For those of you who know me, you know that my ability in the kitchen is slim to none.
When I was about 27, I attempted to make rice for the first time. I grew up watching I Love Lucy, and that was part of the problem. I decided to call my mom for guidance.
“Mom? I’m trying to boil some rice, and I can’t remember if it’s three parts water to one part rice or one part water to three cups of rice?“
I still don’t remember the correct proportions because I haven’t improved as a cook over the years, but pretty soon the rice was boiling all over the stove.
Obviously I’d gotten my proportions wrong and now the stove looked like it had been hit by a thick snowstorm. The heat of the stovetop quickly hardened the rice, so when my fiasco was finished, I also had the luxury of chipping the rice off of the burners.
For my friend’s birthday back in 1984, I thought I would cook her a steak. She was a waitress, and I thought it would be a wonderful surprise to have a steak dinner waiting for her when she got home.
I took the steak out of the fridge, and I put it in the oven. I turned the oven on to 400, and proceeded to cook it for an hour. When my mom cooked, everything was put into the oven for an hour at 400 degrees. Surely, that must apply to steak also.
Of course, I did not pre-heat the oven either. Why waste time? She was coming home in less than an hour and I had to have things ready.
So, I went into the living room, and I proceeded to write some poetry. When an hour was up, I proceeded to get the table ready for her birthday dinner.
When she came home from being on her feet all day, I told her to relax and I poured her glass of wine. I set the table, and proceeded to put the meat on the plate.
For some reason, it didn’t look like the steak that I had imagined. I’d seen pictures in magazines of what steaks were supposed to look like, and mine didn’t look like that. It was the color of an old leather boot, and it had curled up at both ends into a U-shaped gondola. I think I put some parsley on the plate to make it look pretty and eagerly put it on the table.
She looked at me with weak approval, and I knew that I had screwed up badly. Neither of us could cut into the steak I looked at her apologetically and attempted to feed it to our cat. The cat sniffed and walked away.
We headed up the street to a local place that was still open. From that moment on, I decided that her birthdays were better spent at a restaurant.
— Mary McGrath
Mary McGrath writes from Los Angeles and Naples, Florida. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, including Newsweek, The National Lampoon, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Purple Clover, Medium.com, Los Angeles Times and Good Housekeeping. Her motto: “Life is tough. You might as well laugh about it.”