, cheese, and those dehydrated minced onions; everything was ready to go. She instructed me on how to set the heat, a light buttering on the inside of the buns to make them crisp as they toasted, when to turn the patties, and so on. There was also a lot of handwashing involved.
No, it didn’t look like McDonald’s when it was done. It was better! It looked better, tasted better, and pre-ordered Happy Meals just didn’t seem as special after making one for myself. Sure, it took almost an hour instead of three minutes, but then I got to clean up the kitchen with dad’s help and that was fun, too.
Nowadays, I’m back to placing orders: a pint of blood…drawn from five donors that’s combined into a warm mug that someone brings to me. “Five minutes fresh” as Eric likes to say. I once considered watching the drawing process, but I imagined it would be like seeing a cow bleeding instead of being milked. Still, it’s provided with love, and I swear I can taste that.
Three magical little happy meals a night, each served in a special cup just for me.
But I do miss cooking for myself.
Keep each other safe.