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Posts Tagged ‘kitchen disasters’

Tomorrow marks my seventh week without a functioning oven. Yes, seven weeks. Let’s count ‘em, shall we? One… two… three… oh, god, that noise you just heard was my spirit stabbing itself with a serving fork.  Either that, or my spirit stabbing my husband with a serving fork.

Here’s what happened.

My oven broke. To get really technical about it, that thingy that you have to pull out to light the thing got pulled out for good. And since the oven door was the detachable sort (not in a good way) and the knobs fell off when you looked at them sharpishly, we decided to replace the whole thing.

Unfortunately we then had to wait two weeks for some money to come in so we could afford to replace it.

But come that happy day, we marched into our local white goods store to order Our Brand New Oven. But somewhere somehow, in the middle of the ordering process, my husband changed his mind and decided we needed to consider renovating the whole kitchen before committing to one model or another.

For the record, my ability to talk renovations doesn’t extend much past the three minute mark, after which I start to glaze over and think about the bottle of wine in the fridge. If the conversation, say, wanders onto the topic of splashbacks and cupboard door handles, I start to think about the vodka bottle in the freezer. And if you tried, for example, to get me into some kind of FLOOR EMPORIUM to look at and discuss lino and carpet samples, then please be prepared to see me there swigging from the wine bottle and drinking straight from that vodka bottle with a straw at the same time. Just sayin’.

ANYWAY so I didn’t actually have to discuss renovations with him, I agreed to let my husband invite our friend C, who designs kitchens for a living, to come over and talk about them with him instead.

Within ten minutes of C arriving, I realised this was what’s officially known as a Bad Idea.  C and my husband began running about excitedly together, talking about knocking down walls and digging a three foot deep trench down the side of the house. And in one of those horror movie moments, C’s wife – who was helping me out with that bottle of wine in the fridge –  turned to me and revealed she hadn’t had running water in her kitchen or bathroom for over two years due to her husband’s own renovation project. I mean, she may as well have told me she no longer had a soul and wanted to eat my offal on toast for breakfast, such was my terror.

After C and his family left, my husband found me sobbing into my wine glass about “just wanting a fucking oven that worked”.

Luckily, my husband is a sensitive man. He saw my pain and realised it was all too much for me. He reassured me we’d just buy a replacement oven. The renovations could wait a few more years…

And then he changed his mind. Again.

Oh, he bought a new oven, all right. A good one, too. One that I am happy with – or rather, would be happy with except that it has been sitting, all warm and cozy and wrapped in plastic, cardboard and polystyrene in our garage for over a week now… while my husband has taken to one of our kitchen walls with a crowbar.

This is my kitchen now.

Extra points for spotting the almost empty bottle of vodka

And no, I didn’t see that coming, either.

The fact of the matter is I’m writing this blog post in the lounge room with the fridge next to me. The contents of my entire spice rack are currently alongside my bed just waiting for someone to make a joke about ‘spicing things up’ in the bedroom. For the record: don’t make that joke. DO NOT MAKE THAT JOKE.

But I think Tiddles McGee, all of four years old, put it best. When my husband first started pulling out the cupboards, he reportedly said  “I’m telling mummy you’re destroying the kitchen! She will think you’ve turned evil!”

Now where was that second bottle of vodka…

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How do I love my kitchen? Let me count the ways…

WAY ONE:

The cutlery drawer, whenever it is opened or closed, sprinkles a fine layer of sawdust on the items in the cupboard below.

WAY TWO:

My fruit bowl has its own Christmas decorations…

WAY THREE:

… and so does the door handle.

WAY FOUR:

This knob has been missing from my range top since we bought the house five years ago. The result? I only use three of the hotplates. It’s like the fourth one never existed.

WAY FIVE

This handy guide reminding us which knob corresponds to which hotplate falls off frequently. It is important to note that it is impossible to remember which knob corresponds to which hotplate without this guide.

WAY SIX:

This knob falls off with alarming regularity, usually into the open bin below (not pictured).

WAY SEVEN:

This knob, although turned off, gives the appearance of being on, concerning house guests and welfare officers alike.

WAY EIGHT:

You need to take the oven door off its hinges in order to be able to light it properly. Of course you do. It makes sense.

