Laura liked to think of ways I could keep busy. I tried to tell her that I was busy enough, but she didn’t believe it. Being the mother of a young child had made her pitiless; she heeded no excuse.
“I know your job can be stressful,” she told me. “That’s exactly why you need to find something you can do when you get home that will take your mind off it. You need to have something to look forward to.”
“I look forward to getting home and not doing anything,” I said.
Laura ignored this. “You need a hobby,” she said. “A creative outlet!”
Well, I’m about as creative as a stick of butter. I left crayons behind years ago and never (willingly) moved on to anything else. My old art projects from school looked like they’d been cruelly bludgeoned with blunt weapons. My mother had mistaken my painting of a cat and mouse for a sunrise over Hong Kong.
When I explained to Laura that I was incapable of artistic achievement, she cried, “Cooking! Try cooking!”
“I don’t know…”
“There are lots of great recipes online,” Laura said. “You could come home from work and eat delicious food you’d made yourself.”
Sounded good. In theory.
Laura kept telling me that cooking was straightforward. I could find a recipe that fit my comfort zone. All I’d need to do was follow the directions, wait while it cooked, and then enjoy my culinary masterpiece.
Eventually she convinced me that it was worth a shot.
I worked as a Volunteer Coordinator at a large nonprofit in town. Believe me, volunteers need a lot of coordinating. I tried to look on the bright side: they really helped us out. But sometimes their hapless confusion made me want to hide in the storage closet and cry.
Figures that I’d had a crummy day at work when I decided to launch into my creative hobby of cookery. By the time I dragged myself home, I wanted to curl up on the sofa and watch a movie—any movie!—or, even better, sleep. But Laura had brought me some zucchini so I could attempt a rudimentary vegetable stir-fry.
By some superhuman effort of will, I lined up my ingredients on the counter. Laura had visited the day before and helped me chop some of the different vegetables I’d need. Others, like the bamboo sprouts, came in a tin.
I carefully reread my recipe and started heating up my frying pan. (No wok for me. I’d never done this before.)
Soon, the olive oil was spitting and hissing in the pan. I started tossing vegetables in, enjoying the sizzling sound they made. I opened the tin of bamboo sprouts and tried to drain the liquid, but some of the sprouts fell into the sink. Great. Fantastic.
Everything rapidly grew worse.
I was scooping the sprouts out of the sink when I smelled an ominous smell. I turned around and saw that the oil was burning in the pan, actually smoking. The vegetables looked raw on one side but were blackening on the other. I’d let the pan get way too hot before I started cooking.
I dropped the bamboo sprouts and tried to do damage control, but the worst had already happened. Most of the vegetables were inedible, and I couldn’t stir-fry anything in the ruined oil.
I telephoned Laura in tears. “It all burned. It started burning the second I turned my back!”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Reese!” Laura said. “Are you all right?”
I made a pitiful strangled noise. I had destroyed all the vegetables and possibly the frying pan. I was a complete cooking failure, and I’d let Laura down.
“Reese, if you don’t have anything for dinner, you should come over and eat with me and George,” Laura said. “Do you feel up to that?”
“I don’t know,” I said. I was pretty sure I had a microwave dinner in the fridge somewhere, and I didn’t want my friend or her husband seeing me in all my ridiculous failure. I was crying over food, for goodness’ sake. I probably looked a fright.
“Come on, Reese,” Laura said. “Let me make it up to you. I was the one who convinced you to try, after all. We should have started with something more reasonable.”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
“I’m making spaghetti,” Laura said.
“Do you mind if I come over?” I asked. “Is it really all right?”
“Of course it is, Reese. We love to have you over.”
I went to find my car key.
Reese is a fictional character who agreed to share her story on this blog. This was the 4th installment. Click to go back to the first – Cat Attack.