Friday, January 13, 2012

Fowl Play

My husband is considering nominating me for the show "Worst Cooks in America," and I think I may actually have quite a good chance at winning the title—assuming the title actually goes to the worst cook, and not the most-reformed previously worst cook.

Actually, I don't think I'd even make it through the first round—mostly because I'd quickly be disqualified from the category of "cook" and placed firmly in the category of "meat mangler," or "expert re-heater."  I'm that bad.

When we were first dating, my husband once asked me to boil a potato for him so he'd have a head-start on dinner when he got home from work.  He arrived to find a smoke-filled apartment and a very frustrated girlfriend angrily banging about in the kitchen. When he asked me what was going on, I pointed at the offending potato in the pot and yelled, "It just won't cook!"

He looked at the pot, which held a whole potato sitting in an inch of water and said, "Um, didn't you realize you had to chop it up?"

I had wondered why the water kept boiling out and the potato was burning on the bottom.

My husband knew exactly what he was getting into when he married me, and thankfully he didn't really mind, because he absolutely loves to cook.  On any given day, by seven in the morning he has already decided what he will be making for dinner, and little plans are hatching in his brain as to how he should embellish the meal to make it as "gourmet" as possible.  

For Christmas this year he asked for a subscription to "Cooks Illustrated," which is pretty much the equivalent of a Playboy magazine to him.  When his first issue arrived in the mail yesterday, he tore the plastic off with abandon and hungrily scanned the pages—eyes bulging and mouth watering.  As I gaped at him, he muttered, "Mmmmm.... Food Porn...."

Although I've tried, I just don't understand his passion for cooking or his zest for grocery shopping.  My husband looks at the meat aisle in a supermarket and sees an extravaganza of possibilities glistening with juicy goodness, whereas I just look at it and see lots and lots of innards and pieces of dead things. 

This is why, if I had to cook for myself, I would quickly become a vegetarian.  I don't see how chopping up bloody dead things could be tolerable—let alone fun, and the idea of dealing with raw meat just disgusts me. In fact, I pretty much feel like I need to don a HAZMAT suit to just approach a piece of raw meat, and afterwards I always feel like I need to shower off.  Even after washing my hands numerous times with antibacterial soap and going through several applications of hand sanitizer (which I apply generously and often up to the elbow), I still feel like I have somehow been infected with some insidious germ that will turn me into one of those rabid, vomitous zombies you see in horror movies.

So you can imagine my frustration when, this afternoon, my daughter asked for soup and I realized we were out of the canned variety.  I asked her if she would settle for chicken nuggets, and she said yes....but when I looked, the closest thing we had to nuggets was uncooked breaded fish patties.  Being completely unsure of how long it would take to cook said fish patties in the microwave (only baking instructions appeared on the package, along with a prominent warning about the dangers of eating undercooked fish), I returned them to the freezer.

That's when I remembered that I had recently bought a collection of gourmet, ready-in-twenty-minutes soups-in-a-box.  I picked up my daughter's favorite—chicken noodle—and glanced at the package.

"This soup is SO EASY to make, we don't even bother giving you slow cooker instructions!" the box boasted.  "Delicious homemade-style soup in under twenty minutes!"  I decided to go for it.  I mean, heck, how could I bungle pre-packaged chicken soup?

I filled a pot with the requisite six cups of water and patted myself on the back for remembering to use the filtered water from the fridge instead of tap water.  I put the pot on the stove and set the heat to high, and when it boiled I added the contents of both packets from the box.  I stirred it a few times and walked away.

When I returned twenty minutes later, what I had was a thick yellow liquid with tiny bits of unrecognizable colored stuff in it.  I frowned, picked up the box again and looked closer at the directions.

They read:

1. Put six cups of water in a pot and add chopped chicken.
2. When the chicken is nearly done, add the second packet with the noodles.
3. Cook an additional ten minutes for the noodles to soften.
4. When noodles are nearly done, add the seasoning packet and cook an additional 2 minutes.
5. Add additional water if necessary and season to taste.


I decided that the worst mistake I had made was forgetting the chicken, and that the mess was possibly still salvageable.  (And no, I had obviously not noticed that there was no chicken in the packets in the box.)

