DAY 18: Kitchen Catastrophe

Free associative digression, here:

For a minute, I toyed with the idea of being “cute” with today’s title, writing something like “Kitchen Katastrophes,” but that snapped my mind back to 1965 when the TV show “Get Smart” pitted CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart against the sinister forces of KAOS.

That damn show nearly cost me my place on my school’s spelling team.

I’d never SEEN the word “chaos” written before, only heard it pronounced now and then, usually  in relation to some element I brought to a room. When “chaos” was tossed out as one of my qualifying words … let’s just say it made me a bitter enemy of all things cutesy where spelling choices are concerned.

I’m not putting another impressionable mind through the humiliation I endured that day. Fortunately, Mr. Dutkiewicz, the teacher with pass/fail authority over who made the team (and yes, spelling his name correctly should have been an instant pass), had a great sense of humor, and an even greater sense of compassion.

Okay. Back to today’s Blogathon post.

It’s a lesson to all parents:

If you tell a kid to do something, and you expect your instructions to be followed to the letter, you shouldn’t complain when you get the results that naturally follow.

My mom learned this the hard way.

See, I’m one of those with the questionable blessing of being pretty balanced between left/right brain.

So while I can revel in the joy of artistic creation, I can also be a straight-on linear thinker. Handy, except that I can never tell when I wake up in the morning which side of the brain is going to lead.

Anyway. I was about 12 years old (yes, yes–the same year I threw the goldfish to their unwatery deaths).

My knack for dropping things, flinging clumps of batter at the wall while mixing a little too vigorously, and spilling anything I tried to transfer from one vessel to another meant that most of Mom’s efforts to teach me my way around a kitchen were more focused on damage control than cooking.

But this day, Mom really needed me in the kitchen.

Mom was in a hurry, so she didn’t slice the peeled potatoes she planned to use to make mashed potatoes. Just put the peeled, whole potatoes in the biggest pot she could find and covered them with water before setting them on the stove.

“Bill,” she said, “I just put a potful of potatoes on to boil. I have to go to the store. Watch the pot, and do not let the water boil away.” [NOTE: She did not say a thing about how not to let the water boil away. Nor did she say a thing about the potatoes.]

She left, leaving me to interpret her words as best I could.

It was evidently a linear kind of day: When I noticed that some of the boiling water had evaporated and the potatoes were exposing their pale flesh above the water line, I added more water, which again came to a boil.

Did this a couple of times, because Mom was gone a while.

This was long before we had cell phones, so if Mom thought her instructions might need to be tweaked when she ran into delaying traffic, there was nothing she could do about it.

Mom came tearing into the kitchen when she finally got home. Made a beeline for the stove.

“Don’t worry, Mom,” I told her. “I’ve been adding water so it didn’t boil away, just like you said.”

Mom just looked at me. “Bill, I swear, if you had a brain, you’d be dangerous.”

She turned off the heat on the stove, carried the big pot of potato-y water to the sink, and poured its contents into the colander. The two of us stood side by side and gazed at about a dozen marble-sized potatoes.

As Mom was so fond of saying that year, it’s a miracle I made it to 13.

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About Billie Noakes

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5 Responses to DAY 18: Kitchen Catastrophe

  1. Tia says:

    I think it’s a miracle for most of us to make 13. Loved your post again. When I was eight, my mom was in the hospital having my baby sister. She left my dad with a box of Mac-n-Cheese. Not one for directions, he poured the noodles into a pan and fried them. No water. Ah, memories! (I think I might officially be your blog stalker I’m enjoying your posts so much. Plus I might a soft spot for Billie’s since on of my favorite books is Billie Letts’ Honk and Holler Opening Soon).

  2. Tracie D Rowland says:

    MEMORIES like the corners of my mind… treasure hunting through the neighborhood, toothbrush Bill, toothbrush.

  3. Anita Smith says:

    Thirteen year old girls can be a trial but they grow up so nice. ! Your blog reminded me of a friend of my daughters’ who wanted to make low-fat popcorn. This is an adult woman, a nurse with two children.
    She put the popcorn in boiling water, thinking it would pop and be healthier than using oil. She will never live it down.

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