Monday, May 13, 2013

Is variety, the so called "spice of life", actually spicy enough that you don't need actual spices?

Or: How I learned that people without a functioning sense of smell probably shouldn't do cooking experiments on top of the fireplace.

We are nearly out of tomato sauce.

That might sound like a weird opening, but here's the thing: my body has an uncanny ability to crave whatever it is that we are running low on in the house. Want peanut butter on toast? No bread. Would give your left leg for a paddle pop? No ice-cream of an kind in any of the four freezers. If I'm having a hamburger (by which I mean a beef patty, and a bit of bread) I want tomato sauce with it. Ergo, tonight, midnight, I open the fridge, see a packet of mince, think "perfect, hamburger it is." Sure, the mince is one day after it's best before, but don't they play it safe with those things, surely you have a day or two extra, right?

Not only that, but it's winter (pretty much) now. The fire is lit. The fire, which gets super hot because it's 20 years old and all its insulating bricks have fallen out. The fire that, sometimes last year, I would cook a beef patty on, instead of having to wash a frypan.

Also, I decided to test that thing where, if you wrap a bottle of drink in some damp taper towel and put it in the freezer, it gets cold in 5 minutes. This will be an important part of the resolution to the story, even though it seems a bit random (ie. not as ominous as everything else Ive written so far) at this point in the story.

So I've decided to cook a burger on top of the fire. Normally I'd mix the mince with breadcrumbs and seasoning, but, well, I'm both hungry and lazy. And anyway, aren't Maccas burgers supposed to be all beef? If they don't need breadcrumbs, neither do I. So I squish the mince between some baking paper till it's flatish, carry it across the kitchen, and plop it onto the top of the fireplace.

It makes a satisfactory sizzling noise. There's a big bit of baking paper folded around it, but I've put the fold to the back so I can lift it up and have a look inside.

It appears to be browning in the correct fashion. But this is where the problem starts. Some beef juice is leaking out in the sizzling. This happens when I make stir-fry, but not when I cook myself a burger. Conclusion: the breadcrumbs are needed to soak up the juice so it doesn't leak everywhere. I get a spatula and try to hold up either side of the paper, so the juice will pool under the burger next to the crease and hopefully re-absorb into the burger.

I know very little about cooking. I now know more: I now know that this does not work.

When the underside appears to be sufficiently brown, I try to pick up the burger and flip it over, without letting the tiny, miniscule dribble of juice I expect to be leftover (ha!) come out the sides.

It doesn't work.

So now there's beef juice sizzling on the metal surface of the fireplace, and from the feel of it, there's still a fair bit of liquid in the baking paper. I carry it over to the sink, and drop down one corner. About 45 litres of liquid gushes out. My burger is half cooked. The baking paper is feeling a bit damp. I get another piece of baking paper, this time doing some foldy-origami type thing to the sides.

I take it back and cook the other side. The origami turns out to not be necessary: the fact that it's already managed to perform the scientific wonder of expelling 5 times as much liquid as it appeared to weigh (I too have done this, one morning when I was so hungover I peed for about 15 minutes) has left it quite dry now that it's time to cook the other side. And even more dry when I bring it over to the plate, and cut through it to make sure that it's cooked through.

I figure I should try clean the top of the still lit, still very hot fireplace, and fortunately, I have some frozen paper towel wrapped around a not-really-at-all-cold bottle of coke in the freezer. And it turns out that frozen paper towel does an alright job of cleaning the top of a hot fire, if by cleaning you mean wiping a few times in hope that it's making some sort of difference and also not getting burnt. I don't know if it's actually even slightly clean: I think the best way to tell will be to wait for someone to go "what's that smell?" since I, as ever, smell nothing. But the bottom of the now half sizzling, half frozen paper towel is a bit brown, as it would be had it cleaned up some well-cooked beef juice, so I figure, job well done.

Having given cleaning the top of the fire a, excuse the pun, red hot go, I go to the cupboard to get some sauce to have with my burger, and discover what you have known from the beginning; that all 4 bottles of sauce in the cupboard have just a tiny dreg in the bottom, which will only come out, accompanied by little fart noises, with a good deal of shaking and squeezing. There simply isn't enough sauce to cover the fact that my burger is a dried out, shriveled up blob of blandness, that may or may not have been fit for human consumption before I even got it out of the fridge.

I chop it up into little bits and put it in the dog's bowl, and eat my piece of bread, unsure how exactly I made it to the point where I am considered an actual grown up human being.

In conclusion, it's probably a better idea to just use regular herbs and spices, than to decide that cooking in a way you haven't done in about 8 months is going to be enough to make your dinner edible. Also, if you've been putting off writing a blog post for about 3 months because you know that it will be your 900th, and you want to make it worthwhile, maybe it's just better to do something so stupid that it deserves the spelling stoopid, and blog about that instead.

P.S. I just went to the kitchen and the dog appears to have eaten it. I guess it can't have been BAD bad, since his nose (I assume) would be able to tell the difference.


  1. OMG Girl just made me pee my pants with laughter . I could imagine every step , your face, and the disaster of it all. Im imagining the disappointment when the dog got it after all. (probably just as well - one day past the use by date mince is actually very dodgy . I think the universe was looking out for you!)

    Happy 900th!

  2. Happy 900! Of course in my typing I put 9900 .. not there quite yet. We never add fillers to our burgers here -- but depending on the fat content there is lots of grease left over. I would be afraid of starting a fire by cooking it on the fire.

    A rather spectacular and entertaining 900 if you ask me. Nice to "see" you!

    On an unrelated matter, with the departure of google reader, what have you decided to use?

  3. Dear Sara,

    I have sincerely missed reading all your awesome stories while I was on blog hiatus. I intend to go back & catch up on a lot of what I missed, but in the meantime, I wanted to say that you are awesome & you always make me laugh!!

    ~ Meagan