After laughing my way through Po’s tale of how she nearly burnt down her house with a loaf of wholewheat bread, my own little story of arson popped into my mind like one of those annoying but persistent door to door salespeople who wants you to buy a pile of socks that you don’t need and will never wear anyway.
My culinary skills are legendary for being non-existent. Yes – they are on a par with my sewing efforts. And you all know how that ended, right? I mean: you’re looking at someone who has a milk splatter … on the living room ceiling! (I won’t go into that right now…)
Anyway, back to my tale of woe and thick smoke…
When I was about 18, my parents found themselves back in the UK and we actually went home from boarding school at the weekends. During that time, I was active in the local drama club and was rushing to go out to rehearsals. My parents were out that particular afternoon, and my mother had left some sausages on a plate and some cabbage in a saucepan.
The sausages were black and one lick told me that they were inedible, so I promptly put them into the bin. (Sorry, mum!) It turns out later that they were supposed to be black as they were blood sausages – some kind of weird Scottish delicacy made out of the innards of animals. (Is it any wonder I became vegetarian?)
I followed those instructions to the letter.
1. Turn the stove on to medium heat.
2. Boil cabbage for ten minutes.
Well, I have a confession to make: I never did manage to obey that third instruction. Yes, I turned on the hob and then left the cabbage boiling for ten minutes. As I hopped out of the shower, I was faintly alarmed by the acrid smell of burning.
When I entered the kitchen a few minutes later, I was shocked to see clouds of thick, vile black smoke coming out of the saucepan! And were those actually flames?!
I whipped the pan off the hob and put it down on the side – promptly causing the formica work top to buckle and crease up like a deflating souffle. (We had to hide that deformity when we sold the house by covering it up with a rather large kettle…)
I then moved the pan into the stainless steel sink where I averted any further danger by turning on the tap. The smell of burnt cabbage and burnt saucepan were indescribably awful. Then, I did what any dutiful daughter would have done: left the mess in the sink and waltzed off to drama rehearsal!
Would it surprise you to know that my mum was furious when she got home? So furious, that she just couldn’t talk to me when I returned. I don’t think that my explanation helped things either.
You see: I did – quite literally – follow those instructions. Nowhere on that piece of paper did it say that the cabbage actually had to boil in water. Nowhere did it tell me that I had to “add water to cabbage before boiling”. And if you try to boil cabbage in a dry saucepan, then guess what? It catches fire and burns!
That’s what happens when you go to a school that offers you the choice between Latin or cookery.
No guessing which subject I chose!