Friday, April 16, 2010

Is Cooking Hazardous?

As I mentioned before, pizza is one of those communal foods. I, personally don't know anybody who doesn't like pizza. Some people are allergic to cheese and some of tomatoes or wheat but if they weren't I would venture to bet they would still like pizza. I've had friends swear Papa Murphy's is the best pizza you can buy. I have to smile and not say anything. I've also had friends tell me my pizza was the best they've ever had. I usually wait for the punch line or ask to see if their fingers are crossed but no, they really mean it. So does that mean game over, I win? Not hardly. I think like an artist because my mind works like an artists' mind. Good, bad or otherwise, that's the way it works. And when someone tells me it's the best pizza they've ever had that is one hell of a compliment but I always know that there is something else I could've done to tweak it to make it better. I then start rationalizing to myself, maybe you've only had so-so pizza all your life, maybe they don't eat pizza often enough to know the difference between frozen pizza and a well constructed pizza. Maybe you were born with inferior taste buds. No Vince, you make a helluva good pizza now. And I can say it out loud.
I'm not sure where this is going but to listen to the critique of your masterpiece or mastermess
and learn from it. It took me about 20 years to regroup after kitchen disasters and rewrite the future.
I did respond once to one of Rachel Ray's requests in her magazine to send her your kitchen mess or success. I decided mine was as good as anyone elses' in that column so I wrote it down
and sent it in. About 2 months later it was published with their
condensed version on my story. It went like this: (a very true story by the way) I was about 16 and my mom was cooking veal
scallopini in a pressure cooker.
She told me she had to run to the store for something and had asked me to wait for the timer to ring then turn off the fire under the cooker. I could do that! So the timer rang, I turned off the fire and doing her one better I was going to serve it for her. I had seen her cool the pressure cooker under the kitchen faucet before so I immediately put it under the faucet. I figured 10 or 15 seconds should be enough time to cool it and turned the water off. I lifted the heavy bugger up onto the breadboard
and began trying to separate the lid from the pot. I pushed with all my strength as it gradually started to move. I couldn't believe how stuck it was. I took a deep breath and pushed on the handle of the lid again while holding on to the pot handle. It moved slowly and finally after about 30 seconds of going super power on it,
with an explosion of air and scalding hot tomato sauce sending my right arm upwards still holding the lid in a huge arcing manner I knew I did something wrong. The pot stayed on the breadboard with most of its contents on the ceiling, the wall next to me, the cupboard in front of me, the counter, the floor and especially on me. I hit alert defcon 4. Mom wasn't going to be gone long and I had a hazmat spill the size of Mt. St. Helens on my hands, literally. In a confused and panicked high state of alert I began wiping the chunks of tomatoes and veal, onions and peppers and sauce off the walls and cupboard. Into the pot it went. The sauce on the floor and below waist became waste. I was too panicked to even realize that I was burned. I cleaned that kitchen cleaner then it had been before she had left. After sighing in relief I went into the bathroom to clean myself up. I changed my clothes and thought I had gotten away with it. I checked the kitchen again. I saw that I hadn't put the pressure cooker back on the stove with the lid on tight again. I was satisfied she would never know. I was confident and anxious for her return. There she was, she had just pulled up in the driveway. She walked in the front door. The door hadn't closed behind her when she looked at me and said, "You opened it didn't you." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. I was stunned, did she have spies? Did she never really leave? No, she saw the red splotchy burns all over my face and arms. I never did ask her how she knew immediately that I had opened it. Had she done it once before and recognized the pattern and shape of burns. Is it a text book medical case and it's taught how to recognize and identify veal scallopini burns? It never mattered. Moms are moms and they know everything.
Physically I recovered. Mentally I was scarred. Cooking could be hazardous to your body and your mind. I went on to cook later in life professionally and personally but I never forgot that incident nor did I repeat it. Thank god pizza isn't cooked under that kind of pressure.

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