I like cooking because I like eating, and I like eating because I like living, but until recently I thought that maybe, just maybe, that whole circle of innocent love was gonna get me killed.
See, a lot of nights after our two little kids have had their dinner and we get them semi-settled into the playroom to hang out for a bit before bedtime, I like to dive into the fridge and get crazy, people.
Okay okay, maybe not crazy crazy by a lot of foodie standards, I’m not whipping up anything with a whipped sea foam topping and I’m pretty much useless in the world of ‘reductions’ unless of course you include burning some coconut oil into thick smoke (that’s a reduction in my book). Yet like a lot of home chefs, I imagine that we get off on messing around with slightly left-of-center ingredients and creating slightly improvised versions of things that aren’t necessarily the old American standbys.
I’ve made meatloaf. It’s good. But after a while it’s boring and that’s what I’m trying to escape from when I hit the kitchen.
And look, it’s pretty simple. I’m a dude who likes to rally around my half-broken spirit at the end of a long workday by swinging around my wife’s fancy Japanese knife like a cleaver, whacking down through bok choys like a twisted madman; beheading whole lemongrass families with one violent swoop; spraying shiitake mushroom guts all over the back splash like it was some dark and ancient dungeon wall.
Hell, I even enjoy touching chicken skin.
There I said it.
Touching chicken skin comforts me.
It relaxes me. Hearing it hiss and sizzle in the first few seconds of a scalding peanut oil bath makes me freaking happy.
But lately all of this cooking, all of this pan pushing and hot oil splashing, all of this wooden spoon over here/metal spatula over there shifting around in fast motion, it has also put me in a certain harm’s way that I didn’t see coming at all.
What I’m talking about is the Stir Fry Two-Step, people. It’s a name I came up with after a recent evening of trying to conjure up a little Thai food in my Central Pennsylvania home when I nearly broke my ass-bone.
I was in the middle of some serious cooking, ping-ponging my attentions back and forth between my attempts at a Pad Thai with shrimp and a vegetable stir fry when I found myself looking at my bamboo spoon and thinking,”Hmmm, this is a weird sensation. I was just standing flat on the damn ground and now I believe I’m kind of…”
I hit the floor hard and fast, the spoon adding it’s insulting little slap to my forehead as if to say (in a Monty Python voice, of course),”You, my friend, are a clumsy fool!”
I had slipped in some of the oil that is always kicking up out of the hot pans on the burners. It was something that I had told myself I would address before I took a header. But, now it was kind of too late.
Luckily, I didn’t crack my face open or anything embarrassing like that. Middle aged men sometimes manage some pretty impressive kitchen injuries, it’s true. But, I’d been able to get away with just a bruised ego. And okay, maybe I pee’d my pants just a little, but fear is fear and I don’t make the rules.!
Anyway, that was it; I was done messing around. I’ll be damned if I was going to die the shameful laughable death of a wannabe chef busting his own neck in a small plop of oil on his own linoleum floor. Too many people would dig that. Imagine the comments underneath the brief story of my demise on internet sites. The next day I headed to the Home Depot and marched back to the Flooring stuff and found what I needed.
Two of them.
One for the stove area and one for the sink area, where runaway soap suds on the floor have already warned me numerous times that they want me dead or, at the very least, very badly bruised, ASAP.
Now, don’t be fooled. They market these mats as ‘anti-fatigue’ which, I suppose is a way for them to appear to cater to the folks who tend to fall asleep when they are standing at the stove or the sink. But the truth is, these things are for doofuses like me, and there are legions of us…trust me, who are endangering themselves each and every day just by walking around in their slippery kitchens.
I think I paid about forty bucks for them and got them home and slapped them down on the floor and they were just perfect.
Now, overboard oil doesn’t want to kill me anymore. And neither do random wet cabbage hunks or basil leaves who have parachuted off of the counter top.
So, I’ve got that going for me.