A Note to the Reader: As with all of my blogs, the following story is completely true. While it embarrasses me to admit it, this story is completely unexaggerated or enhanced. Seriously, folks…I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!
As a 22 year old bride, I had in my mind certain things I was supposed to “accomplish” as a wife. I was supposed to learn to cook and keep the house clean; do the laundry and basically run all errands for my husband. Thankfully, I’ve grown up since then! But, as all young brides, I was determined to be successful in my new life. I was going to “wow” my new husband and rival a Stepford Wife. Thinking back, I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. My husband did know me before we got married. We had dated for nearly three full years before we walked down the aisle, so he was fully aware that I could neither cook nor “properly” vacuum a floor (something a former employer once kindly pointed out to me). And, as for dishes? Well, I’d done the mathematical equations in my head and determined that paper plates and plastic forks were much cheaper than the cost of dish detergent, not to mention the cost of that water necessary to run the dishwasher. And then there was the time involved! At the (then) minimum wage of $4.25/hour, I could buy a packet of paper plates and plastic forks that would last me a month for what it would cost me each day in the time alone it would take to do those dishes. Trust me, folks…it’s all in the math, and I was working “fuzzy math” long before Bush the 2nd coined the phrase. But I digress. I was a young bride standing in the shadows of my own nearly perfect mother and mother-in-law, and I was determined that those around me should be awed by my newly acquired domesticity.
My first task was cooking, a chore that I neither enjoyed nor excelled. I knew I was in for trouble when I left a boiling pot of water on the stove, completely forgetting about it long enough that the water had boiled to evaporation and the only thing remaining was a dry, scorched, ruined pot with some mercury-like substance in the bottom. But I was determined! How hard could it really be? People had to eat in order to survive, and I had it on good authority that the world was overpopulated. Therefore it stood to reason that even the least motivated individual could learn to cook…and I was motivated!
My middle brother, Sam, is an exceptional cook and pastry chef and had actually done all of the catering for our wedding, so I called him for advice. All I really needed was a couple of super easy ideas to get me started while I figured out this whole cooking business. What could I make that was idiot-proof? His first suggestion was baked potatoes. He instructed me to buy a couple of large baking potatoes, bake them in the oven and, when done, top them with whatever sounded good…cheese, broccoli, ham, sour cream, chili…whatever caught our fancy. As an added bonus, he gave me a tip: “Take a large nail and push it into the potato before you bake it and then leave it there until it’s done. The nail conducts heat and will bake the potato a bit faster and more evenly. Just don’t forget to remove the nail before eating it and you’re good to go.” Awesome! Not only did I have something I could make, but it was easy and I’d been blessed with a “trick of the trade” to get me started. How could I go wrong?
Yeah…Note to self: When you find yourself asking that question, then you should probably consider that your first clue.
That evening I set out to make the world’s most perfect baked potatoes. I went to the store and got everything I could possibly need: 4 large baking potatoes (2 extra in case something went wrong), broccoli, butter, cheese, sour cream, chili, green onion, fresh salt and pepper…everything except the most important “trick of the trade.” The nails. What could I use in a pinch? I scoured my kitchen and finally decided that a butter knife in each potato would serve the same function as a nail. It was metal, right? It ought to conduct heat just as nicely. Who knew if I was right or wrong, but that’s what I was going with.
With the potatoes cleaned and prep’d, the oven set, and a knife sticking out of the top of each potato at a 45 degree angle, I was good to go. I set the table, prepared the toppings and then waited for the timer to go off indicating that my potatoes were done. After about an hour, I went to remove the potatoes from the oven. Honestly, this is why I don’t like to cook…there’s just too many rules to remember. I opened the oven and, without thinking at all, I stuck my bare hand in the oven and grabbed ahold of the “handle” sticking out of the first potato! HOLY BUCKETS! I screamed like someone had shot me and yanked my hand out of the oven. Holy buckets that hurt!!!
My new husband, Troy, rushed into the kitchen to the sound of my blood-curling scream. “What happened? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” he asked.
By this time I had already rushed to the sink and was running my hand under cold water. As he quickly put the pieces together, my loving husband started to laugh. “Please don’t tell me you grabbed that potato by the knife. Did you? Tell me you didn’t!”
With tears of pain streaming down my cheeks, I confirmed that it was exactly what I’d done and showed him the already-forming blisters to prove it. To his credit, Troy did his best to stifle his snorts of laughter and took a hot pad out of the drawer to remove the potatoes from the oven. Unfortunately, as I used a fork to determine their level of “doneness,” I realized that they’d need about another half hour of baking time, and so back into the oven – with the knives still sticking out of each potato – they went.
Graciously, Troy put the potatoes back into the oven for me and we reset the timer for another 30 minutes. I assured him that I wasn’t stupid enough to make that mistake again.
30 minutes passed and it was time to remove the potatoes from the oven. I walked into the kitchen, opened the oven, and – yes – stuck my bare hand into the oven a second time and grabbed the “handle” protruding from the baked potato.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!” I screamed.
I could hear the laughter before he ever reached my side in the kitchen. He wasn’t even trying to hold it in this time. Troy was doubled-over laughing so hard he was nearly hyperventilating. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I don’t mean to laugh,” he said. “Tell me…please…just tell me…did you grab it with the knife again?”
All I can say is two things: First, cooking is not for wimps! It’s a dangerous profession and I give my deepest and most profound respect to anyone who has chosen this dangerous occupation as a livelihood. Second, after this incident, my husband hid all of the butter knives we owned and I’m still searching for them today. Okay, that part’s not true, but it is true that I no longer use knives to conduct heat in my baked potatoes.
To be continued….