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That grey mass … or getting back to cooking my own meals

Initially, when the world seemed to cave in upon itself thanks to COVID-19, I did as much as I could to make use of eating establishments in Austin.

Not that I needed much of an excuse to visit places like Bella Victoria and 1910 Fresh along with a host of other places. I dig food, but after some time of doing that, I decided for the sake of my waist to get back to doing some cooking, which I’ve always kind of enjoyed.

I’m no Gordon Ramsey and have no reason to berate people. Even so, I’ve begun to break out the cooking utensils again.

Now, it should be revealed that I’m an all or nothing chef. Either something works spectacularly or I get a lumpy mass of grey something or other. I suppose there have been some things that could be considered middle ground, i.e it isn’t burned or likely to put me in gastrointestinal distress, though it’s far from good.

So many times I’ve made something that was just so good I couldn’t wait to try again, but on the flip side there have been just as many times where I think that maybe it’s good to take the spatula away from me.

I tell you all of this because I have a certain handicap when it comes to cooking, especially with those things I’m just making up as I go. I don’t write anything down.

This comes early on in my bachelor days when I was the only one who’s pallet was being ruined or insulted. Of course those were also the days where three out of the seven days of the week were ramen noodle days with feast days being reserved for McDonalds. Such were the dawning, broken days of my fledgling journalism career.

However, after some time of convincing myself I actually like prepackaged ramen, I started playing with the salt-laced recipes that often left my tongue numb.

Add a little salsa here and there. What? I have some left over tuna? You bet were throwing that in.

Leftover chicken? Yes please.

As time wore on and I became more and more disillusioned with the idea of “liking” ramen, I branched out into more complicated items. In those days, spaghetti was kind of complicated. I mean first I had to brown the meat, then go through the effort of getting the can opener out, mixing the sauce with said meat and cooked noodles.

This was an hour of complexity for a single man on the cusp of Pulitzer greatness. And then I had to wash the dishes.

Moving on through life and getting to the point of actually cooking for somebody else, I decided that the next steps should include more complicated dishes like lasagna or perfect pink-in-the-middle steaks.

I became more brave with creating my own takes on these dishes and when I realized I wasn’t going to poison anybody I became even more daring. This is where I started to realize I had a problem.

One of the first things I can remember really going to town on was an experiment in chili and it went horribly wrong.

I was just in the last days of my aloneness and after throwing some tunes on in the apartment, I went to work, throwing the spices, beans, meats, tomatoes all together and letting it sit and simmer for close to an hour.

It was the biggest mistake in my cooking life because it was really good. I thought about this after becoming completely uncomfortable with too many trips back to the pot, complete with crackers and plenty of cheese.

It was really, really good and I was so happy with myself and as I’ve already stated, I couldn’t wait to try it again — except, what was it.

Throughout the process I just started throwing things into a pot using such precise measurements like a palm full seems good or I think maybe this is enough garlic powder.

Whatever I did it was really good, except I had no basis to do it again. I tried, however, ruining the next batch completely byputting in WAAAAYYYYY too much chili powder and found only mild success in the next batch after drowning everything else in crushed tomatoes.

I guess the moral of this story is this: I hate COVID and why is my kitchen on fire?