Friday, October 13, 2006

Another Adelphia anecdote: She’s making me dinner tonight. I can’t wait. I’m sure it’ll be excellent. But even if something goes wrong that’ll be good too. In fact, I’m kinda secretly hoping for it. That way, I won’t be the only screw-up.

See, I’ve been cooking for her a lot, like when we don’t feel like going out to dinner, although most of my chef work is done in the morning. Breakfast is my thang. My patented super rich cup of coffee, OJ, a healthy fruit salad -- usually a delicious medley of berries -- and some kind of egg concoction. Ever have matzoh brei? Even if you have, you haven’t. Not until you try mine.

My family used to clamor for it, all year ‘round, not just during Passover. If we were missing that Manischewitz unleavened bread, I’d make one of my gourmet omelets. I know it sounds easy to cook up some eggs, but not so in my impossible-to-please household. Mom didn’t want her food too spicy, my sister insisted the onions be sautéed to a specific crispiness, and Dad would peek over the pan and say, “Hey Mikey, know what this needs? Cumin. Or, a dash of dill. Or Mikey -- ooh, hey Mikey, paprika!” At which point I wielded the sharp knife and told the old man to get the hell outta my kitchen before I cumin and cut off paprika’s dill.

Dinner was a pain in the ass, too, even though I rarely prepared the meal. But I once volunteered to do the manly job of carving the meat and it forever became my responsibility. Which I dreaded because everyone had a different preference on cuts: “Don’t slice ‘em too thin!”, “Gimme the end piece!”, “I want ‘em lean -- but not too lean!”

Somehow I managed to cater to their specifics, but it didn’t matter. Because one time, I absent-mindedly let the cord to the electric knife get in the path of the alternating serrated blades and -- ZAP!-- a big spark, a poof of black smoke, and that was it.

I mean, it was no big deal. No one was hurt. I didn’t ruin the food, and we just went out and bought a new electric knife. But I never heard the end of it. Even years later, whenever I did any work in the kitchen, I could count on one of my beloved family members to smirk and say, “Careful, Mikey. Watch out for the cord. Don’t electrocute yourself.”

It had been a while since I did any culinary work, but Adelphia’s re-energized me. I’ve made her pasta dishes, and broiled chicken with intricate salads, matching the meal up with the perfect wine… And she’s loved every meal. I’m inspired to try new things, but my kitchen’s kinda small. I don’t even have a microwave.

So when Adelphia wanted popcorn as a snack, she had to bring over the old-fashioned Jiffy-Pop kind. I was never a big fan of popcorn; after a handful at the movies I always switched over to the Sno-Caps. So I had never made any popcorn in that expandable foil thingie that gets pregnant over the stove.

Apparently you’re only supposed to rip off the paper top in the center, but I opened up the package on the side, peeling off the pie crust on the outside to remove the cardboard instructions. Only I didn’t seal the aluminum container back up properly, and as it heated up, the foil burst at the seam, allowing kernels to pop out the side.

As I was trying to salvage this mess, Adelphia came into the kitchen. “What’s going on? Is everything -- Ow!”

“What’s the matter?” I turned around. “Are you okay?” She had entered the room barefoot and had stepped on one of the unpopped kernels that was bouncing across the floor.


Okay, I thought. I know those things are hot, but let’s not get over-dramatic here.

Adelphia pointed. “Fire! Your stove is on fire!”

I turned back around and saw that the kernels that were popping out the side of the foil had now gone up in flames.

Before anyone could panic, I turned off the gas and threw some water on the burning popcorn, putting out the fire. Yes, I know, had there been grease on the stove, I could’ve made things worse, but Adelphia liked the butter-less healthy popcorn, so there was no oil to be separated by the water; it was safe. In fact, when I got past the kernels that were burnt to a crisp or soaked through and through… there was a good bowlful of delicious popcorn for her to enjoy.

Yet, the next morning, as I got up to make her another batch of my mouth-watering dark chocolate chip and banana pancakes -- from scratch -- Adelphia shouted out: “Michael, don’t burn the house down!”


Well, I hope her dinner tonight is delicious and goes off without a hitch. I learned the hard way: You make one mistake and your whole reputation is shot. Guess you’re only as good as your last fire hazard.


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