Now, for anyone who knows me and reads this title, it’s highly likely that you’ll be snorting laughter at the idea of me…Sammy, suggesting that I can teach someone to cook. Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. BUT, it is because of my lack of amazing cooking skills that I have realised that I am not the only person out there who really doesn’t understand the basics of cooking, so I’ve decided to pass on the tips that I’ve learnt over the years in my kitchen. Believe it or not, I have progressed and people actually eat (swallow) the food that I cook, AND compliment me on my efforts. Yay! So for those who don’t know me quite so well, let me get you in on why this is just so darn funny…and why if you are like me, you should not feel bad about it because as you keep reading, you will gasp, laugh and cringe at just how bad I was – was!…Past tense 🙂
Growing up, my family was always big on home cooked meals. Especially my grandparents – who are English – and would most frequently put on a delicious spread of traditional English fare. My Aunt & Uncle, when they were in town, always cooked up a mean feast of different flavours and cuisine depending on where they had been living/travelling too at the time (plus, they did this professionally, so you knew it was always going to be a great delight). At home, Mum & Dad always kept it healthy, simple and oh so tasty by working with the flavours of the ingredients, allowing them to take centre stage. Every now and again, I would pop my head in to the kitchen and observe what processes where taking place to create said meals. I would help out by peeling potatoes, laying the table, clearing the table and then washing up.
I’m very much a monkey see, monkey do personality type, and tend to pick up things rather quickly when I see them being done, so I never really took the time to learn more than what I thought I already knew through observation in the kitchen. Honestly, cooking just didn’t excite me that much. It never occurred to me that one day I would have to do this for myself, and at some point others.
By the time I was 16 or so, there would be evenings where I was left in charge at home with my younger brother, James. He and I would decide together what we wanted for dinner. I’d go to the shops (if we couldn’t muster something in the kitchen, or didn’t want what was there) and then I’d cook. I remember one night we decided on pork and vegetables for dinner, and then rice-pudding for dessert. I ruined the dinner meal (ew to boiled veggies & chewy, tough, over cooked meat) and to make up for my terrible cooking skills, I dyed the rice pudding a blue colour for a bit of fun. Mum came home to a perfectly wasted amount of produce from dinner, that we didn’t eat past one mouthful, and two children with blue stained mouths & teeth.
I moved out of home when I was 19, and by the time I met Jamie and we moved in together I was 22. So that’s a good amount of years, fending for myself to figure out how to cook, right? Let’s just say cooking wasn’t a priority. Thankfully, at the beginning of our relationship Jamie did majority of the cooking. I am very much a ‘place for everything and everything in its place’ person, so it worked well for me that I could strike up the deal of he cooks, and I clean. Because, I still couldn’t cook. In fact, we had one of our first fights over it.
It all started when Jamie got up a little earlier than I did, suggested that we cook up the sausages in the fridge for breakfast (this task was given to me, as I was still in my pj’s) and Jamie would head out to the shops to pick up a few other ingredients for our meal. I was so persistent in my reasoning as to why I needed to be the one that had to go to the shops. Jamie wouldn’t have it. So I had to break the news to him. I didn’t know how to cook sausages. I was mortified. Literally, one of the easiest things to cook (as I know now).
Since this truth came out, Jamie – ever so generously – would walk me through how he cooks different meals every night to build up my confidence and repertoire. A couple months down the line, and I decided to treat Jamie with a surprise meal made from scratch! (I am dying of laughter as I’m writing this, because I just can’t believe that I did this to him). I decided satay prawns would be the best thank-you meal. And really, not to toot my own horn, but I’m a smart girl. So how I came to thinking this was the right was to go about it really just baffles me. But anyway…
Satay Prawns. Yum. So I went to the local fish monger to purchase some fresh Australian Prawns. Everything else that I thought I needed, we already had at home. Once clean and ready to cook, in to the frying pan went the prawns. Now I knew that from my previous satay experiences, the flavour was similar to that of peanut butter. So, to the cupboard I went, and while the prawns are still sizzling away, I scooped out a massive dollop of peanut butter and let that drop into the frying pan as well. I had the expectation that the peanut butter would melt into a nice runnier consistency, so I took my sight off the prawns and checked on how the rice was boiling in a separate pan – all good.
Back to the prawns. Turns out, peanut butter (crunchy of course, for the texture – ha!) doesn’t melt the way I thought it would. Instead, it solidified around the prawns. In a panicked state, I went to the fridge and got out some milk. Added a ‘splash’ to soften the congealed peanut butter prawns (like seriously, who adds milk to prawns?!?). It worked, but only slightly. I kept stirring hoping it would loosen up a little. At this point, Jamie was going to be home in about 45 minutes and I wanted to give him the air of a care-free, look-what-I-threw-together meal – so I was in need of loosening up, as my anxiety of a total f***-up was escalating. And what better way to sooth the nerves than a glass of crisp white wine. Then and there, a genius idea occurred to me, “why not add the wine in too?”. And so I did!
25 minutes to go before Jamie comes home. There is no saving this disaster of a dish. But, the prawns are really fresh and local, so I didn’t want to just throw it away. Plus, in my excited haze earlier in the afternoon, I told him I was cooking up a treat for him. So I did the unthinkable. I served up a plate of rice, and lumped my peanut butter prawns on top. I placed it in the fridge, cleaned up my mess and accompanied my wine to the couch. Our kitchen had an island bench that divided the kitchen from the lounge. As Jamie walked into the house, I told him to change, unwind and relax – dinner was done (I told you I can’t believe what I did!). I asked if he was hungry, and he was.
I went to the fridge, took out the delicious and thoughtfully prepared meal and placed it in the microwave for him. Hoping that the heat would melt the peanut butter/milk/wine sauce. The three beeps signalling times up echoed from the microwave and my heart dropped when I saw that the lump was still a lump. I left it on the bench for him, rushed over to the couch and peered over the back of it to watch what was going to unfold next. He thanked me endlessly for cooking, as he’d had a long day at work, and continued to tell me how proud he was that I had cooked such a complex dish. I shrank back into the couch and started to giggle. Another thing about me is that I can’t lie to save my life. I literally get the giggles and tear up with laughter when I try to lie.
As he took a mouthful and started to chew, I couldn’t contain my humour, nor bare for him to endure such a horror any longer and raced over to take it out of his hands. He looked at me, and I’ll never forget the look of such shock and hilarity on his face. He swallowed. I explained what I had tried to do, how I messed up and that I didn’t want him to keep eating. He assured me he had no intention of eating as it was pretty much like dipping a hot prawn into a jar of crunchy peanut butter. How I love him so!
It’s one of many of my amusing stories that I have to share on my cooking history, and I’ll be sure to weave more of them in to the upcoming articles in the How To: Cook series. If you’ve made it down to here, then you can clearly see that I am no Master Chef (although I do have another brilliantly funny/cringe-worthy story to share with you about that – next time!). I do hope however that you can gage that with my lack of experience, and ability to recognise that I am not a great cook, I have managed to rectify my inability with a lot of practice, patience and persistence and I really do know how to rustle up a great meal for one, or plenty (sans peanut butter).
I’m really looking forward to showcasing my skills with you, and learning together as we start to dominate in the kitchen!