The making of an incompetent cook – Part 2

(If interested, this saga starts here: The making of an incompetent cook – Part 1)

I moved into my first flat late in 1988. I had started work the previous summer and was eager to make the home for myself that I had been dreaming about and working towards for the past eight years. I arrived with my newly purchased bed, fridge, kettle, toaster, crockery, cutlery, pots, pans and an iron. The previous occupants had left their rather tired looking oven and washing machine. Although I had no other furniture, no curtains and no idea how to work the heating system, that first night spent in my own home felt blissful.

Over the coming months I started to gather together some of the other things that I both wanted and needed. I bought a squishy sofa, table and chairs, shelves for my many books and a cabinet to store my hi fi. I replaced the washing machine when I discovered the old one leaked, painted my bedroom and hung curtains at the windows. In the spirit of the times the decor was a mix of black, white, grey and red; to my eyes it looked fabulous.


Having built my nest I wished to show it off so invited a few of my new friends from work round for a meal. When my parents socialised this is what they did so it seemed a perfectly natural course of action. I did not consider that I still had no experience of cooking. Having received five acceptances to my invitations I consulted a recipe book for a suitably impressive three course meal for six. Starter and pudding could be prepared in advance and I sensibly opted for something that sounded straightforward for the main course. I decided that I would roast my first chicken.

Instructions on the cellophane wrapped bird that I bought told me how many hours it needed to be cooked for. Having cleaned my flat from top to bottom, bathed and chosen what I would wear for my exciting evening, at the prescribed time I switched on the oven for the very first time. As it began to heat up black smoke gushed out, filling the flat with a noxious smell. Panicking a little I threw open all the doors and windows before frantically attempting to clean the beast as best I could. With my inadequate supplies and lack of experience (I had never cleaned an oven before) I felt impotent, but knew that I needed to try again. By the time my friends arrived the chicken was bubbling away in it’s juices and only a little smoke was puffing out the oven door. A few comments on the strange smell that permeated the now freezing flat were made, dinner was served a little later than planned, but we survived the food and an enjoyable enough evening was had by all.

Perhaps I should have learned my lesson, but I would continue to invite people round to eat, and try out new, exciting dishes on them. Most of the food that I cooked for my many dinner parties was tried for the first time on the night and never repeated. There were many close calls and disappointments that went unmentioned: the soup starter that took me five hours to prepare; the range of expensive spices that went into the only curry I have ever made from scratch and which tasted totally bland; the prime cuts of meat whose potential succulence I failed to appreciate, ending up with a jaw challenging dish that resembled biltong.

At home, alone, I was still content to live on simple fare, although I did begin to cook a little more often for myself as time went by. I’m not sure that I ever got the oven in my flat properly clean though; it was only ever used when I had people round.

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5 comments on “The making of an incompetent cook – Part 2

  1. You are brave to roast a chicken! I cook everyday for my family, and I still stay away from whole birds. I think it’s the whole handling and cleaning thing that grosses me out.

  2. zeudytigre says:

    At the time I really had no idea what was considered easy or hard. I chose a tasty sounding dish from my cook book that looked straightforward, followed instructions and hoped for the best 😉

  3. The Waiting says:

    You just reminded me that I really need to clean my oven. I think it’s been about a year since I did that last. Oops.

  4. I love that you were brave enough to try something new. Chutzpah! Bravo for you, and funny story.

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