WAY NINE:

Instead of a retractor fan, I have this handy smoke alarm whenever I fry anything.

WAY TEN:

Clean (and dry) cutlery falls back into the washing up bowl with ease.

WAY ELEVEN:

My collection of broken plastic containers are stored neatly away in this broken plastic tub.

WAY TWELVE:

Finding anything in my cupboards is a dream.

Yep, I sure love my kitchen alright.

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I am an extremely accomplished multi-tasker – as long as you don’t expect any of those tasks to be completed well or, indeed, completed at all.

The other day I found myself in the kitchen making pizza dough, chicken madras and a custard tart simultaneously – and all from scratch. And please don’t ask me why because I’d have to bore you with a long convoluted answer about ‘chicken on the verge of an expiry date’, a husband returning from a three day business trip and a sick child’s plaintive pleas for a pizza dinner.

But nothing – nothing – can explain the custard tart… Except, perhaps, that it was a book group night and I’d earned myself a bit of a reputation as the bearer of freshly baked goods. I mean, let’s face it: I have to contribute something worthwhile to the group, especially since I tend to have read most of my book group books asleep and/or drunk. So I guess I can explain the custard tart, after all.

Anyway, there I was, already juggling recipe books, ingredients and sharp knives, when I decided to start tweeting about my endeavours.

Luckily, only one twitter friend, ‘cookingkt responded. “That’s a whole lotta kitchenbusy…. Hope there’s wine and music in the background?!” she said.

I think we can all agree that alcohol was the last thing this particular scenario needed. As it was, I still managed to make a complete mess of things completely sober.

In my defence, I don’t know why most pizza dough recipes insist on letting it rise a second time. It’s like the ‘difficult second album’ – agonising for everyone involved. And because I’d ambitiously started off with the dough with less than hour until my children officially expired with hunger, I had to settle for two ‘micro-rises’. It’s the kind of thing that makes a woman wish someone’d invent a kind of viagra for pizza dough. (“Is that pizza dough in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?”)

In case you are wondering, the results were spectacular – if, that is, that you count a pizza crust that’s just like cardboard parboiled in paper glue as “spectacular”.

And the custard tart? Let’s just say it brought to mind that Spice Girls’ song ‘When Two Become One’ because the crust rose up to greet the filling and the whole thing became one big biscuity omelette – ‘frit-tart-a’, if you will. Badoom tish! Yes, I’m here all week. Try the fish. But not the custard tart, obviously.

As for the chicken madras… Well, I didn’t get to sample it before I left the house for book group but when I got home there was a note on the table from my husband saying “That was the best curry I ever had.”

Admittedly, his handwriting was a little shaky. I personally like to think it was because of all the emotion he must have been feeling after eating such a magnificent meal and not, say, because he’d just spent three hours vomiting in the toilet and could barely grasp the pen.

Still, there it was: Best. Curry. Ever.

So I’ve decided I won’t be sad. One out of three certainly isn’t “all good”, but it isn’t “all bad” either, right?

(Anyone got a good recipe for Meat Loaf?)

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Stupid thumb. Always in the wrong place when I’m finely chopping ginger. Luckily the thumbnail took the bullet. Didn’t need it anyway. Except that now my thumb is more sensitive than an NDM 36 hours before her period starts and putting on a bandaid apparently requires two fully-operational thumbs and, even once I’ve finally managed to just get it on using my teeth, the bandaid turns out to be no damn substitute for an actual nail. Stupid thumb. Stupid thumbnail. Stupid supersensitive skin under thumbnail. Stupid NDM.

Stupid smoke alarm. Every time I start to fry something on the stove, it goes off. Then I have to run around flinging open doors and windows and searching for the broom so I can stand underneath it, fanning it like it’s some Roman emperor, while my dinner starts to actually burn on the stove top. If the smoke alarm is so damn smart, the least it could do is predict next Saturday’s lotto numbers rather than just the fact that we’ll be eating charcoal again tonight. Stupid self-fulfilling prophetic smoke alarm.

