July 1998
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True Confessions

At any given time I can think of at least 9,000 things I'd rather be doing than cooking - that's under normal weather conditions. Total brain fry occurs concerning meal preparation past 90 degrees. Forget trying to plan anything. The best I can do is cruise the refrigerated sections hoping to see something that looks good. The tactic works pretty well, think of all the amnesia victims who recover after seeing a face from the past.

Fortunately most fruits and quite a few vegetables are best left in their natural state. Serve with cheese, cold cuts and bakery bread. Several years ago a summer edition of Cosmo featured a lovely spread of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and some kind of meat all neatly arranged on a platter decorated with basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil. I could handle that - minus the anchovies and capers.

The plan was to substitute bacon bits and black olives - recipe tampering is vital to the sporting sense on this type of safari. In any case, knowing full well my production would never win a glossy award, I was comforted by Erma Bombeck's comments that if she should ever remarry she would hire a food photographer for the album. She also said she considered cookbooks some of the greatest fiction ever written. Bless you Erma.

Try not to let the joy spreaders get you down. Advice about cooking in the morning and freezing in portions to breeze through summer is, of course, quite logical. It's just not going to happen. If the culinarily inept were capable of applying logic in the kitchen, we wouldn't be culinarily inept.

More confessions: I am a hint and gadget junkie. I can't help myself and the worst part is I'll try anything once. Countless hours have been spent. It's the challenge and it's not an entirely unproductive addiction. Good tips are hidden in the strangest places. Remember that nauseating show "Family Affair" circa 300 years ago? "Buffy's Cookbook" found at a garage sale yielded "use wax paper like a glove" to press sticky or hot suff into a pan.

Apply to Sin in a Pan which is sort of a cross between a cookie and a candy bar and more trouble than I usually go to, but every over-priced calorie is well worth the buzz: Put one half cup of Karo corn syrup (light or dark) into a measuring cup and spoon in light or dark brown sugar until the Karo gets to the one cup mark. Heat just to a boil in a large sauce pan. Take the pan off the burner and stir in one cup crunchy peanut butter. Then add three cups Special K cereal and mix until coated. Dump into one large or two small cake pans; do the wax paper press thing.

Next, melt one 6 oz. package each of semi-sweet chocolate and butterscotch bits together over very low heat. You could do that over over a double boiler if you ever heard of such a thing but it's not necessary. Spread on top of the the other stuff.

Store in the fridge to set. Squares will be easier to cut at room temp. Be warned, similar recipes exist, this is the only true way to nirvana. The weird thing is I've never come across that exact set of ingredients published - it's a hand-me-down.

The culinarily inept are inclined to shopping impairment. I hate the grocery store - gave up all hope of ever getting the coupon act together a long time ago. The best I can do is go with the generics and store brands whenever possible. With a few exceptions the quality is all the same because it's all the same stuff wearing different labels. On the other hand, name brands are not usually interchangeable when it comes to things like steak sauces that have their own distinct flavoring.

Unfortunately, you still have to compare prices. The powers that be know exactly what they are doing and are absolutely remorseless. They'll sneak up and put the names brands on sale, if you had a coupon some things would be almost free. I am resigned to my peasant status, the coupon crown is just not me.

If you know people who get their jollies practicing the fine art of clipping, sorting, planning ahead and making lists - save proofs of purchase, all the stuff that comes in the mail and newspaper flyers for them. Trade negotiations have gotten me everything from home-baked goodies to a nifty little travel set.

Come back soon, more's on the way.

Comments, suggestions, your confessions ...

For more of AltMartha, check out:
Diary of a Mad Cook

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