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Tales from the cookstove

pancakes

Mmmmm….pancakes. Especially when they’re cooked just right and they’re crispy. Image courtesy of DodgertonSkillhause, Morguefile.

Last week, I had a yen for pancakes. (A delayed reaction to Shrove Tuesday, perhaps?) So off I went to the store, bought the necessary supplies and got out my trusty skillet.

My parent gave me this skillet as a gift and I love it. It’s one of those frying pans that has a smooth interior so that food can be moved around easily in it for even cooking and a long handle that doesn’t seem to get hot. I’ve used it for various egg dishes such as ham omelets or scrambled eggs with cheese, ham, peppers and onions.

One thing about this skillet: It is NOT good for cooking pancakes. When I went to flip over the pancakes to cook the other sides, they kept sliding around the skillet. These were stubborn pancakes. They were absolutely determined not to be flipped over and I was equally determined not to burn them and set off the fire alarm, so I chased them around the skillet with my spatula.

Who knew pancakes had an attitude?

I finally wised up, got a knife out of my silverware drawer and used the blade to nudge the pancakes onto the spatula so they could be flipped over and cook evenly. It worked, but the first batch was a trifle more done than I prefer. Still, they were delicious.

Most of my food turns out properly, but like any other cook, I’ve had a disaster or two. I once made a carrot cake for a high school fundraiser dinner. I used the toothpick test to make sure the cake was done (insert the toothpick into the top of the cake and if it comes out clean, the cake is finished). The toothpick test went fine, so the cake was fine.

Wrong.

We got to the fundraiser and when the cake was sliced open, it turned out that the cake was only cooked through the first two inches at the top; the rest of it was still a gooey, half-baked mess. My loyal parent ate a slice of it but everyone else avoided it like the plague; I don’t blame them.

I’ve made my famous M&M snickerdoodle cookies with the wrong flour (accidentally — it was college and I was in someone else’s kitchen). The cookies tasted fine but they’d crumble into pieces as soon as you picked them up.

I worked at a cafeteria-style restaurant during two summers of my college years, and that was a fun experience. We had a wonderful group of characters working there, especially a pair of sweet-natured, elderly Japanese sisters, S and J. J and I had a running joke about the restaurant’s beef au jus sandwiches. Part of J’s job was to create pans of hot beef juice for the sandwiches. She’d put a pan of steaming juice through a serving window and holler “Au jus!” I’d holler back: “Gesundheit!”

I learned two vital culinary lessons at this restaurant:

1) When you cut strawberry pie and the piece accidentally breaks up, apply a huge dollop of whipped cream. Whipped cream hides everything.

2) When you open a cabinet door and a mouse pops out to run away, emit the necessary shriek, keep serving and act as if nothing’s wrong in front of the customers. Then, run like heck for the manager, mousetraps and cleaning supplies. (That little furball was toast very quickly, believe me on that.)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody! What was your most memorable cooking disaster?

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