Monday, May 7, 2007

Grills and Boys

I stayed at my parents' house the other night with the girls, so that I could see the parents off in the morning on their annual pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. One of the good things about retiring and getting old is the fact that they can prance off for a few months every year and go wherever their hearts desire, which is always Sri Lanka plus at least one other destination each year. Of course, the downside about doing this as they get older is the fact that they can remember fuck all about it. This may also explain why they do it every year, perhaps forgetting that they went there last year.

There I was, I woke up at about 7.30 and loaded my parents into a cab, complete with more baggage than Britney Spears at a counselling session. I know you Colombians have some tough times at the moment, what with air attacks, flash floods, that massive pot hole on the Galle Road and, worst of all, the squash ball in Glichrist's glove business, but I was still rather envious. Even with all the crap going on I would have loved to have been on that plane heading towards Colombo. But I wasn't. Such is life.

Then I had a brainwave. I thought that I'd cook a full English breakfast for me and the girls. A simple idea, one which even a simple man like me should be able to accomplish. The kids had surfaced and were busy doing what they love, surfing music channels and looking for interesting videos. At one point they had settled on Natasha Bedingfield's latest offering, that one about having babies or something. I watched for a while and I think I paid some attention to the music. My attention span didn't last for long though, Natasha B dancing around in a distinct lack of clothes and looking quite sexy is enough to put any chap off the music and I was no exception.

So I waltzed over the road to the Tesco Metro thingy, complete with its full quota of Sri Lankan staff, and bought the necessaries for the aforementioned breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans and fresh white bread. An English breakfast is second only to a string hopper breakfast for me. It has to be greasy, it has to be unhealthy and it has to be hearty. Muesli and cereal and all that yoghurt stuff is fine for people in Switzerland but my Britishness comes through as far as breakfast is concerned. I don't normally eat any breakfast but, when I do, it's got to be a full E, complete with a mug, not a cup, of tea. It's one of the pleasures of British gastronomy and frankly I don't think there are that many.

My plan was advancing nicely, the ingredients were purchased, I managed to retrieve the various frying pans and saucepans from the dark recesses of my parents' kitchen and it looked like all systems go. Until I encountered the grill. Or oven grill combination I should say, complete with turbo function too. My Mum had said to me, before they left

"Rhythmic, if by any chance you need to use the grill all you have to do is....." then she went on to give me detailed instructions and point out all the features of this marvel of modern technology. Unfortunately, like most sons, upon receiving any kind of instruction from their Mother what I had heard was this

"Rhythmic, if by any chance you want to use the grill blah blah blah blah blah blah......." I think I may have also heard the drum part to the introduction of "Do you want to" by Franz Ferdinand, but I can't be sure of that, it might have been "Take me out".

There's me, a grill oven with turbo feature, lots of raw food and several knobs, none of which have clear markings. If I were an oven maker I'd put real writing above the knobs. Real writing that said things like "Grill" and "On" or perhaps "Off". Not pictures, pictures that look like nothing that exists in real life. Stupid pictures that only can be understood by cooks. I turned a knob and waited. I know that grills, the electric type, take a little while to come on, so I was ok with the whole waiting principle. But after twenty minutes I realised there was a technical issue; no heat. I returned the knob to its previous position and tried the next knob. Fifteen minutes elapsed this time and by using that tried and tested method of touching the element with my finger I discovered that this knob was not the right one either. As lunchtme was fast approaching I figured that there was only one solution. It goes against the grain for a man and I'd appreciate it if you kept this quiet, what with my reputation and all, but it was RTFM time. Yes, it was time to Read the Fucking Manual.

I managed to find the manual and located the page that explained how to use the thing. I then turned the correct combination of knobs to get the grill started. I had discovered that, instead of using just one knob, what was involved was a cunning combination of two of the things, one to activate the grill, complete with turbo function, and one to select the correct amount of heat. It defies logic I know, clearly this isn't a Apple grill. If it had been I'd have had it up and running within seconds and by this time I'd have been tucking into my full English and wondering why all other grills weren't designed with the user in mind.

Anyway, the grill started its grilling and I put the sausages and bacon underneath it. After a few minutes I wanted to turn the things over, as I've seen Delia do in her more advanced lessons. But there was a snag. There was no handle on the grill pan. It had one of those things that clip on, with gravity and the various other laws of physics being the things that make it work. I located the handle. It was inside the grill / oven combination so taking it out involved some burning of fingers, an occupational hazard I presumed. Then, as I was taking out the grill pan, the whole contraption collapsed on me. Had it not been for my lightning reactions I could easily be talking to you now from underneath a pile of hot sausages. Luckily I managed to tilt the thing towards the oven so they all fell, one by one, back into the oven. I fished them out, put them back on the grill and concentrated on frying some eggs. That's not easy either is it?

One daughter doesn't like fried eggs and the other eats several plateloads of anything that's put within striking disatnce of her so I only had to do one fried egg for one daughter plus whatever I required. I started to fry the thing. I managed to turn it over without breaking it then I had to do the really tricky bit. The distance between the frying pan and the plate is one of those optical illusions. It can look to be a matter of inches but in actual fact it's 26 miles and 385 yards, or thereabouts. As the egg hovered in the gap it decided to plummet towards the work surface. It landed and my perfectly fried yolk promptly exploded and leaked everywhere. Bummer, I thought as I deftly picked it up and put it on the plate. I hid the broken parts underneath the burnt parts, an idea I was pleased with. I added all the extras, the sausages, the bacon, the baked beans, which are quite easy to burn, and presented the dish to the ten year old. She's the one that will eat lots of anything and she wasn't going to break the habit of a lifetime so she just steamed in and enjoyed herself.

I continued with the rest of the preparation. It was relatively easy as I made more eggs for me, assembled the rest of the stuff for the elder sister and put things on plates and we all steamed in quite contentedly.

At this point my academic brother appeared. He had come for the weekend and was looking on at my endeavours with interest, and scorn. I ranted at him about the lack of logic involved in the grill operation and he laughed, in the way that younger brothers do when sympathy towards their elder sibling is in short supply. He had analysed the situation and come up with his diagnosis of the overall problem

"Basically Rhythmic you're just not used to cooking are you?" He summed up.

Never a truer word, I thought later on, as I dipped my bread into the yolk and dreamed of string hoppers, chicken curry and pol sambol.


Anonymous said...

Hey Rhythmic
hahaha....good one, I am in stiches ...ha ha ha ha

I must admit you are much beter than me


Indyana said...

Sweet and funny,and a little sad...

Darwin said...

I cook quite a bit and I admit new grills/ovens confuse me too. Then again so do photo=copier machines and laser printers. I'm just not one of those people.

Lady divine said...

That was funny and nice...:-)
Well atleast you try..
Sometimes I'm so afraid of making a mess of things when I attempt to cook..
What's worse is cleaning up the mess..:-(

Beatrice Hannah said...

I am dreaming of getting away from my two hob and a tiny grill thing out here in Palliagama - to something more advanced. Once I have it will I just sit there mourning for Pan and Parripu? (not a big fan of string hoppers and they are way too much like hard work). Will I still eat dry crackers on my return? And how much would I pay for a full english right now? You made me hungry.

Anonymous said...

I am curious as to how you managed to be as old as you are, with no idea of how to get around a kitchen???

obviously you have been loved by very devoted women.. who have cared for you hand and foot!


Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Beatrice - You may not feel the same way if you had to face one of my breakfasts! Glad I made you hungry though.

Brat - I often wonder how I survived this long too.

"very devoted women", I was thinking "very demented women" actually!