Keepin' On

"I figure I can either quit, or keep on going. I choose Keepin' On."

How to Cook – or Do Anything Else

cookingIf you can read and follow directions, you can cook. I mean no offense to those of you who have moved on to cooking as an art. I am sure you do more than read. However, everyone begins with following simple directions. These keep us on the right path and prevent trouble.

My first directions-related disaster happened when I was about six years old. Always a helpful person, even at a young age, I decided to help my parents one morning by fixing breakfast. Those of you with children can already feel the beginnings of catastrophe. The thing is that even though children are adorable (I was no exception to this), they have limited experience in just about everything and can get way off track without breaking a sweat. For example, I once decided that my mother’s friends should each have hats at their weekly bridge club meeting. Do not ask; I have no idea why. I figured out that if I folded all of my mother’s best hand towels and sewed up two sides of them, they would make nice hats – an even dozen as I recall. It was an honest mistake that also introduced me to that small but efficient tool, the seam ripper; but back to breakfast.

During the week, cold cereal and toast worked fine for busy people with places to go. On the weekend, however, there was time for cooking a big breakfast that often included eggs. Early one Saturday morning, as my parents slept the sleep of innocence, I joyfully launched my grand plan

Actually, my memory is a bit hazy on all of the details thanks, in part, to our brains ability to block a certain level of trauma. I know it started with eggs. I had managed to drag a chair to the stove and set a skillet and a carton of eggs on it without waking my parents. Now I was ready to cook. This is where the whole direction thing would have been great. Of course, at the time, I was not reading much. Oh, I knew about cats and hats, but we had no cats and my hat creation phase was yet to come (See above). The fact is that I had no directions and could not read them if I had them. And, if I had them and could read them I may well have ignored them because even at age six, I was male.

This, by the way, is what really frightens me about genetic engineering. I am sure those brilliant scientists will finally get the whole DNA thing figured out. But DNA is basically directions for building any living thing, right? And most (but thankfully not all) genetic engineers are male, right?

Sue (a genetic engineer): Are we going the right way with this gene splice?

Bob (another genetic engineer): I know what I am doing!

Sue: I know, but what could it hurt to just look at the DNA code.

Bob: So you don’t like the way I splice?

Sue: Just ask somebody, okay?

Bob: Sure, then the other engineers will think I’m stupid!

Sue: Look out! It is mutating! (Scream!)

Since I did not know any directions, I made up my own.

Step I – Break eggs – I was okay with breaking the eggs. I was six. I could break anything. From a child’s perspective, the inside of an egg consists of a small yellow ball (the egg) and some clear sticky stuff (the gunk). Now follow the logic here: Scrambled eggs are yellow therefore only the yellow ball is egg, the size of maybe one bite. I knew my Dad could really pack it away. Moments later, the entire carton of a dozen and a half eggs was swimming in the skillet.

Step II – Heat – I cannot imagine how many angels were freaking out at that moment but I want to personally and publicly thank all of them that I am not dead to this very day.

Step III – Do something with a fork. From watching my mother cook eggs, I knew that this was the point at which you began stirring a fork around the skillet and taking about the neighbors. Since I had no one to talk to, I moved on to . . .

Step IV – Getting bored and going off to watch cartoons. In my mind, this was in preparation for the inevitable Step V which took place at some indefinite time in the future when my mother would shout, “Turn that thing off; breakfast is ready!”

I do not know if it was the smell or the smoke that first awakened my parents. Maybe it was that little voice that suddenly snaps a parent’s eyelids open and shrieks, “He’s doing something!”   Actually, my parents were pretty cool about the whole thing. After all I could have, “killed us all while we slept,” but, thankfully, I did not. And I was the first person to ever make a discus out egg yolks. Of course, they made me eat a bite and clean it all up just so the memory would stick, and it has. The big lesson gained from the Great Egg Disaster of ’56 was if you keep doing what you do not know, you might have to eat the results

Looking back, I realize that my parents, in fact, had taught me to cook eggs, by example. I just had not paid enough attention to get all of the directions right. There are plenty of other good directions around, as well. Books, tales, and role models are just three. Clients often come to me because they forgot the directions to some important part of life, or did not pay enough attention to learn them in the first place, and are feeling lost. “Well,” I will say, “Let me tell you about the time I first tried to make scrambled eggs.”

Your Keepin’ On Tip for the Day:

When in doubt, check the directions

About Jim Thomson

Husband, father, grandfather, counselor, and writer.

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