Cooking with Susan

As I have mentioned in the past, my parents were largely indifferent to my survival as a child and I was left to fend for myself a good bit.  Once in a while, my parents would realize that some portion of our upbringing was likely to bring shame upon them and they would take some step to remedy our filial deficiencies.  For my sister, my Mom realized that she had some natural inclination toward crafty things and so Susan was taught to sew. I got an F in home ec in 6th grade because my bean-bag frog was found wanting by Mrs. Chapman, the home ec teacher.  However, since I had exceptionally good grades, my parents were generally content to let things like my lack of artistic and/or domestic talent slide. By the time I got to college, my Mom realized she had failed me in that I had absolutely no domestic skills: my house was a wreck, my buttons were stapled on as a needle and thread were beyond my abilities, and the contents of my refrigerator included an ancient package of frozen pollock and condiments. Something had to give.  The solution: send me to culinary school, in Italy. And so it came to pass that I mastered the art of cooking. In Italy. Some would call that overkill.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my sister married and had kids. Sadly for them, Susan’s culinary talents were absolutely non-existent. Susan called me one night to ask me for the recipe for meatloaf. I gave her a recipe. Two hours later she called back for advice. This is a near-verbatim transcript of the conversation:

Susan: Hey, the meatloaf came out kind of weird.

Me: What do you mean by ‘weird’?

Susan: Well, the cheese on top kind of blew up and then deflated like a sad balloon over the meatloaf.

Me: I don’t recall telling you to top the meatloaf with cheese.

Susan: Well, after I poured the meat in the pan, it looked kind of sad so I thought I should cover it with cheese.

Me: Poured?

Susan: Well, I didn’t want to touch the meat and egg mix with my hands like you told me so I put it in the blender. Then, I only had a 13×9″ pan so I took the brick out from under the leg of the sofa and covered it with tin foil and put the brick in the pan to make it smaller like a loaf pan. Once I poured it into my new loaf pan, it looked sad, so then I thought, “cheese fixes everything” so I cut cheese slices and used the torch to seal the edges of the cheese over it so I wouldn’t have to look at the meat-like liquid. Now the cheese has blown up and burned and is floating in a sea of grease.

Me: That’s not sad, that’s tragic.

Susan: How do I fix it?

Me: Open the trash can lid and deposit the contents of the pan there. Then pick up the phone and call for pizza.

I still cannot sew and Susan still cannot really cook. Susan is now divorced (probably not related to her cooking and more related to his tendency to date girls young enough to say things like “Who is Prince?” with a perfectly straight face.)  However, I think Susan really just needs a keeper before she poisons anyone. If anyone wants to marry a 40-year-old menace in the kitchen, let me know. 

P.S. to Susan: You can thank me later.

Canoeing with Susan: a lesson in why kids should be sent to summer camp

My little sister is turning 40 soon and we planned to head to Florida to recover from the horror; her from turning 40 and me from having a little sister who is 40. The house we are staying at is on the beach but also is adjacent to a brackish water lake and they rent canoes.  I love to canoe and all things water-related.  I also know how to canoe. I assumed that Susan knew how to canoe because my parents also sent her to camp where I had learned to canoe. Big mistake. Susan has no idea how to canoe.

My Dad is a salt of the earth type whose parenting skills included spouting such gems as “life is hard in the far west” when confronted with a reasonable request for assistance. Dad also believed I should go to 4H camp so I could “toughen up”. At 11, I discovered that 4H camp meant get in a canoe, try to stay afloat and catch and make your own dinner.  My formative summers were spent in exotic locations like Kansas and Missouri canoeing and illegally trawling for bass to stay alive. I assumed Susan got the same treatment, but I never asked since she was younger than I am and was completely beaneath my notice. So when Susan said “hey let’s rent a canoe”, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and though it would be a lark, especially since I could spend an enjoyable day in the sun paddling around the beach and then head out for a nice dinner without having to catch it first.  I did not consider the danger of Susan.

The site of the canoeing debacle, except the lake was attached to the ocean

To start with, Susan is a completely charming and utterly dangerous human to hang out with. She thinks nothing of lighting a cigarette with a map gas torch while driving down the highway.  She once blew the doors off a microwave while boiling eggs in a Pyrex bowl because “it seemed like a good idea.”  This is the person I decided to canoe with. In my defense, I had no idea she had never canoed because she had been to camp.

Getting in the canoe was the first trick. She almost took a header out of the canoe because she did not understand that the canoe was balancing in the water. I pressed on with the adventure because I thought she was just rusty and would remember how it all worked soon. The concept of balance remained elusive as she continuously lurched over the side to try to reach things in the water. Then, because there is such a thing as a “tide” and she did not heed commands to paddle hard, we foundered on a sand bar.  People from the beach could see us. They were laughing at us. Susan picked that time to jump out of the canoe to “push us off the sand bar”. Genius. Never mind that there were drop-offs everywhere around us.  Drop offs with sharks. She did manage to free us and somehow get back in the canoe just as this swam past us.

OK., this was not really us and this did not really happen, but we did see a 3 foot long baby shark 60 seconds after she got in the canoe. Of course there were bigger sharks just waiting to eat her out of my line of sight.

The bigger question for me was why did she not know how to canoe? The answer was that she got to go to civilized camp. With air conditioning, and three meals a day brought to her by people interested in her survival. Obviously, as the first born, I was expendable since they had a spare. So Dad, remember it will probably be me pushing your wheelchair and I am holding a grudge.