A Delicious Dance; Meeting the Inhabitance of My Kitchen Drawers #IndependentLiving
By Jessica Hodges
I couldn’t find the egg separator. The can opener had fallen on my tow, a pan decided it wanted to break dance on the floor, and the Tupperware decided it wanted to do jumping jacks, all while my tow was singing an operatic aria. It wasn’t much to ask, just the silly egg separator so that I could get to work on the meringue cookies I’d promised to bake for a bake sale. Not that I have the right to hope for such a thing, since it’s all my fault. I’m hardly organized, and usually in a hurry when I’m trying to put dishes and such things away. Add to that I only have one cabinet, and one drawer…and you’ve got a cramped space where organization is necessary, but not happening. While I’m trying to gather the unruly children of my tiny cabinet village and singing a quiet descant of curses to my vibrating tow, my phone rings.
“Hello,” I grunt, trying not to sound like a strangled and slightly breathless cow.
“Yes, this is she.”
“Hi, I’m Elena, with Instacart, and I’m down in the lobby.”
Oh, dang. I completely forgot I ordered groceries. Ordinarily, I love Instacart. It’s a service that allows you to order groceries online, schedule a time of delivery, pay a smidgen extra, and have all your groceries conveniently brought to you. I am very much an introvert, and as previously discussed on these blogs, I am not that adept at travel, so there’s always a decent chance of taking a lot more time than I need to. add to that my dislike of noisy places and unnecessary talking to random people, and the amount of homework I’ve got to do, and you can see why I’d be all too happy to give the arduous and stressful task of grocery shopping to someone else.
Per my usual, I’d scheduled these the day before. Unlike usual, I forgot about them. My phone had been pinging me with updates the past hour, I saw now as I looked at my screen. There were refunds and replacements I’d completely missed, including an incredibly coveted rotisserie chicken. They taste amazing, and allow me to be lazy and not cook while getting awesome tasting food! But alas, it was not to be today. Furthermore, I already had something melting on the stove, a candy coating for pecans to be sold along with the cookies. Quickly, I turned off the stove, grabbed my cane, and mumbled something almost incoherent about being down in 25 seconds and a segment of minutes…
The Instacart shopper was friendly and professional, and thankfully didn’t snap about the wait, the sugar clinging to my clothes, or the state of my kitchen when she helped carry the seven bags of groceries into my apartment a few minutes later. Once I’d tipped her, and she’d gone on her way to the next customer, I hastily finished the pecans, then unpacked the groceries, starting some soft Celtic music as I did so. I took the few minutes to vent, slamming the fridge open and closed harder than needed, and having a tiny bit of fun at the expense of some of the sturdier groceries. It had been a long day. I’d gotten lost four various times, probably failed an exam, lost my headset, lost an eBay auction, broken the jar I use to hold my nutmeg, lost half of my other spice jars because I hid them under my bed temporarily for the sake of my storage space, and now, had no dinner plans! Sighing, I shook my head, and decided this was going to be my night. I was going to have a delicious meal, and have fun doing it. Smiling now, I turned the music up a little louder and started humming under my breath. Once I finished my meringues, it was going to be a pork chops and apples night. First though I had to fight with egg whites. They’re messy, unruly, and delicious once they’re all fluffed up, sweetened, and baked into soft, melty pieces of air. But getting them first into the de vine fluff, and then into evenly spaced clumps on a cookie sheet is…difficult. Usually, if I’m making cookies, I use an iced cream scoop with a handle that squeezes, pushing the contents out into a pile. This allows for good, consistent sized chunks, and makes spacing a smidgen easier. However, stuff like this is too delicate for those, so I must freeform it. For a second, I try using a funnel, and positioning it over the sheet in hopes that I could get better spacing and less spreading that way, but it was more of a mess than it was worth. Sighing, I decided that though I could use funnels to fit over the openings of muffin tins, making for an easier, cleaner muffin spacing, they couldn’t help me anywhere else. Grumbling about funnels, spoons, missing chickens, and eggs, I proceeded to scoop my cookies onto the sheet, trying to keep focus on the apples and meat ahead of me. The result was a successful cookie pan…mostly. Sadly, it made a war zone out of my counter. Ah, well. It doesn’t matter. The other food will make it all worth it. And it’s now, officially, time to get started.
Wiping egg white splatter off the counter, I load up my bookmarks in Safari, the iPhone’s default browser. Thankfully, the pork bookmark is right next to the one for the bacon and brussels sprouts I plan to also make tonight. But pork comes first.
There are many ways to get these chops done. I did them once in a friend’s instant pot, a smart pot that pressure cooks, sautés, slow cooks, cooks rice, yogurt, and much more. Its accessible app lets you walk away and keep control of what the pot is doing, and it’s got advantages since everything can be cooked in one pot, due to the different settings. Even cooler, the app has built in scripts for recipes, switching the settings and temperatures at appropriate times without you even having to look at your phone, or the display. You can even make your own custom scripts. However, these pots are very expensive, and popular, so getting them cheap isn’t easy. As a result, I, sadly, don’t have this newfangled thing, so a combination of oven and stovetop will have to do. Thankfully, that isn’t a problem, since I had a reader come in with fabric paint, and put dots on the oven at specific temperature increments. Sighing, I take a deep breath, and glare down at my toe. It’s time for my cabinet village, my stove, my fridge, my phone, and I to do a little dance number I call, “How not to run a kitchen well, but make really tasty food while doing so.”
With beautiful timing, the next item that decides to do acrobatic summersaults is my apple slicer, which I want now. It’s a metal device with a circle in the middle, surrounded by straight, metal bars. Fitting the stem of the apple through the center of the circle, and firmly pressing down yields a cored and sliced apple. Though I’ve done apple slicing and coring by hand, sometimes, I like the convenience of this. While this makes thicker slices than I’d like, it allows me to quickly cut and core an apple. Then, I can cut the slices into smaller chunks. And today, I liked the feeling of the apple giving way under my fingers. It melted away the last of my tension, and I was finally able to relax a little. This dinner was going to be beautiful!