I had a sinking feeling in my belly as I opened the freezer door and confronted the frozen chicken breasts my husband had neatly stacked in there.  I was repulsed and had no interest in taking those things out of the bag, but my daughter was hungry, so I faced my fear.  I clumsily shook the breasts out of the bag and onto a dinner plate (taking care not to let any part of them touch my person) and stuck the plate in the microwave.


I had no idea how long it would take to cook two chicken breasts in the microwave, but since we have a rather intelligent model I decided to press the "frozen entree" button.  After all, the chicken was frozen, and it was sort of like an entree.  It was certainly a better button to push than "frozen vegetables," I reasoned.

My daughter was now stomping around at my feet angrily because at least half an hour had gone by and I had not—as of yet—provided her with anything to eat.

I stared at the chicken as it turned, willing it to cook evenly and thoroughly so I wouldn't have to deal with anything quasi raw-ish.  

The microwave beeped and told me it had a minute and a half left.  I was confused—the chicken was clearly still pink on top, but the sides were smoking.  I pressed the "stop" button and removed the plate.  My daughter began jumping up and down at my side like a yippie dog, yelling "My chichin!  My chichin!!" 

I calmly told her she would have to wait because it wasn't ready yet, picked up a knife and began clumsily sawing off the rubbery edges.  Anything that looked edible got thrown into the soup pot.

Halfway through the massacre I realized I was using a knife with a wooden handle and nearly panicked.  Wood is porous.  I had contaminated the knife!  I would probably have to throw it away!  But I had no time to think... my daughter was screaming "Chichin!!  Chiiiiiichiiiiiinnnnnn!!!"

"Yes, yes, honey, just wait," I soothed, grabbing a second knife with a plastic handle and continuing to hack at the offending chunks.  My mom called in the middle of this, and just as she was exclaiming, "Dear Lord, if your husband ever dies, you'll all starve," it occurred to me that this whole incident might make for an entertaining blog post.

I got off the phone, washed my hands five times, sanitized them three times, and then took a picture of the hateful chunks still left on the plate.

In all fairness, I'm pretty sure this plate of mangled chicken harbored the same amount of resentment for me as I felt for it.

My daughter was just about rioting now, since none of the chicken I had promised her was yet in her belly.  She shrieked "Stop it!" as I dropped two handfuls of decimated meat into the pot, and then she burst into sobs when I put the above mess back in the microwave.

"Wungry!!!" she wailed.  "Wungry chichin!!!"

"Yes, yes honey! Chicken soup!  For you!  It's just not done!" I yelled over her protests, hoping she heard sincerity in my voice rather than panic.

My daughter was openly sobbing now, wailing in that "waaaaa...waaaahhh!!!" way that only little children do. (I've heard each child is specially calibrated to produce the specific frequency needed to tear its mother's heart to shreds.)

She pointed to the microwave and yelled mournfully, "Chichin in dare!!!  Waaaaahhh!"

I stared at the microwave with intensity, willing the chicken to cook dammit!!  When I saw smoke signals from within, I took it to mean that the meat was done, and I hit the "stop" button.  I pulled out the sizzling meat, hacked off the burnt bits, shredded the rest and dropped it in the still-boiling pot.

I turned to my daughter and said in the most excited voice I could muster, "It's almost ready!!  Chicken soup!  Yes!  For YOU!!!"  I'm sure I looked like a glassy-eyed lunatic at this point, but apparently it was enough to convince my daughter that food was really imminent.  She walked over to the counter and pointed at the bowl she wanted.

In all honesty, I wanted to let the soup cook for another ten minutes just to make sure there weren't any slightly undercooked bits I had accidentally missed, but I realized that my paranoia was getting the better of me and that no germs could have possibly survived two trips through the microwave and a rolling boil. 

I ladled the soup into my daughter's bowl, dropped some ice cubes in it to cool it faster, turned on her favorite Barney video and installed her at her table.  She blew on the soup, picked up a large chunk of chicken and stuffed it into her mouth.  As she chewed I observed and waited for any signs that there might be a zombie transformation taking place.

When she was done chewing and had apparently swallowed the piece unscathed, I asked her hopefully, "Is the soup yummy?"



(She never says no; chicken noodle soup is her favorite.)

I questioned her again.  "Is the soup tasty?"



It certainly looked good enough.  Surprisingly, after all that had transpired, I was actually left with something that resembled chicken noodle soup!

Unfortunately I can't tell you how it tastes because I couldn't bring myself to try any of it after handling all of those repulsive chicken pieces.

