“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” I replied.
“Show me your spatula,” she repeated, ignoring me.
“I’m sorry, but I just don’t think I know you well enough to share something so personal,” I responded.
She reached behind my back where I was hiding my spatula.
“THIS IS YOUR SPATULA?” she gasped as she peered at the undersized plastic utensil she had grabbed from me.
“Where did you get it? An Easy Bake Oven set?”
I guffawed. “No!” I looked at the sad little excuse for a spatula. “I’m pretty sure it came with a Happy Meal.”
She shook her head at me. “I can see we have a lot of work to do.”
The work in question, was me, in my kitchen, cooking. Or rather, not-cooking, which was my problem. My friend Hildie was there to rescue me from myself, turn me into a world-class cook, or at least make sure I didn’t burn down the house. This is her business… helping moms with little time and few skills become moms who can whip up delicious, nutritious dinners that everyone in the house will eat. She is really, really good at this and has a wait list a mile long for desperate moms, like myself. But she decided to take pity on me and bump me to the top of the list after I undercooked something and gave my family food poisoning.
In my defense, the meat thermometer was broken and the food looked done. Or at least done-ish.
“If you want to be a good cook it helps to have good cooking tools,” she told me.
“I have two hammers, a wrench and a screwdriver,” I informed her.
“Not the right kind of tools,” she assured me.
We quickly discovered that, in addition to my sorry excuse for a spatula, I also had the wrong kind of whisk, lousy knives, and a twenty year-old blender that I also used as a juicer, a food processor, and a Play-doh mixer.
“You made PLAY-DOH in here?” she asked incredulously.
“No! Not made. Mixed. We only had blue and yellow and we needed some green, so we mixed it together in the blender.”
She sighed. “ Buy New Blender!” she said, adding it to my master kitchen purchasing list.
Next she opened my pantry and jumped back in fear.
“When was the last time you bought new spices?” she asked, holding up an ancient jar of cayenne pepper.
“What was the year that ‘Rock the Casbah’ was popular?” I asked. “I think I was listening to that on my walkman when I went shopping for spices.”
“Buy New Spices!” she said, adding it to my growing kitchen purchasing list.
She peered into the pantry again. “… And balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and chicken stock,” she continued, looking at the expiration dates on those bottles, wincing, and throwing them in the trash.
“Good news, though!” she said to me dryly. “You have plenty of macaroni and cheese.” She pulled out four cartons of mac and cheese from the pantry. “Were you expecting an instant mac and cheese-loving crowd to drop in unexpectedly?
“Hey, that stuff is great,” I said proudly. “It doesn’t expire until 2045!”
“Yeah… I’m not sure I would want to eat any food that could outlive me,” she said.
Once we established that I had nothing in the house that was edible and nothing to prepare my non-edible food with, we rolled up our sleeves and got started cooking.
Fortunately, I had filled out a pre-questionaire so, knowing that I had some deficits in certain areas, Hildie had brought some supplies of her own.
“You take this simple grilled chicken and you add pesto and fresh mozerella and it is just YUM!!” she declared.
“Ooh. Ooh! I have some pesto mix in my pantry!” I shouted gleefully.
“Mix?” she said in horror. “No mix! We’re going to make it fresh!”
“I don’t have to raise my own chickens, do I?” I wondered.
“OK. Just checking.”
By the time we were done I could make shrimp oreganata, chicken quesadillas, chicken pesto paninis, and turkey bbq meatloaf. I learned the difference between virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil (which shockingly, has nothing to do with virgins). I was instructed how to crush dried herbs in my palm to release the flavor, and scores of other cooking secrets that only Hildie and Wolfgang Puck knew. In three hours, I had become a cook.
And I didn’t even burn the house down.
But I did singe the dog’s tail a little bit.
PS: If you are as hapless in the kitchen as I am, you live in NJ, and you want Hildie’s help, you can shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org