By: Kerri Testement
The Jackson Herald
April 14, 2004
Cooking isnt for me
There I was conducting an interview with a local chef whos cooked for people like Madonna and the pope and I couldnt help but think how I was the wrong reporter for the story.
The truth is, Im a lousy cook. OK, my cooking would make most people push away from the table, or at least they would never want to attend a dinner party at my house (unless I order something more appetizing).
Perhaps my unappealing cooking skills stem from the time I tried to make a wedding anniversary cake for my parents when I was in the fourth grade.
Using a standard cake in the box recipe, I mixed the indigents and placed the cake in the oven. An hour later and with my parents waiting the cake was done. Well, actually, an inch of vegetable oil managed to float to the surface of the cake.
I apologized to my parents for promising an anniversary surprise and attempted to throw the oily cake in the trash. They refused to toss the cake in the trash, and instead drained it and ate it. My parents have now been divorced for more than a decade.
Then, there was the time I had to ask my ten-year-old sister how to cook a grilled cheese sandwich. She was still playing with stuffed animals, when I (a high school freshman at the time), confessed that I had no clue about cooking grilled cheese sandwiches. She still brags about that fact to this day.
An assignment for Spanish class in high school also turned disastrous when I didnt understand the power of hot grease. All I remember is tossing a breaded item into the blazing pan and screaming a second later when the grease fell on my foot (luckily, I dont have any scars).
In college, I thought I could save some money by forgoing the universitys expensive meal plan and learn to cook for myself. Its amazing how long I survived off tuna helper, pop tarts and ramen noodles. I later became a regular at Chick-fil-A, but found myself searching for food on Sundays (when the fast-food chain isnt open).
And today isnt any different.
I just cant figure out how to cook something so that my husband and I can enjoy it.
The pre-made cookie dough? It was practically burned on to the cooking pan.
The instant hot chocolate? It exploded in the microwave.
My husband, who does most of the cooking, thinks I deliberately foul up every meal so hell cook the following night. Actually, with my work schedule and late-night meetings, he has to cook most evenings.
James also thinks I dont read the idiot-proof instructions on most food items. I read them, I tell him, but following them is a different story.
And thats one item that appealed to me during my recent interview with Chef Fernando. He admitted that when it comes to cookbooks, most chefs dont know what theyre talking about. We chefs are liars, he said about even himself failing to make a recipe as it appears in a cookbook.
Ah ha! Yep, I was right all those times I tried to amend my cooking skills by carefully measuring ingredients and sticking to the stated cooking times and everything still fell apart. That food never looks the way it should!
Which brings me to another point: Nearly all of my friends and family members know I cant cook and yet they still give me plenty of cookbooks. If the cookbook doesnt have pictures, I dont know what to cook.
For that matter, we still havent used most of the nifty kitchen gadgets we received from our fall wedding (Id probably manage to slice my fingers).
But if theres one saving grace from my kitchen adventures, its my spaghetti. OK, so I use a mass-produced spaghetti recipe to start the meal, but then I throw in a bunch of spices that actually makes a good meal. And since I never burn it, my spaghetti is always my best.
Kerri Testement is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers, Inc. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Oscar Weinmeister
The Commerce News
April 14, 2004
Travel Includes Dr.s Offices
I was reminded of my friend Rich last Wednesday, when I was down at the Capitol waiting for a conference committee meeting on what was then the last day of the session for this year. One of the hospital representatives that was also waiting was getting married and going to Jamaica for his honeymoon. In fact, if last-minute jitters didnt overwhelm him, he should be in Jamaica right now.
Rich has spent a lot of time in Jamaica. We always suspected it was to have an excuse to visit, but he started a non-profit organization called Jamaica Friends International, which ships medical and other equipment from the United States to Jamaica. Besides the usual stuff like gloves and syringes, he found a retired ambulance and sent it down on a ship. The paramedics there didnt mind that the steering wheel was on the wrong side. He also donated playground equipment for a small school in the countryside.
The thing about Rich, though, was that he always came back injured or needing medical attention himself. Once, after a trip where he spent some time down there off the beaten path, he came back with feet covered in insect bites that had become infected.
I was the designated picker-upper at the airport that day, and after everyone else had gotten off the plane, there was still no Rich. Im a patient person, by nature, so I waited a little longer, and sure enough, there he came, hobbling and wincing around the corner, barely able to walk, with feet so red and swollen they barely fit into the sandals he was wearing. The doctor gave him loads of antibiotics and a lecture about how lucky he was to catch the infection before anything had to be amputated.
Another time, he didnt even make it to Jamaica before he had trouble. He was with his wife Jennifer, laying over for a couple hours in Miami, when she noticed something wasnt quite right about his appearance, particularly in the facial region of his head.
Apparently, hed recently had some laundry done at his moms house. Shed used some kind of detergent with a bleach additive, and he had a serious allergic reaction to it, right there in the last terminal before they left the U.S. His face swelled up like a big ugly red balloon, and his throat started closing on him. They took an ambulance to the hospital in downtown Miami, got him treated, and made it back in time to catch their plane to Jamaica that had been delayed six hours.
His luck didnt end in Jamaica, either. Through an exchange program sponsored by Rotary, he went to Brazil for two weeks. While he was there, his hosts took him horseback riding. As Rich was out proudly surveying the South American landscape from atop his lively steed, the horse spooked, threw him and ran, but the riders foot got caught in the stirrups, and so he was able to survey the landscape from a distinctly different vantage point for a space of several hundred feet. I could have been killed, he told me back in the northern hemisphere.
Heres what Im hoping: I am optimistic that hes earned his quota of internationally acquired medical problems, because he and his wife just left for Costa Rica, and from there, theyre headed to Europe, then Thailand, then Japan. Im happy for them, because they worked hard to save for this trip, and Im not worried, either, because Im pretty sure Rich packed the mother-of-all first aid kits.
Oscar Weinmeister is the assistant administrator of BJC Medical Center. He lives in Commerce.