11 February 2009

the Great Potato Race

I distinctly remember our first microwave. Its size rivaled the console televisions of the 1970’s, its dimensions imbuing it with the ability to cook within it’s depths an adult turkey. When I told my brother’s wife that we could now bake a potato in only six minutes in the new contraption she asked me, full of incredulity and, I’ll admit this to you now, a concentrated air of superiority, “why would I bake a potato in six minutes in a microwave oven when I can so easily bake it in only an hour in the conventional oven?”

Why, indeed.

I mentally envisioned both of us on a culinary countdown, me in front of our new microwave oven, she in front of a conventional oven, a contraption she was only casually acquainted with in the first place, glaring at each other as we raced to the potato-cooking finish. I would laugh triumphant as my tuber emerged, fully baked, from the microwave in only 6 short minutes, while she stared pitifully into her oven and awaited her potato's slowly-heated conclusion.

She had, until this point, only made the Noodles of Ramen and various incarnations of Some Beef Dish. What she did was create a concoction of hamburger, one egg, and a generous helping of Lawrey’s Seasoned Salt. If it was a meatloaf she as crafting, she put it in a loaf pan. If it was Salisbury Steak, she put it in the shape of a patty. It was culinary craft of a whole new form. I feared that if I ever were to eat breakfast in her home I would awaken to that meat in the outward appearance of bacon strips.

Quite possibly the scariest thing about her kitchen, though was that from the time she married my brother in 1984 to the time of this writing in 2008 she has had the same bottle of dish soap in her kitchen window. I never figured out if it was a decoration or if she simply forgot to use it. Every dish I retrieved from her cabinet had a film of grease on it at least a millimeter thick. It was like being on a tiny and terrifying roller coaster just attempting to keep the dish within my grasp as I hoisted it from cabinet to countertop. She once returned from a trip with my brother after I had house and kid-sat for them. She rushed to the kitchen window, noting the reduced quantity of detergent in the Dawn bottle and shrieked, “what have you done?!” I had taken every dish out of the cabinet and washed it with soap.

She holds a grudge to this day.