Friday, September 13, 2013


By no stretch of the imagination could you call me a perfectionist. I'm more like an "imperfectionist" in that I'd rather do several projects that are "good enough" than spend hours getting one thing just right. It's a system that works for me. But last night was an exception…

Every so often, the stars line up and I have a clean house, a well-manicured lawn and a well-stocked fridge all at the same time. It's a Martha Stewart moment for me and I relish it, walking around my house as it radiates with Feng Shui. I was in this Zen-like state last night when a disturbing thought shook me out of my reverie. We had nothing to eat. Oh sure, there were lots of ingredients, but nothing you could call a meal. As much as I hated to mess up my clean kitchen, I knew there was no way out of it, I had to cook. Especially since our boys were home from college, they were always hungry.  

Since I'd have to clean the kitchen anyway, I decided to make several dishes at once: a vegetable curry for dinner, mini corn muffins for breakfast, and a spinach quiche for whenever. I mixed the muffin ingredients together and spooned the batter into four muffin pans. While I waited for the oven to heat up, I defrosted the frozen spinach in the microwave and started chopping vegetables for the curry. 

I have to clear something up at this point. Although my last name is "Venkataraman," you shouldn't assume that I'm Indian. The name came with the guy. And, while I have visited India, I didn't go there to take cooking lessons. Nevertheless, I do enjoy a good curry and I can usually follow a recipe. 

After I cleaned and chopped my vegetables and shoved all the peels, stems, etc. into the garbage disposal, I lined up my beautiful rainbow of onions, peppers, eggplant, cauliflower and potatoes. Just then, the oven beeped its readiness and I crammed all four muffin pans in at once. The muffins wouldn't take long and soon started to smell delicious. Our two dogs, Abby and Phoebe, were already camped out by the kitchen door, hoping for a sample. They were dreaming if they thought I would give them any.

As I heated the oil in the pan for my curry, I poured myself a glass of Merlot. I was sure Martha would've done the same. Then, following the recipe, I poured a tablespoon of mustard seeds into the hot oil and waited for them to pop. I didn't have to wait long before they started popping like popcorn and then hurtling themselves all over the kitchen. Hot oil pinged me everywhere at once. I tried shoving the pan to a back burner to make it stop (splashing hot oil in the process), but it was no use. The mini-grenades kept coming at me while I yelled, "Ow! Stop!" As if they cared. Just then, the timer went off for the muffins. Reluctantly, I put down the towel I'd been using to shield my face and sure enough, as I pulled out the first tray of muffins, a hot mustard seed flew into my eye--all the way from the back burner! The sudden shock made me drop the muffins, which scattered all over the floor. That was all the invitation Abby and Phoebe needed. They raced into the kitchen like they were in the home stretch of the Kentucky Derby to slurp up the hot muffins and cover the floor in dog slobber. 

I was so busy yelling at the dogs that I didn't see the fire raging on the stove where I had spilled the oil. In a panic, I looked for the fire extinguisher. Was it under the sink or in the garage? The hot mustard seeds were still coming at me as I ducked under the sink. Grabbing the extinguisher, I pulled the pin and swung around, knocking over my glass of merlot and splashing it all over my shirt. After the fire was contained, I took the rest of the muffins out of the oven. They were so burnt, not even the dogs would eat them.

I took a deep breath. What would Martha do? She would try to salvage her shirt, I thought. I turned on the water in the sink to wet the sponge and water started to fill the sink. I flipped on the garbage disposal but, instead of the water draining out, food started shooting up! Apparently, I had overloaded the disposal. I turned off the disposal and walked over to the fridge. I knew there was a bottle of club soda in there somewhere. As I reached inside, I knocked it over. Not thinking, I opened the bottle and club soda sprayed everywhere, like a scene from the Three Stooges. Soaking wet, I sat down on the kitchen floor and just started laughing.  I heard the front door open and my oldest son came in the kitchen, "What's for dinner, Mom?"  

I shook my head. "We're ordering pizza." I know that's exactly what Martha would have done.

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