I am not a cook, not really. I can acquire a recipe, purchase the necessary ingredients, follow the step-by-step instructions, and end up with food for my family to eat. (Unless I am talking or parenting while I am supposed to be following the instructions, then things get dicey.)
But I cannot create. There are many wonderful people in my life who enter kitchens without fear, scan pantries with confidence, and then practically effortlessly create food dishes that never would have occurred to me even though it was my kitchen and my pantry and ingredients that I had stared at for weeks.
I have had quite a few cooking fails. These are the more noteworthy: The attempt to replace condensed cream of chicken soup with chicken noodle soup in a casserole. The attempt to "negate" salt with pepper. The attempt to cover up too much crushed red pepper flakes by stirring vigorously. The attempt at chili that tasted more like bean dip. I could go on.
My poor, sweet husband has eaten everything I have made. Only once could he not make it past more than one bite. He's a brave man.
Along with my inability to create in the kitchen and my general dislike at cooking. (It takes up so much time, and then it just turns into poop. I know, I know, I should be proud that it fuels our bodies and helps us live and tastes good and allows dinner time to occur, but I'm pretty negative about it all usually. I would much rather be folding laundry or washing dishes or cleaning mirrors or organizing a drawer.)
So cooking in general is less than delightful.
But meat is the real bane of my existence.
I do not like to cook meat. If I am going to eat meat without forcing myself to look happy, the meat ideally is as dry as possible. Except for the occasional burnt hamburger, very well cooked chicken tender, or crispy (not chewy!) bacon, I wouldn't really miss meat at all.
Jeff likes meat.
I remember feeling so proud of myself when I was a newlywed and made a meatloaf. I actually put my hands—put my hands!—inside of a bowl full of ground beef and mixed ingredients and formed a loaf. I felt like a new woman.
Today though that "new woman" fled. I was a child again. Possibly an insane one.
I decided it was time to make chicken. We've been in Brazil for almost three weeks now, and I can only do so much with rice and pasta.
I had some in my freezer. I had no idea what to do with it. I completely didn't think about food when I was packing for Brazil and did not include a cookbook. (Thankfully, my mom mailed me one two weeks ago; it should be here in about another week.)
I read some websites and decided that I could conquer the chicken.
I got it out of the fridge where it had been thawing. I peeled back the package and wanted to die. That's an exaggeration. I wanted to order Chinese. I wanted to win a million dollars and hire a cook. I wanted to crawl into a corner and suck my thumb. I wanted to be a little kid again.
But I'm the mom, and I have to make dinner.
So I picked it up.
And more horrors continued.
It had a bone in it.
IT. HAD. A. BONE. IN. IT.
Possibly more than one bone.
I know this is a completely ridiculous problem to so many people, but to me it seemed insurmountable. (Just a month ago, my mom and dad cut my meat off of the bone while I was staying in Michigan, because seeing a bone renders me incapable of eating meat. Once a baby, always a baby?)
Then I looked at the breast underneath, and not only did it have a bone in it (possibly more than one) IT HAD SKIN ON IT.
I bravely continued. My mouth was completely dry, my hands were shaking a little, and I wanted to vomit. But I continued.
My knife cuts through the skin. I think to myself, is that what my skin would be like if I were dead? (My brain screams: SALMONELLA!) My knife cuts off fat. I think to myself, is this what my breast would look like? Or my thigh? (SALMONELLA!) I try to not look at the dark spots that can only mean blood and wonder if this is how a surgeon feels. (SALMONELLA!) I see the bones and imagine mine snapping and wonder how anyone can ever decide to be a butcher. As I rub oil into the breast, my brain goes into overdrive as I wonder if preparing this chicken is at all similar to being a cannibal. (SALMONELLA!)
Jill enters the kitchen and says, "Why is there a bone? That looks gross. What is that stuff? Ew."
I, as calmly as I can, explain that this is what chicken looks like when it is dead without feathers and that it will look a lot better after it is cooked. I am not sure if she believes me.
She comes back in when I am putting salt and pepper on the chicken, and she says, "Oh wow. Now it looks really good."
Behold the power of salt and pepper.
I wish I worked that way for me.
I have now washed my hands approximately five times with water so hot that I felt like I was burning myself.
Can salmonella be in the air?
I honestly feel like we are all going to get salmonella because there is chicken in my house with skin and bones.
I feel really . . . inadequate. Incapable. Ridiculous. I'm 28 years old, and someone else has really done most of the work to make this chicken ready for cooking, and I am barely holding it together.
Does anyone ANYONE else ever think about how it would feel to cut through their own thighs as they prepare raw meat? Please tell me I'm not completely alone.
Or, at least, share some other task that to other people is completely mundane but to you is practically impossible. I did kill two spiders today, so I guess that's something. Although, I did have some trouble, because I wondered if the spider felt fear or pain before death finally came, and I felt pretty guilty. I only kill them when they are in my house and my kids find them.
But, please, make me feel better about my raw meat cooking handicap.