Cooking With Nemesis ©

A Story by Malati Marlene Shinazy­­­­

Growing up, it seemed most adults were accomplished cooks.  Great meals and great cooks were abundant in my family.

My mother was sufficiently committed to cooking that my father built her a kitchen cupboard to house a fifty-gallon rice storage drum.

My Grand Father (see, Grand Father’s Little Girl), whose career path included being Chief Chef on merchant ships, consistently served me works of art for breakfast:  Cantaloupe skillfully separated from the rind, magically converted into a serving dish.

The most talented chef, however, was my maternal uncle Tony, who worked at a prestigious restaurant on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.  Watching him prepare holiday dinners was like watching a master conductor at the New York Philharmonic.

In college, the unspoken agreement was: my roommates cooked; I was responsible for the cleanup.

Alas, the goddess Nemesis entered my life when I married.  My husband, a kitchen alchemist, created nutritious and visual lovely family meals seemingly out of nothing…  To contrast, my pancakes looked horrifically asymmetrical, no resemblance to the cookbook images.  These amorphously shaped blobs of dough were followed by similarly shaped cookies, biscuits, crab cakes, etc.

The first and only time I attempted to make mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, I misread the cookbook and boiled too many potatoes.  Uncle Tony rescued me.  Even then, it took two gallons of milk to turn my clumps of potato cement into something resembling mashed potatoes … expecting them to be creamy would have required divine intervention.

Nemesis had indeed incurred her revenge.  I became a defeated cook and retreated from the theatre of the kitchen.

Fortunately, my young children enjoyed helping me prepare the four dinner items I knew how to assemble: tacos, mac & cheese, steamed broccoli, spinach salad.  As they matured, they each in turn became masters and I, the sous chef.  Balance was restored to the world.

As my last child left for college, I developed compensatory tactics for nourishing myself:  Non-fat plain yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast, an ethnic restaurant for lunch, salads and the occasional sautéed tofu sandwich for dinner.

I learned how to scramble an egg because frying anything over-easy was beyond my skill set.

I think I’m sufficiently healed from the post-traumatic stress of my early cooking attempts, so I’ve decided to overcome this personal deficit and take tentative steps toward using, rather than just storing, the pots, pans, bowls, measuring spoons and whisks I own.

But first, a final offering to Nemesis… Recently, for a potluck party, I purchased a one-of-a-kind artist-signed cheese plate, Brie Mons Sire, a baguette and organic black raspberry preserves for guests to assemble.

Perhaps Nemesis has tired of her assault, will accept my humble gift, and allow me to join the world of the cooking.

photo by ndrwfgg

12 Responses to Cooking With Nemesis ©

  1. Do you have artists in your family? Folks who paint, who are authors or photographers. You know, people who make it seem so easy.
    In my family we were chefs – lucky for us, we could eat our art. However, there is that one relative who …
    ~ shinazy
    founder / write at BOBB

  2. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    Don’t feel too sorry for me: I’m healthy, happy AND, after decades of “fear of cooking,” I took the plunge and started learning the basics (yea) – – mms

  3. Good luck on your cooking endeavor. My best advice is to start with soups and work your way up. Asopao de Pollo anyone?

  4. Similar to the Shinazy family, the Miskel men inherited culinary skills. Like the makers of mad potions, they grab whatever spices are handy and prepare fine meals with mastery. The Miskel women have inherited many fine traits and skills, though cooking acumen is not among them.

    • Malati Marlene Shinazy

      After the mashed potato fiasco, my aunt advised me to become an expert in any room of the house except the kitchen… 🙂 — mms

  5. Will Jones

    My mother’s specialty was pot roast and roasted potatoes with heavenly gravy. Beyond that, the philosophy was “If you can boil it, you can eat it.” My father had trouble making a sandwich. My wife is a divine cook. I try, but lack imagination. Just let me follow the recipe and I can manage.

  6. Don’t feel too bad! I am a horrible cook. I tried to make a simple sweet potatoe, and a piece of salmon.. and the potato came out under cooked, and the salmon was slightly burnt on the outside, but under cooked on the inside. Thank god for microwaveable meals!!

  7. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    Dani, I’ve learned that the microwave is our friend! — mms

  8. Jewell Beck

    Your experiences while assembling the recipe, gathering all the ingredients and careful preparation made me very hungry for some of those culinary delights. xxxJewell and Don

  9. Malati Marlene Shinazy

    Thanks Jewell! While I’m just now learning that cooking can be enjoyable, I’m sure at your home, eating is even more enjoyable 🙂 — mms