I think I'll feed it to my husband. Yes... that's it... I'll clean the kitchen until it sparkles, and then when he arrives home I'll proudly present my homemade chicken soup.  I'll tell him I wanted to cook him dinner for once, and that I lovingly prepared the soup in his honor. 

Perfect!  He'll never know.....

That is, of course, unless a zombie transformation occurs before he gets home.  Then I imagine I'd have some explaining to do.

   Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Till Death Do Us Barf

Weddings are wonderful, festive, life-changing, and occasionally disastrous events. I suppose Forrest Gump's famous line could apply to them, in that you never know what you're gonna get.

I was absolutely thrilled when my best friend asked me to be Matron of Honor in her New Year's Eve wedding, but if I had known what was in store, perhaps I would have asked for some extra-strength Valium to prepare me for the insanity and disaster that was to ensue.

Before I continue I should mention that I use the term "best friend" loosely; I actually have several best friends—each just as dear to me as the others.  In this case the best friend getting married was my pal Jen—we'll call her Chiquita (because that's what I call her, due to a high-school incident involving a banana. Just go ahead and let your imaginations run wild here, people).

Chiquita's ceremony promised to be a glittery affair, and I came into the holidays woefully unprepared. If you're a follower of my blog, you're familiar with my typical everyday "mom look," which goes something like this:

It was clear to me (and everyone else) that I was in need of a massive overhaul to properly prepare for Chiquita's wedding.  Thus, operation "Pretty-Up the Dumpy Housewife" began.

The first snafu happened when I got my eyebrows done.  A previous waxing incident had damaged my skin and caused a cyst, so this time I tried a technique called "threading," which is basically like high-speed plucking.  The "threader" uses strings to grab a whole bunch of hairs at once and rip them out in quick succession.  

I look quite peaceful, don't I?  Actually, I was pretty much gripping the chair with white knuckles, imagining myself on a sandy beach with crashing waves to distract myself from the sensation of having my forehead attacked by a nest of angry hornets.  After the procedure, I was left with what looked like an acid burn on my brow and nose.  Unfortunately my sister and I still had a bit of shopping to do, so I had to walk around the mall looking like Ty Pennington had enthusiastically attacked my face with a belt sander.

Fortunately the redness was gone by the next morning, and my brows did look pretty awesome.  At least I was no longer sporting what my sister refers to as the "Angry Birds" look.  According to her, my normal brows resemble the yellow bird.  Having never played the game, I have no real idea what that means, but according to her.....

I couldn't let that shit continue for the wedding.

With eyebrows properly attended to, it was time to address my hair. It was dreadful. A stylist had once described my natural hair color as "dishwater blonde," and it's a term I've never been quite able to forget.  I didn't want my hair to be the color of a spaghetti pot soaking in Palmolive for the wedding, so I foolishly decided it would be a good idea to color my hair myself, as I didn't have time to get an appointment at a salon.

I popped over to Target and bought a color called "dark blonde" to enhance my natural color a bit and make my tresses a bit shinier.  Unfortunately, after waiting the required 25 minutes, I looked in the mirror and was horrified to see this: 

It had processed into a dull black.  I frantically (and rather violently) washed my hair multiple times but was still left with a deep reddish-brown, which might have been fun under ordinary circumstances, but which was highly undesirable right before the big event!

The previously mentioned extra-strength Valium would have come in particularly handy at this point, as I was just about hyperventilating.  I raced out and purchased a lighter blonde color, which I then stayed up until three in the morning carefully interspersing with the darker color to make the whole effect less severe.

The result came out surprisingly good, and when I met the girls at the salon on the morning of the wedding, the overwhelming verdict on my hair was that I should screw it up much more often, because the end result was fantastic. I breathed a welcome sigh of relief, accepted an extremely comforting cup of coffee from my stylist, and settled in.

I chose an updo out of one of those odd books they have lying about in salons, and the stylist went to work.  When she was finished, she sprayed the whole thing with "shimmer spray," which caused my hair to twinkle in the light as I moved about.  It was freaking fantastic, and I felt like a princess!  I dare say I hadn't even felt that glamorous at my own wedding!  I was psyched and ready to enjoy the day, and I was sure that all the stress was finally behind me.

I couldn't have been more wrong. 

The rest of the morning was all girly-girl fun at the bride's hotel.  We primped and preened, carefully applied our formal makeup and admired our gifts from the bride: beautiful satin clutches and bracelets that were so sparkly they were practically seizure-inducing.

