Friday, June 26, 2009

Calamity in the Cuisine: Culinary Catastrophe!

It all started one rainy morning, when gray, dreary skies kept us indoors with our meager kitchen stock at our disposal. Breakfast was coming, but in what form?

Eggs? Check.
Meat? Check, question mark.
Vegetables? Check, check, and check.
Milk? Check.

I was going to make a big, sloppy, U.S. Egg-style skillet dish with all of the above ingredients. I diced up some red and yellow bell peppers, some onion, and some tomato.

I pulled out the ground beef leftover from our spaghetti masterpiece. First question of the day: is it still good? Just a small aside, this entry is not for either the faint of heart, overly-worrisome people, or chefs, so please pardon our ignorance when applicable. We have no saran wrap or tin foil or anything of that sort to store things in. We keep forgetting to pick it up at the store. So the meat was in the 'freezer' of our mini fridge, which is hardly a freezer, until yesterday afternoon when I pulled it out to thaw for dinner last night. We didn't end up cooking, though. I'll admit, it had changed colors slightly since the last time I saw it. But it smelled like raw beef, so I assumed it was just a bit of harmless oxygenation. In hindsight, eating meat rust is probably not the brightest idea. But as I said, it didn't smell bad, and my motto with food is that if it smells okay, it probably is okay, unless it's chicken, in which case it may still not be okay, even if it smells like chicken.

So I cooked the ground beef and set it aside to wait until the other ingredients were ready. I rinsed the pan and threw in the peppers, onion, and tomato and let them sautee for a little while. Threw the toast in the toaster so that everything would be ready at the same time.

Then, I cracked four eggs into a bowl and whisked them (with a fork). Eggs come in half-dozen cartons here (that would be six if you're counting at home). Yet another sign manifested itself when one of the eggs was stuck to the carton. Eggs are not sold in a container that allows you to check them before you buy here. My Mom's words resonated deep down in the recesses of my memory banks, "Never use eggs that are stuck to the container, it means they cracked open and they might be spoiled." Smell test: check. Normally, I crack them straight into the pan, but I had so many things going on I wanted to make sure I had time to stir them around before they cooked too much. The fact that I was (quasi)-inexplicably changing my routine should have been yet another sign that all was not right with our breakfast.

I poured the eggs in, quickly sprinkled salt, pepper, and our spicy powder on them, then grabbed the milk out of the fridge. I dumped the beef back in with the rest of the ingredients in the pan. Expiration date on the milk is June 30th. Good by a long shot. It is my usual custom to smell milk every time I open it because, of all the things that can go bad, milk and eggs are the most potent and the most odorous when spoiled. For those of you who do not include milk in your scrambled eggs, I highly recommend it. It gives the eggs a perfect amount of fluffiness (I believe this is a trick from my Dad, although I could be wrong).

I only pour a splash of milk in, so it is a slow, careful practice not to overload the eggs with milk. In this instance, two things happened. One, I caught a slight whiff of something unholy. Two, I saw chunks of curdled milk plopping into my eggs. I instantly stopped pouring, my reflexes a fine-tuned machine when it comes to rescuing food. But it was too late. In the middle of our eggs was a small pile of milk lumps looking up at me with a scowling smile.

I cursed. I told Johnny what happened, but he had no immediate reaction. I thought to myself, the meat should have been my sign. The cracked egg should have been my sign. The change in routine should have been my sign. Someone didn't want us to have a delicious breakfast today. On the day before my birthday, of all times.

I grabbed a spoon and started scooping out the chunks. But with each successful extraction, I also succeeded in spreading the milk around, forcing it deeper into the non-navigable depths of our uncooked eggs. When I got what I felt was about all of the milk out, I made Johnny come look at it. We debated for a good five minutes. I cooked while we weighed our pros and cons.

Johnny hopped on the computer and Googled, "is it okay to cook with spoiled milk?"

Google's response was a resounding, no-questions asked, are you f'ing nuts, "No."

We questioned it. What's the worst that could happen? Stomach ache for a couple hours? Maybe throw up and get it out of our systems quickly enough to avoid any lingering effects?

Not on my birthday, not on abroad in Florence. The eggs were a wash. We had to give in to reason. It was just not meant to be.

The toast burned, by the way. I slathered peanut butter on the two pieces and poured the last little bit of jelly on top so that we could at least have an open-faced peanut butter and jelly. Of course the jelly would be running so low that I had to scrape the jar to get a satisfactory amount on to the bread.

We will probably go to a restaurant in a little while and wallow in a slight bit of misery at the thoughts of what could have been. But we will take a little spending and peace of mind over violent bodily rejection of our breakfast.

Also, on a totally unrelated note, what is with the celebrity deaths all around us? Ed McMahon was a fixture on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, widely considered Hollywood's greatest sidekick. Farrah Fawcett was an international sex symbol and a fashion icon in her day; she remained beautiful until the day she lost a three year battle with cancer.

But Michael Jackson: how do you pay homage to one of the world's greatest entertainers, and the butt of more jokes as a result of his transformation from child star to the King of Pop, and then freakish regression to asexual man-child who found himself constantly surrounded by criticism, controversy, and legal battles? I recognize, appreciate, even celebrate what he has done for music and culture, and he will no doubt be remembered for generations to come. But what he became was far from a role model worthy of our praises. Watching his downward spiral was both comedy gold and tragedy, woven together into an unfortunate string of bad luck, bad decisions, and bad jokes. The hard part is figuring out whether to be sad for him or relieved that he doesn't have to live in a world that hasn't accepted him since the early 90's. I don't think I care as much as I should, but I just thought I'd write something down about it. It's always a good way to figure out how you feel about something. Share your thoughts on here if you have any. I'm curious to hear how other people feel.

One more quick shout to USA soccer, who stunned the world the other day in upsetting #1 Spain in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup. Our goals may have been lucky, and the win may be written off as a fluke, but you don't shut out one of the best offensive teams to play the sport in a long time with luck alone. Spain's 35-game unbeaten streak in international play came to a crushing end with the loss.


Ross Weinreb said...

"Michael Jackson: Where else but America can a poor black boy grow up to be a rich white woman?"

That was a quote from some comedian that my dad cut out of a newspaper and had up in his office for years. I completely agree with what you're saying. It's like 2 completely different people died yesterday. One was a true ground-breaking artist that revolutionized the music industry. The other is a sad (F'd up) man who was (probably) abused as a child that ended up molesting children. It's hard to decide how to feel about this thing.

Oh and what's soccer?

LeahP! said...

My thoughts are that it's sad he died because it's sad when anyone dies. BUT yes, I think it's probably better off for him because he couldn't have been living that happy of a life and now he can be in peace. And it is nice people are remembering the good times and not focusing only on the weird/bad times. I hope that's what it's like when I die! Though I hope my life isn't nearly as sad in the end.