Once the apples are cut, I fish for my measuring cups, and spoons. I know which is which by size, though sometimes I’ve been tempted to use fabric paint to put dots on the handles, or buy tactile spoons and cups from maxiaids.com. Once I’ve found my set, measuring is a breeze. Fantasizing about how good everything will taste, I put the apples and other ingredients into a baking dish, and keep moving forward in my dance.
After I put the forgotten meringue cookies in the oven, it’s time to brown the pork chops. This is useful because it locks the juices into the pork chops, preventing them from drying in the oven. I know, from previous experiences, that they need to cook for four minutes on one side, and 3 on the other. I’ve only got one problem; the iPhone can only have one timer set at a time, and I have cookies in the oven. One possible solution to this, as I found out at another friend’s, is to get one of Amazon’s Echo products. Equipped with Alexa, your cloud based personal assistant, the various Echo iterations allow you to talk hands free to a computer, and have it respond back. Music is a large focus of these, but they can also do much more. Thankfully for this hypothetical situation, you can set as many timers as needed, without touching anything, and control your music at the same time. With some programs built for the device, you can even have Alexa walk you through your recipe, from ingredients, to shoving food in your face, and the best part is that you don’t even have to pay her in food for the help. But if you’re like me, and don’t have one of these, there’s still a solution. Sadly, it involves yet again diving into the strange territory that is my cupboard. I pause for a moment to collect myself, then dive for my needed item, a zip lock bag, trying to ignore the mixer I just put away as it tries to smile at me while ramming its beater neatly into my eye. Coming up triumphantly with the bag, I heave a sigh of relief, and snag a handful of pecans…no one will notice…right? I deserve it, after all. But eating these makes me remember how hungry I am, and I get back to work with renewed vigor.
Break over, I put my phone in the zip lock. This way, I can still use my phone without getting it dirty. Once that’s done, I load up alarmed. Alarmed is an app I return to on a regular basis for cooking related reminders and timers. Because I can set reminders to repeat after certain periods of time, I use it when I have long term projects that I need to add things to, or consistently flip over. It also allows me to have several timers running at once, with abilities to quickly delete or duplicate them. Even better, it lets me assign different names, and sounds, to each timer, so I know exactly what’s needing my attention now. Setting the revolving round of timers, I start browning pork.
Once I’m fed up with timer sounds and duplicating timers, and my house is full of the smell of pork, I put the pork over my apples, season it, add the last few ingredients, and wrap the whole thing in tin foil to keep moisture in. Then, I take out my meat thermometer while skillfully avoiding a slice from one of my knives. Like most kitchen equipment, there are lots of choices for thermometers. Talking ones are available from maxiaids.com, and they work well, reliably, and are improving with each generation. However, I like smart things, and I found for the same price, I could get a thermometer that does so much more. It’s smaller, too, a compact, plastic base, a long, long wire, and the probe that goes into whatever you’re measuring. Including the holder for thermometer and probe, the entire thing fits into the palm of my hand. And it’s very powerful. With its companion app, the iGrill Mini lets you select what meat your cooking, and how well you want it done. Then, when your meat goes to the stovetop, or the oven, the probe stays inside, continuously keeping tabs on the temperature as the food cooks. It sends notifications to your phone when your meat is close to being ready, and when the desired temperature is acquired. If you buy the larger version of this, you can measure multiple things at one time. The only drawback to this is how long the wire is that connects the base to the probe. It’s great because it gives you enough room to put things exactly where you want them while baking, but it gets interesting when trying to put things in the oven, making sure the probe is still in the meat, while nothing is where it shouldn’t be. Thankfully, this can be mastered with some practice…mostly. Closing the oven door and arranging what wire I have left on the counter, I move to the Brussels sprouts, chopping them in half, mincing onion, and cooking it all with bacon, a little more than the recipe says to put, because why not? Just as I’m pulling the pan off the stove, my phone starts beeping, a signal that the pork chops are done. As I pull it out, I check to make sure that the thermometer is still in the center of the meat, and getting an accurate read. It is, so I set the pan on the stove to cool.
When I’m finished eating, I clean up, then decide I’m still craving something. While that was incredibly calming, I now want to relax with my feet up and a book in one ear. I decide the best paring with that is a nice, cup of hot tea. My music changes to reflect my mood, and I decide how I want to make the tea. If I want a lot of water for tea, I’d use a pot on the stove, and I could use a pot watcher, a small, grooved glass disk to make sure I didn’t sleep through my water boiling. It sits at the bottom of the pan, and rattles when water boils, the bubbles interacting with the grooves in the glass, moving it up and down, and side to side. Tonight, though, I don’t want the hassle, and don’t want that much water, so I fill my simple electric tea kettle. It’s easy to clean, simple to pour and has an automatic shut off, so if I sleep through the water boiling, it’s fine. Five minutes later, I have some nice, mint tea, a few stolen meringue cookies, and some soft choral Christmas music. I curl up in bed under my electric blanket, and drift off to sleep, thinking of what, and how, to cook for Thanksgiving…but before I go, I hope you’ve found something useful here, or at least enjoy the included recipes. If you’d like more basic tips on cooking, keep a lookout for upcoming podcasts and blogs. I’m sorry if I missed something vital. If I did, don’t be afraid to send an email through and let me know. I’m always looking for more cooking advice. Thank you for reading, I hope your tows don’t know any opera, and you can both have many good, silent nights in the kitchen!
Instacart by Instacart Inc.
Alarmed Timer App