Before we knew it we were being taken to the church and the ceremony was underway.  It was beautiful and touching, and I proudly stood by my best friend's side, fighting back tears as she exchanged vows with her love.

And then, in the blink of an eye it was done—they were husband and wife, and everyone was smiling and kissing and hugging and congratulating.  We were ushered back inside for pictures, and I relaxed in a pew while the bride and groom posed for their first formal photos as a married couple.

I was reflecting upon it all and enjoying the brief down-time when I suddenly started to feel a bit odd.  My stomach was a tad queasy and I felt sort of fuzzy in the head.  I was also rapidly becoming very hot and uncomfortable.  

My husband must have noticed that I looked droopy, because he swooped to my side and began rapid-firing questions at me: "You look like you're about to pass out. When was the last time you ate anything?" 

"Um, I had coffee at the salon..." I replied. 

"It's three o'clock!" he shouted, horrified. "No wonder you're woozy!  You're starving!  I knew this was going to happen," he said, shaking his head at me like I was a naughty puppy who had piddled in the corner.  He produced two energy bars from his pocket and asked me which one I wanted.  I was about to choose one when he shoved both of them at me and said, "Never mind. You need to eat both.  And when was the last time you had anything to drink?" 

"Um, I had coffee at the salon...." I repeated. 

"Oh my God, you're dehydrated. You've been running around nonstop all day!  No wonder you're about to pass out!  There's a water fountain in the hall.  Go out there and drink all the water you can.  Eat the bars, get some fresh air.  It will do you a world of good."  He looked terribly concerned, and I was overwhelmed with love for this wonderfully thoughtful man I'd married—this man who had packed energy bars for me without me even mentioning it, who was certainly ravenous himself but chose to give me the small amount of food he had brought.

I drank some water, ate the bars, and felt a bit better.  The bridal party was called in for pictures, and we posed for the usual formals, and also a few cheesy shots where a couple of us kissed the groom (to the apparent horror of the bride), before hustling ourselves out to the limo bus.

Here I am enjoying one of my last moments with the bride before the horror began.  As you can see, operation "Pretty-up the Dumpy Housewife" had been quite a success.  No "Angry Bird" brows here!  Too bad I didn't get to enjoy it for long.

Once on the bus I was struck with the dizziness and nausea again.  I thought perhaps it was motion sickness—after all, it was a big bus, and the driver was taking the turns a bit roughly.  As soon as the bus stopped in front of the hotel I bolted out the doors and ran for the lobby, where I seated myself in a chair and tried to catch my breath. 

A groomsman saw me and looked alarmed.  "You look terrible!" he said.  "Do you feel all right?  You're all sweaty and your color is awful."  

I said that no, actually, I felt sort of like I was going to pass out or puke.  A glass of ice water was quickly placed in my hands, and the mother of the bride came rushing over to tend to me.  All manner of suggestions were made as to why I was suddenly ill.

One person said that I should probably go for a walk outside in the fresh air; it had been so hot on the bus after all.  Another said that a walk was not what I needed... what I needed was to sit for a while and just rest, as all the activity had clearly been too much.  A third party brought me a sandwich and some chips and said the salt in the tortilla chips would help replenish my electrolytes, which were clearly all out of whack from not eating.

When I balked at the sandwich, the mother of the bride brought me up to her personal room at the hotel, ordered me to take off my tight dress and lie down in her bed in my bra and underwear to cool off and rest.  I was given a can of Coke to drink and some pretzels and a bit of hoagie to nibble, and I sorrily picked at them, painfully forcing down each sip of soda and each bite of bread while my hubby stood over me and fussed.

A decision had to be made.  We had planned on taking the two cars we had come in separately back to the house in the down-time before the reception, returning with just one car so that at least one of us could drink at the reception and not have to worry about driving home.  We were running out of time, so I put on the jeans and tee shirt I had worn that morning and took the dress with me, intending to change into it back at the house after dropping off my van.

It was freezing outside, but nonetheless I blasted the van's air conditioning in my sweaty face as I drove.  I tried to take deep breaths to keep the nausea at bay, but about five miles from my house I was suddenly aware that I was going to throw up, and soon.  I looked for a place to pull over but got stopped at a red light.  I looked frantically around in my car—there was a CVS bag on the floor of the passenger side that I could use if I couldn't pull over in time.

