I learned how to cook via answering machine. My mom, the working and single kind, was rarely home when I walked through the door after school. She had shit to do, okay? Like feed me and make sure we didn't live in a van down by the river.
But she also loathed the very whiff of fast food and would rather risk me burning the house down than bringing home Little Caesar's for dinner. So she figured out a way to "cook" by proxy. She'd call home during the day and leave a message, detailing the blow by blow of how to make that night's dinner.
Via voicemail I learned how to make tacos, loaded baked potatoes, pot roast, pan-fried pork chops and various canned vegetables. My technique was more get 'er done than anything. As long as something ended up fairly hot and edible by the time my mom walked in around 7ish, I'd done good.
Along with essentially teaching myself to cook via audio-mom, I also learned how to "sew" via trial and error Forever XXI mash-ups and how to do my hair by copying whatever the most popular girl in whatever grade I was in was doing. I remember my mother asking why the tops of my ears were always burned and somehow being satisfied with the answer.
This is how I've survived these past 32 years -- just making it work. But in life I always figured there were the folks born with a silver instruction manual in their laps and those of us who just figured it out. Like the time I needed black shoes for a fashion show but only had enough money for black shoe polish? Make it work.
And for three decades that theory applied to omelets. No matter how hard I pretended to know what I was doing I have never in my life been able to flip an omelet properly. Or if I did, the inside would never cook all the way and I'd end up with a weird runny egg pancake. Yum. So instead of omelets, "loaded scrambled eggs" became my specialty. You see what someone did there? They didn't want the bother of learning how to do an omelet so they just threw everything into the pan and tah-dah! I applaud whomever came up with that cheat.
Years ago, I asked a chef friend of mine how the omelets (do I seem obsessed?) at his restaurant were so fluffy and not gross like mine and he told me:
- You need a hot buttered pan.
- Pour the eggs in and actually beat them a bit. I mean move the eggs around in the pan with a rubber spatula almost as if you're gonna scramble them.
- Let it "set" for a minute or two, and gently lift the edges and tilt the pan so that the excess uncooked egg can ooze into the sides and cook too.
- Once almost done, but still a little "wet" in the middle, stick the omelet in a preheated 375-degree oven for less than a minute or two. It'll fluff up and be sexy.
- Take the omelet outta the oven, flip it and serve. Boom.
Expert advice that I promptly forgot. That is until last week when I managed to reach back into the recesses of my subconscious and make myself an omelet so perfect I couldn't even get a picture of it.
I felt like (forgive me) Elizabeth Gilbert in that scene from "Eat Pray Love" when she makes herself like a plate of beans and is so hype about it. That was me. And it got me to thinking about all the other stuff I've been doing "wrong" (or by the seat of my pants) for so long that I could be doing right (or better).
Is there anything you could probably be doing right but just don't have the empty mental drawer to figure out? I'm on a mission to start learning new stuff that I probably should already know, like my nails. I have no clue how to do anything to my nails but bite them. So get ready to read that post. Things'll probably get messy.
Follow my journey to doing more stuff: @helena_andrews.