Kitchen Accidental

I cook twice a year: once for Rosh Hashanah and once for my husband’s birthday party every January. While three sit-down dinners in three days is exhausting, millennia-old recipes and limited attendees make the Jewish New Year manageable. Plus, if I really screw up, I can repent the very next week and, truth be told, my father usually does a fair amount of the cooking and hauls it in from New York or Arizona.

It’s the annual party that gets me. Cooking for 40-something people is doubly overwhelming for me, as I hate to cook. And I’m not very good at it. While I can multitask the life out of nearly anything else on earth, I cannot multitask cooking. I must pay very, very close and exact attention, or all hell breaks loose. I generally start cooking the weekend before the party and cook every day until it’s over. Then I plop on the couch until I feel fully recovered. That can take days.

People often ask if they can help or why in the world I don’t have the party catered. Honestly, it’s a labor of love. Not of cooking, but of Jeff. Other than the city in which we live, pretty much everything else we do is about me; this is the time when I want everything to be about him, so I cook my little brains out. Jeff, bless him, has learned much in 17 years of marriage, and he is quite good at knowing when to stay out of sight and when to come bursting into the kitchen with the first-aid kit.

This year, I have had some particularly fun snafus.

First, I was making my now-famous macaroni and cheese. You start off with what I now know is called a roux (don’t know why). I melted my stick of butter, then added the flour. The recipe calls for three-eighths of a cup of flour. Alas, there is no measuring cup for that (um, why?), so I figured I’d just use three one-eighth cups. Alas, again: Eights look a lot like threes. I used three one-third cups of flour. Instead of a roux, I accidentally made dough. Who knew that’s how you make dough? So I smushed it in a pan, baked it and realized it tasted like crust. I ate it with creamed honey. Delicious.

Later, as I was stirring polenta, I dislocated my whisk. Jeff came running. My whisk, not my wrist, I explained.

Then there was the makeshift standing mixer I made by balancing an electric hand-mixer in a batter bowl. Brilliant, until it launched itself and the bowl full of dressing off the counter and splatted all over the kitchen and me.

Which reminds me of a Weight Watchers meeting: Everyone was sharing recipes, and I lamented that none of it was helpful to me since I don’t cook at all. A woman sitting next to me said, “I don’t understand how you can like to eat so much and not cook.” I looked at her with pity, as I try to do with idiots, and responded, “I like to wear clothes, but I sure as hell don’t sew them myself.”

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