If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen

In the days since actor  Alan Thicke’s sudden death  while playing hockey with his son last week (no pun intended), I’ve been thinking a lot about growing pains. Not the show that Mr. Thicke starred in; the condition. According to WebMD, growing pains are cramping, achy muscle pains that some preschoolers and preteens feel in both legs. But for purposes of this blog post, like the show, I will refer to the term ‘growing pains’ as a metaphor for the many challenges we experience in life – and how we deal with them.

The growing pain that is on my mind is trivial against the backdrop of truly awful, tragic things currently happening in the world. Yes, a first-world problem. So I will deal with it in a first-world way: by kvetching.

For those of you who have ever watched House Hunters, recall the overly-dramatized scenes in the beginning where the house hunters demonstrate how they are living in such tight quarters that they can barely move without bumping into each other. It’s funny to watch because it’s so contrived. Or maybe it isn’t contrived so much as really bad acting clouds the reality of the situation. Nonetheless, it achieves its purpose of setting the stage for the desire to buy a bigger place.

If HGTV were to come to my house and film us on an average day in the kitchen, the scene would win an Emmy Award. Not just because we’re such great actors, but because my kitchen is very small. Even for one person, it can get cramped quickly. Oh, and they’d have to bleep out pretty much all the dialogue. That’s because when we cram more than one person into the kitchen to cook, it is an extremely unpleasant experience. My kitchen becomes a magic trick. A three-ring circus shoved together into one ring. It’s like one of those teeny cars that pulls up and a zillion clowns emerge one-by-one. We literally defy the laws of metaphysics when we cook in my kitchen.

Lately, Margaret has become interested in cooking and baking. In theory, I love this! In practice, it has made me understand why some people opt for a lobotomy. It’s a growing pain – for me, not her.

Margaret is an artist so it’s opened up an entirely new world of art exploration for her. She finds recipes for everything and wants to try them out: cookies, cakes, concealer, kryptonite, veritaserum. Unfortunately, for me, the list is endless. Therefore, I’ve established a few rules to make this growing pain more about the “growing” and less about the “pain.”

Rule #1 – Read the recipe at least once before starting. Margaret learned this lesson the hard way  while baking Gingerbread cookies the other day. She hadn’t read the recipe prior to starting it and mid-way through realized she was supposed to saute the butter with the corn syrup before mixing with the flour. Thankfully I figured out a way to make it work so we didn’t have to toss out 4 cups of flour (I know, flour is pretty cheap but so am I).

Rule #2 – Follow the directions. Margaret is a speed reader which is efficient but not always effective. She’s also averse to following directions of any sort in general. It’s challenging to teach her to follow directions when she doesn’t follow directions. (Admittedly, it’s kind of like the blind leading the blind because I don’t always follow directions while baking either.)

Rule # 3 – Clean up your mess. Repeat a thousand times and then another hundred for good measure. This goes back to previous posts on our different perspectives on mess-making in which Margaret has a high threshold of tolerance for messes while I have none. Because our kitchen is so tiny, we don’t really have any room for messes (pun intended). In fact, often, you have to clean up while you’re baking or cooking because there is not enough counter space. The good news is that when Margaret does clean, wow does she clean. The trick is getting her to remember to clean. Everything. She takes after my husband in that there seems to always be a stray dish or bowl that she leaves behind. Or the floor is sticky. Or the counter has not been properly wiped down. Sometimes it’s like Where’s Waldo – even if I don’t find it right away, it’s there. And the longer it takes to discover it, the more disgusting it is. Sends a shiver down my back just thinking about it.

Rule #4 – Make sure when you turn the stove on, the flame goes on. Just this week I turned on a burner but it didn’t catch the flame. 5 minutes later my husband ran in saying he smelled gas. I’ve been recovering from a sinus infection so I can’t smell anything. Needless to say, this can be a deadly mistake. The twin sister to this ruler is to make sure you turn the burners and the oven completely off when you’re done.

Rule #5 – Make a note of when you use the last of an ingredient or if we’re running low. Yes, we live in a time of absurd convenience where stores are open 24/7 but having to run to the store for an ingredient in the middle of cooking is almost as inconvenient as realizing in the middle of your shower that you are out of soap. Sure, you could continue without that item but it just wouldn’t be the same in the end (pun definitely intended).

I don’t think these rules are unreasonable. And if she can’t follow then, I’ll politely tell her what Gordon Ramsey impolitely says to his flailing Hell’s Kitchen contestants: “Move your ahhhssss!”


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