Stupid underwire bras. After seven years of wearing maternity and nursing bras, I finally bought one with a bit of scaffolding-support in the hope it would turn my southbound migrants into something a little more Dolly Parton-esque – but without the wig or the freak-show face. And then, after only a few months, the underwire staged a jail-break and I’m back to wireless. And then I read that a woman’s life was saved because a bullet deflected off the underwire of her bra and I started worrying that someone’s sabotaged my bra on purpose because they Want To Kill Me for doing something simple like setting off the smoke alarm again when the News is On. Stupid murderous husband.

Stupid cat. Who will never eat the actual cat food I put out for him but will regularly jump up on the kitchen table to feast upon peanut butter toast and partially-chewed carrot. And then will walk around crying pathetically as if to say “She never feeeeedddssssss me” just in case the Pet Social Welfare Officer happens to drop by. And when they do drop, I’ll probably end up spending four years in a high-security penitentiary because the council will have suddenly announced a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the ill-treatment of animals. And then I’ll have to spend every day writing to the cat from my prison cell, begging him to retract his statement so I can go home to be a Mother To My Children, but my words will go unheeded because the cat can’t read and instead just pisses on the letters because he’s gotten a bladder infection from eating too much peanut butter toast. Stupid incontinent illiterate cat.

Stupid post. Without a proper ending.

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Every now and then my husband has to impose a Total Cupcake Ban on our house. I innocently walk into the kitchen and he’s standing there, all authoritarian-like, saying “Strictly No Cupcaking Allowed” in the kind of voice that makes me wish he was wearing a police uniform and calling me “ma’am”.

Look I know i have a problem – and not just with my husband-in-uniform fantasies. There have been days I’ve gotten up, baked and iced a dozen cupcakes and thrust them into somebody’s hands before 9am. In some people’s minds (i.e. my husband’s), this is a much greater sin than having a drink before the sun is over the yardstick. Particularly if I’m flinging sugar, butter and flour about in the kitchen before any of the kids have had breakfast or – worse still – my husband has had his first coffee of the day. Which is tantamount to spousal-abuse, or so the letters I’ve received from my husband’s lawyers duly inform me. 

I have come late to the world of baking. Had you met me even five years ago and asked me to bake you something, I would have called upon my good friend Betty Crocker for assistance. And even then I would have stuffed it up. Then one glorious day, I inherited my grandmother’s copy of “The Joy of Cooking” – which is a little like “The Joy of Sex” except that A) any makin’ bacon it contains isn’t the kind that involves illustrated diagrams of a disconcertingly bearded man and his “lady friend”; and B) it shows you how to have a bun in the oven that’s not going to give you hemorrhoids, varicose veins or stress incontinence.

Anyway, “The Joy” was a treasure trove of all the little bits and pieces of information that was completely missing from my cooking knowledge base, such as the fact even a small amount of yolk in with separated egg whites will mean they won’t beat properly. Or, unless you really like your guests to walk around making that pha-pha-pha sound with their lips, it’s highly recommended that you take time to sift your dry ingredients properly when adding bicarbonate of soda. And that you need to soften butter before attempting to cream it (unless you really want your Kenwood Chef beater attachment to end up looking like it’s had the Dali clock treatment). 

Of course, for a long time my bake-from-scratch cakes were either like rocks or would suddenly collapse in on themselves if someone made a sudden movement.  But slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, things began to improve. And then quite rapidly get completely out of hand – sometimes literally, such as when I stuck my finger in the barmix in my pursuit of the perfect pat-in-the-pan crumb pastry (see “Up in Arms” for more details). And for the record, anyone who has heard that pitiful story in its entirety and seen the scars I bear will forever think twice before licking the whipped cream off one of those finger traps without a) unplugging it from the wall first and b) calling the electricity company to temporarily disconnect the house from the main grid all together. That’s my gift to the world. 

Fortunately, I didn’t let a little severed tendon dampen my enthusiasm for baking and I was soon back in the kitchen, churning out cupcakes faster than the kids can eat them and grind the crumbs into the carpet. And so we’re back to the Total Cupcake Ban my husband keeps imposing on the kitchen. Look, I know I’ve got a problem but there’s perfection to be found in those little balls of butter, flour and sugar, goddammit! And isn’t a Not Drowning Mother owed a little perfection in her life when all else around her invariably turns to shit (including those cupcakes, actually, if you think about it)? All hail the mighty cupcake!

Better Than Sex

Better Than Sex

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