I am not a good cook. But I dream, or at least think, about becoming a good cook someday. The problem is that I always think it’s going to happen overnight. Take for example, the Promise of the Crock-Pot. I have friends who told me tales of wonderful meals cooking themselves (I guess you have to put the stuff in there to begin with though), which are then waiting for you at the end of the day with very little effort on your part. So, when I came home with an eight-person monstrosity called a Crock-Pot (a.k.a. slow cooker), my husband looked at me and said, “Well, I look forward to our first meal,” not-so-secretly knowing it would be a while.
But one day I decided it was time. No more trying to decide what to cook at 3 p.m. No more ordering pizza or Chinese. I picked out a wonderful-sounding recipe called “Chicken and Rice Pacifica” that included chicken, soy sauce, bell peppers, and pineapple. The cookbook had pictures, and the meal looked wonderful. The ingredients weren’t elaborate, but to wash, cook, and put them in the pot somehow took me an hour.
I felt unnecessarily guilty (like always) that I wasn’t spending quality time with my sixteen-month-old son Lucas. But he entertained himself most of the time by turning on and off the TV, which I decided for that day was an okay activity.
I triumphantly put the ingredients into the pot, made a quick call to a friend to make sure I had set up the Crock-Pot correctly, and turned it on. The house started to fill with a wonderful aroma. I began having visions of myself cooking every night and providing my family with wonderful balanced and healthy meals, thanks to the Crock-Pot. Maybe I’d win some award for best Crock-Pot creation. Or at least for the best mom-and-cook (in the Crock-Pot category). My sister called. I told her she needed a Crock-Pot. A friend came over and visited. I was surprised when she said she didn’t use her Crock-Pot. This was my new savior; I was going to tell all about the Crock-Pot!
As the afternoon reached three, then four, then five o’clock, I loved the feeling of not having to do anything for dinner, it was already done! The Crock-Pot seemed to be working, and life was good. Why did it take me this long to try it anyway? And what was I going to make tomorrow (in the Crock-Pot of course!)
I opened the lid. It didn’t look exactly like the picture. In fact, it didn’t look anything like the picture. The rice was floating in a sea of brown water. The bell peppers had shrunken down so only their skins were floating on top. I called my husband and told him he might need him to pick up dinner through a drive-through. “It can’t be that bad, can it?” he asked.
I was hoping that although it looked bad, it would still taste wonderful. We would want to cook this meal all the time. And that Lucas, normally an extremely picky eater, would suddenly decide he liked all the ingredients and eat them all! But better make some new rice just in case. And shoot, the recipe had called for toasted almonds, better read how to do that now. My husband, now home, took care of my son as I finished up the “quick meal.” Another hour later, we are ready to eat.
As we tried our first bite, I knew that my overnight conversion had been in haste. The floating bell pepper skins were just that, and the meat was somehow dry, even though it had soaked in water for hours. I picked around, and ate a little, as did my husband. Lucas wisely did not touch his. My husband thanked me for dinner, and I smiled, but he said that I had worked hard. Which, when I thought about it, I had. Tired from the day, I said dejectedly, “I guess I won’t be using the crackpot anytime soon.” We both laughed because I had said crackpot instead of Crock-Pot.
It is now two years later, and my Crock-Pot sits silent and empty in my kitchen cupboard. My cooking-adept friends assure me that I just tried the wrong recipe. Others tell me they now think of me whenever they fail in the kitchen. I’ll accept that honor.