The Recipe

I don’t follow the leader, and I definitely don’t follow the rules. When cooking, I know it’s important to follow a recipe to some extent, adding flour, butter and eggs as needed, but some people are just not cut out for following a recipe. I am one of those.

Early in our relationship, I decided to cook dinner for my then-boyfriend. I thought cooking him a proper dinner of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and veg would let him see how domestic I was. Once he tasted my buttery mash and succulent chicken, he would be putty in my hands. Maybe he’d feel the urge to pop the question (not “where’s dessert?”).

While “cooking” (which was really more like putting a chicken in a dish and setting the timer, which is how I like it), my mother called. As I peeled the potatoes my mother and I had a nice little chat, while my then-boyfriend lounged in the living room watching television, as that’s what boyfriends do best. I thought that chatting it up with my mother would let my then-boyfriend see how family-orientated I was.

The timer buzzed and I put on the oven mitts, the cordless phone perched on my shoulder, held tight by my ear. I was uh-huh-ing everything my mother said because I thought that by uh-huh-ing everything my mother said would show my then-boyfriend how agreeable I was.

As I opened the oven and pulled the dish out to baste the chicken, the phone slipped and landed right on the bottom burner. I yelled into the phone, “Mom, hang up!” I was worried that the electricity from the burner would somehow transmit into the phone and shock her on the other end. I understand now that electricity doesn’t work that way, but at the time emotions ran high and I wanted to be cautious. I reached into the oven with mitted hand and pulled the phone from the burner, which was expelling a noxious smoke from the melted plastic. I tossed the phone into the pot of potatoes to cool it down.

My then-boyfriend came in to see what the kafuffle was. We both watched as the oven filled with smoke, and the chicken was overcome. The pot of potatoes had become phone soup. The meal was inedible, so we drank wine instead. And he knew it was pointless to ask about dessert, so he popped the other question instead. My then-boyfriend became my husband a few months later.

Food can be exciting, meals can be a time of celebration, and dinner can be an event. It doesn’t have to be perfect; a disaster is much more fun. You can ensure a memorable night if your casserole explodes or your soufflé deflates. Chaos really is compelling conversation.

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