Cooking sets me to boiling

By Stephen Harris

August 26, 2013

If you’re looking for an example of the decline of civilization, may I offer the case of the alarming proliferation of TV cooking shows.

These scourges seem to be everywhere. For instance, one time I turned on the TV looking for something interesting to pass some time, and I came across something about George Washington’s Mount Vernon home in Virginia.

I’ve passed by but have never stopped at Mount Vernon, so I park my TV remote and decide to spend a few minutes learning more about our noble first president and his beautiful mansion overlooking the Potomac River.

After a few cursory scenes showing the beauty of the historic mansion, suddenly I’m viewing the 18th Century Mount Vernon kitchen and some chef is starting on some dish. Aarg. I’ve been tricked into watching a cooking show.

I’ve come across cooking reality shows, which by the way are not the least bit real. In these things, so-called judges try to browbeat amateurs to tears for ratings.

I’ve found they can devote almost an entire evening’s public TV lineup to cooking shows. Another time, I’ll be watching the TV news out of Greensboro in the mornings trying to learn something about what is going on in the world, and before you know it the news anchor and the weatherman have on aprons and are getting a cooking lesson from a guest chef.

Perhaps my aversion to cooking is to be blamed to my poor introduction to it. I got the bright idea one time to fry myself an egg. I was 10, maybe 11, the age when you think you can do anything.

I got out Mom’s little iron skillet and heated it up. When I went to turn over the egg, however, I found I could not. The egg had stuck solid to the skillet.

“Did you use grease?” Mom asked. “Grease?” I asked.

Mom was a great cook, so I never had to learn to cook myself. Ditto for Mom’s successor in the kitchen now.

When I moved from the hometown to school Down East, they only let me have a hot plate in the dorm. On my hot plate I got pretty good at boiling an egg and warming up a can of canned spaghetti. School didn’t teach me to cook.

When I finally got out on my own I viewed my first kitchen as a pretty good place for storage.

I told a girl one time I didn’t cook. She asked why not. “I never got into it, I guess,” I answered. The girl looked disappointed.

I don’t like to disappoint girls, but not to the point of breaking down and learning to how to cook. So I never did.

And I have taken my lumps as a result.

This summer a guy stopped by the house. He was going door to door selling steaks from a pickup.

“Do you grill?” he asked as he made his pitch. “No, I don’t,” I replied as I shoot him down cold. He looked at me funny but thanked me and left gracefully as a salesman should.

Only after he is gone did I realize that at the time I was standing in front of an old, tarp-covered grill on the porch.

My wife brought that grill into the marriage, used it a few times, then discovered the propane line leaked. She quit grilling, and that grill hasn’t been used in more than a decade. I need to get somebody to haul it off.

So here we are at the beach earlier this summer with the extended family in one of those fancy resort suites that they use to try to sell you a time share.

Everybody was sleeping in. I got up early to take a stroll on the beach and take some pictures of the sunrise. I love sunrise photos at the beach.

I took my time coming back, but when I arrived I still found everyone else sleeping. So I decided to fix me some pancakes, something special for breakfast. It is vacation, after all.

They had brought groceries and I found a frying pan. So here I get started.

I’m frying my last pancake (from a mix, just add water) as people start to stir. My wife found me in the kitchen, and she gets nervous whenever she catches me in the kitchen.

“Want me to do that?” she offered.

At that instant the sleepy granddaughter happened to walk by and interjected: “No! He’s finally fixing something for himself.”

Promotion to high school sure has made Little Miss Granddaughter smart.

Fortunately, my live-in cook - the one with the old grill - is a great cook. She’s a good fit; she covers my deficiency in cooking quite well.

So I come in from a hard day’s work and ask what’s for supper.

“Whatever you can fix,” my live-in cook replies. That’s how I learn she’s not cooking this night.

Aarg. Pancakes for supper again.


Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.