Just as I reached for the bag, the light turned green. I floored the accelerator, pulled off the road, jumped out of the van and violently vomited everywhere as I ran for the grass.  My husband, who was following me, pulled over in front of me and jumped out of his SUV.  He went to approach me, but then decided to keep his distance when he saw what was happening. 

I fell to my knees, choking and coughing and continuing to hurl as he asked me if I was all right.  (I always wonder what the correct answer is to that question—when you are projectile vomiting so violently that you are barely able to catch your breath, what are you supposed to say when asked if you're all right?)  I guess I can take comfort from the fact that my gorgeous hair was certainly shimmering dazzlingly in the headlights of my van, so at least part of me still looked pretty while I puked.

When there was a brief lull my hubby asked me a much more appropriate question: "Do you think you're done?"  I wiped the rancid liquid that was dripping out of my nose on my sleeve and nodded uncertainly.  "Can you drive?"  I nodded again and wobbled back to the van. 

I sat down and realized that my bum was soaked.  Here's the best part, folks: I had peed my pants.  See, birthing my son pretty much destroyed all the muscles down there in charge of holding things together, despite the thousands upon thousands of Kegel exercises I had done before and after his birth.  Right after my son was born, I peed when I coughed, sneezed, laughed, tripped over something, or even took the steps too quickly.  I've since been able to tighten things up enough so that it's hardly ever a problem any more.  But when I vomit, well, let's just say that the dam just breaks and there's not one darn thing I can do about it.   

I arrived home and raced upstairs so my hubby didn't see my soaked pants.  I did a lightning-fast change into pajamas, brushed my teeth and collapsed in bed.  I almost immediately started shivering violently with a fever.  Of course, I was still planning on attending the reception—after all, I had a speech to give—so I was lying in bed shivering very carefully so as not to mess up my beautiful hairdo. 

My husband sat down on the bed in his suit and tie and asked me how long I thought I'd need to pull myself together before I could put my dress back on.  I told him to give me twenty minutes. Then I carefully got out of bed and took an experimental wobble down the hall.  I made it back to the bed just in time to avoid puking.  Every time I tried to stand up I was overcome with dizziness and nausea.  

I started to cry. 

My husband, ever supportive, said, "Well, maybe you could put the dress on, and we could just plop you at a table in the corner and you could just sit there all night?  At least then you'd be making an appearance." 

A vision of myself projectile-vomiting on the guests while peeing all over my beautiful dress flashed through my mind, and I was aware that there was a distinct possibility I could turn into the gal from Bridesmaids who publicly pooped herself. 

That definitely did not seem like a viable option for the evening. 

I started to sob. I had to face the fact that I just couldn't do it.  After all, I feared I had already infected some unwitting attendees—I had kissed the groom on the cheek during pictures, and during the passing of the peace I had kissed everyone in the surrounding pews too!   

I called the bride on her cell and sobbed as I told her I was sick and couldn't make it.  She was unbelievably understanding—she told me to go to bed and promised that she'd send me pictures from her phone of the reception throughout the evening.   She assured me that all that mattered was that I got better, and that she was just thankful that I made it through the ceremony and the formal pictures. 

This, dear folks, is why Chiquita has—and will forever hold—the title of Best Friend in my book of life.  I missed half her wedding day, and all she cared about was that I felt better.  

And after three days of this... (look, my brows still look cute even when I'm at death's door!)...

...I am finally done puking, done feeling sorry for myself, and ready to laugh about the whole thing.  

You know, Chiquita and I used to go on many excursions together, and something would inevitably go wrong every time. Our motto has always been  "Always an Adventure!" And although her wedding is technically filed in my "misadventures" category, we will definitely have some great stories to tell for years to come.

So congratulations to Jen and Ed! I didn't get to give my speech at the reception, but I can certainly tell her now how much she means to me.  I love you, Chiquita, and I'm so happy that I could be by your side on your big day.  I wish you and Ed all the blessings and happiness in the world.

And while I'm at it, I'd like to make a brief appeal to our Heavenly Father.  AHEM... (clearing throat and assuming formal voice....) 

Dear God, can we please forget that I kissed the groom on the cheek and let their post-wedding days be blissfully puke-free?  I'd really appreciate it.  Oh, and thank You for blessing me with such wonderful friends. You officially rock. 


Stumble Upon Toolbar
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...