This story is by Serles and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
For years, I’ve told my wife, “Give me a recipe, and I can prepare a meal?”
This past Thursday, my wife called and asked me to cook dinner. She knew I didn’t bowl on Thursday and would have time. She was going to be late. “The recipe is on the table, double the portions. It only takes twenty minutes to prepare,” she said.
“Okay, I can do it if all the ingredients are here.”
“Everything you need is either in the frig or the pantry. You should be able to have it in the slow cooker before 4:00 p. m. and it should be finished by 6:30 p. m.”
It was about 3:00 p. m. when my cooking assignment began.
Twenty minutes prep time, not a problem. I looked at the list of ingredients. It called for a tablespoon of butter, but I was doubling the recipe so I took the butter from the frig and measured two tablespoons which I placed in a cast iron skillet. The next ingredient was five cloves of garlic, minced. I retrieved a large clove of garlic from the vegetable bin and broke it into ten smaller pieces. I remembered to double the portion. Not knowing anything about garlic, I put the vegetable on a cutting board and used a meat tenderizer as a mincer. I pressed and hammered until I was sweating. It didn’t look pulverized, instead it resembled a pile of glop with a little juice. This chopping exercise took me twenty minutes, so much for the estimated prep time.
I scraped the gunk into the skillet with the butter. I couldn’t imagine how this stuff would result in an edible meal.
The next step was to deskin the sausage. I’ve never removed sausage from its casing. Why would I do that when the natural thing is to put it in the microwave, or sauté it in a skillet. Or I could cook it on a grill and place it on a bun, like a hot dog, or on a plate to eat with a knife and fork.
I went about my task with grim determination. I cut each sausage in half, used a knife to cut the skin and laboriously pulled, scraped, and clawed the meat from the coverings. I sweated profusely from the ordeal and another twenty minutes of prep time had passed.
It was time to place the sausage into the skillet, but the butter wasn’t melting. I stirred and stirred, but it still wouldn’t liquify. Out of desperation, I picked up the skillet. There was no flame, I’d forgotten to light the stove. Kicking myself, I turned on the stove and fire appeared. In less than a minute the butter dissolved and I used my trusty red plastic spatula to mix it with the garlic.
I put the sausage into the skillet. The instructions stated, I was to cook the sausage until it was well-browned. As I fried the meat, I used my spatula to cut the large pieces into smaller ones. With the dexterity of a man using a jackhammer, I chopped, cut, and mashed the sausage turning it over and over until it was done.
I’d forgotten to measure the two cups of Arborio rice, but I didn’t have that type so I went to the pantry and found Basmati. After I poured the rice into the two-cup bowl, I added it to the mash. I forgot to double the amount. With the spatula, I stirred into the rice into the hash for two minutes. The result looked like an aging man’s salt and pepper hair except it was a hodgepodge of sausage and rice in a slightly heaping pan.
The last step before adding the mixture to the crockpot was to deglaze the frying pan with a cup of white wine. Does anyone know what a waste it is to add a cup of good Moscato to a sausage and rice mixture? It could have been put to better use if I’d poured it into a wine flute. Anyway, I emptied the wine into the mix with a tear running down my cheek.
Placing two pounds of sausage, two cups of rice, resting in a hot, heavy skillet is no easy task even for someone in good shape. I scraped the combined ingredients into the crockpot, after struggling for about five minutes. I turned the crockpot on high for a total of two and one-half hours.
The next step was to add chicken broth. The recipe called for nine cups of chicken broth. I hadn’t read the number of cups, so I added the one cup I had on the counter.
Finished, the prep time took sixty rather than twenty minutes. The time was about 5:00 p. m. only an hour late. Relieved of my task, I went upstairs to my waiting computer. I began typing this story. Thirty minutes later, my greyhounds remined me it was time for them to eat by bounding up the steps like two underfed wild animals.
Downstairs, I looked at the crockpot, it wasn’t hot. I looked inside and used a fork to test the heat level. It wasn’t warm to my lips or tongue. I apparently hadn’t turned on the crockpot. With gritted teeth, I turned it on high again or for the first time. It was 5:30 p. m. only an hour and one-half late. If there wasn’t a power surge the concoction would be ready to eat by 8:00 p. m.
I fed the dogs which is an adventure in itself. I stepped into the garage, where their food is stored, and measured the Apex Lamb and Rice. I placed the food in their bowls along with two cups of water. The sound of feeding hounds is to hear the licking, sucking, and chewing of animals who act as though they haven’t eaten in weeks.
I checked the crockpot. It was turned on. The outer layer was warm to the touch, and the Sausage Risotto was cooking.
The dogs were let out the back door for their tour of the fenced-in back yard.
I fled upstairs to my lonely computer. I had to finish this story before Monday’s midnight deadline. Happy as an author at work, I typed as fast as I could. The meal was well underway. I had prepared Sausage Risotto for the first time.
My wife arrived about 6:30 p. m. “The meal smells good. Did you have any trouble?”
It was quiet for a moment. “How much chicken broth did you add?” She asked hollering up the stairs.
I replied, “One.”
“The recipe called for nine.” She screamed. “There’s not enough fluid in the crockpot and it’s burned.”
I flew down the stairs and stared at the recipe. It stated four and one-half cups, and if doubled would have been nine. I hadn’t read the recipe properly. “Is there any more chicken broth?” I asked looking into the kitchen pantry. There were two cans. I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t the only one who made mistakes, but not being stupid I said nothing.
Barbara, added the two cans and six cans of water.
How was I supposed to know I could have used water? That assumes, of course, that I’d read the recipe.
Barbara stirred the watered-down concoction, took the ceramic pot out of the cooker, and placed it on the stove.
With my tail between my legs, I scurried upstairs to the safety of my office.
About thirty minutes later Barbara called, “Mitch, dinners ready.”
I slumped done the stairs to see Barb carrying a plate of food to the couch in front of the TV. There was a massive bowl of Sausage Risotto that looked like a mound of over-cooked concrete. I filled a plate and walked to my chair in the corner of the living room. “It tastes good,” I said.
“It has a nice bite because of the hot sausage,” my wife said, not mentioning that I’d forgotten to make the garnish consisting of butter and Parmesan Cheese. She did that before I came downstairs.
The dish had a tasty spicy flavor even with all the mistakes. My cooking adventure ended with a large bowl of left over sausage cement that I’d be eating for the next week.
I learned several valuable lessons from my attempt at preparing Sausage Risotto.
First, never say, give me a recipe, and I can prepare a dish or a meal?
Two, always have all the ingredients available before preparing any dish.
Three, never assume the suggested prep time is accurate, especially for a novice.
Four, never forget the deadline.
Five, forever remember my wife can save a male-cooked meal. Even though she didn’t have the proper amount of chicken broth, and she cracked the ceramic pot by placing it on the stove.
Six, constantly assume a humble demeanor, and remember the correct answer to any of my wife’s statements or questions is, “Yes ma’am.”