Monday, February 23, 2009

Cooking To Be Clever


A few days ago, I prepared a meal for the family. It was a delicious meal, if I don't say so myself. My wife complimented me on how well I seasoned the chicken that I baked and how well put together the rest of the meal was... steamed broccoli with melted cheese and a mix of yellow rice with sautéed green-yellow-red bell peppers and onions. It made me think of my humble beginnings as a renaissance man, of sorts.

Most of the older men that I observed in my family could cook (if they had to). I don't think any of them cook as much as I do. My wife and I have an arrangement where we trade off nights Sunday through Thursday... I cook one night and she cooks the next night (no one cooks on Friday and Saturday nights). Whoever doesn't cook on a given night, washes the dishes and cleans the kitchen. It's an unconventional arrangement but, one that has lasted throughout 20 years of marriage.

I didn't set out to cook at all. Like most things in my life, it happened by circumstance and accident. The circumstance was, I just got plain bored with shop classes in high school. In 9th grade, I had electric shop, which was kinda cool. In 10th grade, I think I had wood shop, which I hated. When I wasn't nicking myself, I was dropping something or breaking something. The teacher always joked that it was good that I planned on going to college because I'd never be a carpenter. Another year though, and I'd have made one heck of an electrician. I was friends with this girl and she suggested that I try a home economics class. I thought she was kidding and besides, that was for girls. No guys would be caught dead in one of those classes.

Before you think that I was some pioneer or some kind of "negro first", forget it. There was two guys from the football team and one guy from the basketball team already taking home economics. They were taking the class because their girlfriends were in the class. I didn't have that excuse but, I certainly was tired of my experiences in wood shop and hey, there were some pretty attractive young ladies (the entire cheerleading squad, to be exact) in the class so, come junior year, I enrolled in a home economics class.

There was another guy in my class who lettered in football, track, and basketball and who (like myself) was a ne'er do well. We became fast friends and since we were both on the track team, we sat together in the class. (Today he's a cop and I don't think he cooks.) He was a clown and he did things on purpose to get a laugh... like toss dough up on the ceiling and then, laugh when it fell off and hit someone. Strangely enough though, I applied myself and finally, in addition to being good at track, I had found something else that I could do. We made Quiche Lorraine, pizza, pancakes, and for our final project...we baked a cake. My cake fell but, the teacher was impressed with my effort and this was the beginning of cooking for me.

My brother and I took a summer job at a Jewish summer camp and we both cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinners for children ages 5-15. We took another guy with us but, he did more skirt-chasing and joint-smoking than cooking. From there, this lead to more jobs as a short order cook when I needed some quick cash. I may have liked to cook but, I still never intended to be one. It was and still is a side thing... a side skill that I have and insurance that I'll never starve.

In the Air Force, I worked in the Port Mortuary. I put tags on the feet of the recently deceased and made that dreadful call that nobody likes to get to somebody's parents or next of kin, telling them that their relative was no longer amongst the living. It was depressing and after the death of a 21 year old guy, who I had known in passing, I knew that I never wanted to see another dead body, process another form, or call another relative so, I cross-trained into the cooking field. The Air Force sent me to their school at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, CO, where I was trained extensively for four months and I graduated close to the top of my class.

I cooked in large facilities for both the Air Force and The Navy and by the time I was 30 years old, I was supervising my own crew... which meant, I just prepared the menu and they did the actual cooking. I got bored with that and cross-trained again. This time it was arms training... firing the M-16, the M-38, and the M-45. I taught the safe usage of the weapons for about three years and had to qualify on all three weapons every six months. I enjoyed it but, during the last 10 years of my time in the Air Force, I returned to supervising the dining facilities and cooking. I found that I loved it and there was no shame in doing it. It had it's perks. I got to travel anywhere and with any unit that wanted to eat, which was everybody. So, I got to do something else I came to love... travel.

As proud as I was of what I could do in the kitchen, I remember the first time I brought my then fiancé over to my house for a meal. We got to laughing and talking so much that the meal got away from me and when I looked in the oven, the "meal" was black enough to poot smoke. She was cool about it and we wound up having a happy meal from McDonald's. The next time she came over I did better... I fixed a delicious spaghetti dinner (easiest thing to fix) for her and as far as I know, I haven't burned a meal that I've prepared for her since!

22 comments:

Solomon said...

I've cooked a meal or two myself in my day. Like you said, "It's a good skill to have!"

James Perkins said...

You're a real renasainnce man Keith!

Simon Bastion said...

You have really lived quite a life.

Grover Tha Playboy said...

All true playas are multi-talented!

Jazzy said...

Go ahead renassaince man.lololol.

Tate2 said...

I can burn a lil bit myself!

Swaggie said...

I didn't know you were in the Air Force. Wow, you've done it all, College, the Military...what a life you've lived.

Captain Jack said...

Love a guy who can cook!

Vanessa said...

Nothing sexier than a guy who can cook, you don't realize how turned on I am right now-lololol ,just kidding.

Angie B. said...

LMAO @ you- "The meal got away from me, it was black enough to poot smoke..." Only you...Only you
Keith-lololol.

Lisa said...

Another great post from someone supposedly on break!-lolololol.

Halo said...

I love a guy who will cook for me.
Just haven't met any.

Toni said...

You cook too? What else do you do?
lolololol.

Sunflower said...

Real men cook! -lolololol.

Blu Jewel said...

A man is the kitchen is a sexy thing. Your meal sounds delish!

Love to live; live to love!

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

man i grew up cooking and each day, in the morning and at dinner time imk putting it down - u get morte when u cook and my kids aint having it lol

Rich Fitzgerald said...

Cooking used to be my thing. It was how I scored points with girls in college. Surprisingly, a lot of them didn't cook or just didn't like to, so inviting them over for a home cooked meal worked wonders.

My wife is a bit of a gourmet, so I pulled back from the kitchen over the years. I've lost my touch. I don't season as well anymore. As you know, that makes all the difference.

A.Smith said...

I love a guy that can cook too. I also think it's crazy how many different "cross-training" adventures you've had. Cool!

12kyle said...

I can cook, too! One thing that I've learned about cooking is that you can't be afraid to try new things.

Sounds like you know how to throw down. I know where to go get a good meal when I'm in the Illadelph!

Beautifully.Conjured.Up said...

There is nothing like a man who knows how to cook...a major turn on for me *smile*

You lived a nice life...you might want to think about writing a book about it, at least to pass down to your future generations.

Now, I want to go home and prepare me some rice and veggies...yummy!!!

clnmike said...

Every dude should know how to work the pots and pans.

ShellyShell said...

A dude that can cook is sooo sexy!
My mom made sure both of my brother's could cook(good meals) and do laundry when they left the house! Me and my brother have cookoffs sometime!




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