I’m not a bad cook, it’s just not my favorite thing to do. If I had my way, I’d open the refrigerator and find the perfect meal without having to do anything more than fire up the microwave.
When my husband and I had just started dating, I decided I’d go to his house and cook dinner. Don’t know what got into me, I guess I was trying to prove I was domestic. I bought these big thick pork chops because I’m from the south and I know how to cook a pork chop. You mix up some flour, salt and pepper, a little garlic powder, then wash the chops and dredge them in the flour, then sizzle them in some oil until they’re brown as a speckled heifer on the outside and white as a chicken breast on the inside. I may not know much, but I know chops.
So I went to his house and let myself in, found the frying pan, prepped the chops, but I couldn’t find the oil. I called him and asked, “Where’s the oil?”
“Under the sink.” He was bemused and impressed that I was cooking him dinner. I felt special.
I put about ¾ inch of oil in the pan – just the right amount to fry half a thick chop at a time. As I was waiting for the oil to heat up, II called my friend, Claudia. She was intrigued about this whole cooking adventure since she had never known me to voluntarily cook. She’s very funny. I was laughing as I added the pork chops to the oil, arranging them just so in the pan to keep them from touching for even browning.
Have you ever had one of those really happy moments in life? Like all the planets line up and everything goes exactly how it should. I was cooking my specialty for a guy who I was liking enough to go to the trouble, and a girlfriend on the phone who was entertaining me with her endless stories of people at work. Birds were singing. Flowers were blooming. I couldn’t wait to serve this scrumptious meat and mashed potatoes and green beans meal that I knew would make a good impression.
I happened to look up and noticed a black cloud hanging just above my head in the kitchen. “Claudia, there’s a black cloud in here. It’s like being in an airplane when you are in clear sky and suddenly it’s white. I can see where it starts.”
“What is it?” she asked.
“I don’t know. This is so weird.”
“Is it the pork chops?”
“No, they aren’t burning. They’re just sitting there frying away. There’s no smoke coming from anywhere.”
I’m paranoid about everything. The black cloud made me think immediately of some chemical contamination – some horror movie kind of fog that rolls into town and everyone drops twitching to the sidewalk. “I’m going to hang up. I think it’s a chemical fog. I’m running outside.”
I dashed out the back door to find a clear sky. Hmmm. I went back in. The cloud layer was only in the kitchen. It had to be the pork chops. And then I saw that they weren’t browning on the outside – they were flour-white just sitting in the bubbling oil. And the oil looked like water in a rolling boil – little circles of air breaking the surface everywhere. With dread, I looked under the sink. There were two identical big plastic jugs with handles. When I picked up one, it said oil. The other said dishwashing detergent.
I pulled one of the pork chops out of the oil and ran it under some water in the sink. It bubbled. I could have washed an entire car with the thing.
In the meantime, gravity was acting on the black smoke, and it was falling to earth in little black specks that landed all over the white countertops.
I spent the next hour trying to get the evidence out of the kitchen by wiping everything down and then wiping again and again as more particles fell. When the cloud was gone and the counters were finally clean, I had a great idea. What if I washed the soap out of the pork chops? They had been very expensive. Maybe I could salvage the dinner after all. I ran one under the water, and bubbles flowed out of it like a foamy waterfall.
When my boyfriend got home, I had to tell him that dinner was all washed up. We went out to eat, we ended up getting married, and he’s been doing most of the cooking ever since.