Crap housewives of the world unite!
I am not a cook.
The ear splitting sounds of the kitchen smoke alarm goes off with such frequency that even our cats cannot be roused from their sleepy, snuggly spot next to the mismatched socks on the dining room table. This table gets so little use, it has become a regular dumping ground for laundry, blank yellow post-it notes, blunt brown colouring- in pencils and texta lids. Only recently have I decided to wear my lack of domesticity with pride.
Oh those wasted years pretending to be one of those people who can whip up a meal with only a few ingredients in the fridge, along with a drizzle, or is it grizzle of olive oil, along with some casually torn basil leaves.
My youngest sister, who first made a culinary name for herself, cooking for Jamie Oliver in London, had been complicit in helping me with this facade. Over the years I have hosted dinner parties, serving up a menu made solely by my chef sister. I had the cheek to pretend that I was responsible for the bruschetta entree, the main course of Moroccan lamb tagine, served alongside coucous tossed gently with black currants. All that I could manage was scooping the Sara Lee French vanilla ice cream out of the tub and serving it with strawberries for dessert.
I was almost exposed when one of our guests persistently asked me for the tagine recipe. Thankfully she didn't notice the reddening of my face, thanks to the chardonnay we had been chugging down. Shrugging my shoulders, I laughed, while my honest husband became engrossed in the salt and pepper shakers.
'I don't remember exactly, I just threw a few bits and pieces together.' But my dinner companion wasn't satisfied with that explanation, 'You must tell me what spices you used. Was it paprika or turmeric?'
Since having our daughters I have realised the stupidity and exhaustion that comes from pretending to know what turmeric is and to be perfect at everything. Happy to kiss goodbye hosting dinner parties nine years ago, now my exhaustion comes from the challenge of cooking an edible, nutritious meal for my family each night.
Briefly I dabbled with the ridiculously expensive Thermomix appliance. I was under the misapprehension that it would roast a chook, prepare salad, bake bread, make chocolate chip ice cream and mix a watermelon daiquiri all at once. My lack of attention to detail, ie I didn't read the instructions properly, meant I spent a fortune on ingredients for a chicken curry and mananged to turn it into baby food puree. I made my husband Peter eat it, mortified to waste the food.
Determined not to be beaten, I tried making soup, risotto and more soup by closely following the simple recipe instructions. But when I managed to burn the power cord of the whiz bang appliance because I'd plugged it in too close to the hotplate I accepted that kitchen gadgets and me weren't a great combination.
It was time to dig into my childhood food memories for some dinner inspiration.
'What goes in honey and soy marinade for chicken wings?' I asked my capable friend.
There is silence on the other end of the phone before she says,
'Honey AND soy!'
'Yes, but how much of each? I need specifics!'
'Put in the same amount of each, and add a slurp of vegetable oil.'
My daughters love them so they're a new addition to my weekly rotation of meals.
"My honey and soy chicken wings do taste better than they look!!"
Also on that list is baked beans, spaghetti on toast, sausages, spaghetti bolognese, shepherds pie (left over mince), nachos (more mince) and rissoles (yes, mince again!) I'm always on the look out for a new mince recipe. Apart from mince, another ingredient has recently reinvigorated my cooking repotoire. Panko crumbs!
Why panko crumbs? These golden, crispy crumbs have elevated my schnitzels, cutlets and rissoles into meals that the whole family will eat. I have Aussie entertainment legend and passionate cook Denise Drysdale to thank for this life changing advice. The other invaluable tip from Denise that has improved my culinary skills is to turn the hotplate/oven down.
And I'm not too proud to use packet ingredients to elevate my soggy stir fry into something quiet tasty. My eldest daughter gives me a five out of ten for my cooking. That's good enough from me. I'm a crap housewife and I love it!