There’s something about this time of year that awakens the gourmet chef in me. Of course, I must use this term “gourmet chef” to describe how I feel, and not how I actually bake or cook. I want to smell cinnamon and other glorious spices throughout the house, sink my teeth into warm cookies, and prepare hearty soups to ward off the chill of forty-degree weather (What? I live in Nashville. It just doesn’t get that cold here in November.) Unfortunately, I have a rather storied past involving kitchens and baking and all that fun stuff, so I end up lighting a candle for the cinnamon smells, picking up pre-prepared dough for the warm cookies, and Liam hates soup anyway, so that’s a complete non-issue in our house.
When I first realized that I could be a complete and utter disaster in the kitchen was when I was about…thirteen. You know, that age when parents believe we can handle light cooking here and there? In the very same debacle, I melted a container in the microwave while making rice and melted a plastic saltshaker into a puddle on the stove. While dealing with the aftermath of one, the other happened. I’d like to say that I felt the right amount of panic and dismay, but really, my sister and I just collapsed in giggles and couldn’t move for several minutes.
Fast forward to some time in college. (This doesn’t mean there weren’t more disasters in between, though. Oh, yes. There were disasters.) It was nearly Christmas, and I had that burning desire to enjoy warm cookies – as previously mentioned – so I bought all the ingredients that weren’t already in my kitchen and got to work. Homemade cookies are no picnic, but it’s always been worth it to me (of course, those homemade cookies weren’t made by me…they were made by my mother.) Pan after pan of cookies came out of the oven, piping hot and a little flat looking. As a self-confessed disaster in the kitchen, I figured if flat was the worst that had happened, I’d done pretty well.
This idiot didn’t bother taste testing before plating and presenting to a room full of friends. Imagine the looks of surprise and disgust, if you will. These lovely people snatched up cookies, crammed them into their mouths, and then froze. Immediately, my mind whirled. What did I do? Did I do that stupid salt instead of sugar thing? What a cliché! Panicked, I tried a bite. Oh, no. They were sweet enough. They were also…gritty. I’d made an accidental substitution, but it was corn meal for flour. My chocolate chip corncake cookies are still a bit of a legend among those who were present that day. And most of them arch an eyebrow in concern when I offer them baked goods of any kind.
Don’t get me wrong; I have a few tried and true items that I can pull off every time. I’m pretty sure my first try was probably a disaster, but I can handle quite a few meals on a regular basis. I find it hard to mess up steak and baked potatoes, which is Liam’s favorite dish. If I do get the pre-made cookie dough, there are always delicious cookies in the house. I even get a little creative here and there to produce white chicken chili or white chicken lasagna (okay, so not terribly creative.)
In spite of my tendency to destroy most kitchen projects, I still crave the projects. I try to make the most of my desire to bake or cook, finding easy ways around the hardest parts of the recipe. I often throw things together and hope for the best, and if it doesn’t work out, I make a PB & J for my poor husband. I haven’t burned a kitchen down yet, so I’m gonna keep trying to invoke my inner gourmet chef, at least during this time of year.
I really want a cookie now.