Friday, September 28, 2007

COLUMN: Crockpot

When you're a single, aging, chubby, nerdtastic man-boy such as myself, moments of sheer ego-boosting don't come often. And when those fleeting moments DO occur, you've got to cherish them and ride that ego wave for as long as you possibly can. which is why I don't need to apologize before telling you all about how TOTALLY SUPER AWESOME I am.

I achieved something this weekend. Something I've never been able to pull off before. Something that I'll be patting myself on the back over for weeks to come. To the average person, it's probably nothing. It's probably going to be a huge anti-climax. It's probably going to cause that one dude to make his "IS THIS NEWS?" comment when this column runs online. But I don't care. I did it and I'm proud.

I... cooked dinner.

And here's the kicker: It was good. Like, REALLY good. Like, friends-asked-me-for-the-recipe kinda good. This may seem like no big deal to you, but for a culinary moron like me, it's nothing less than an epic moment of achievement.

It's not like I have any particularly deep-seeded ethical conflicts with my kitchen appliances or anything. It's just that -- as a single guy with a surplus of jobs, activities, and laziness aplenty -- cooking takes up waaaay too much time. First you have to cook the food. Then you have to clean it all up. And THAT is why Pizza Hut is on my speed dial.

I actually enjoy cooking when the mood hits. But since I make my own meals 0.0001% of the time, I'm incompetent at it. Among my many misdeeds:

- Making spaghetti in a hot pot. Call it a learning experience. Call it a science experiment. Call it time to buy a new hot pot, because whatever substance the spaghetti transfigured itself into lines the walls of that hot pot to this day.

- Frying bacon in a pot. Hey, my only skillet was busy with instant pancakes at the time, so I figured "what-the-hey" and threw some bacon into a pot -- whereupon it shriveled up into a series of grease-coated bacon death-balls.

- Baking a cake. Once on a dare, I decided to pull out the craziest cake recipe I could find and try to make it for a Food Day here at work. The finished product never made it to Food Day, but it could have served as a formidable blunt weapon and/or doorstop quite well.

But recently I discovered my problem. I was merely using the wrong appliances. Stoves, ovens, mixers -- all these do is exascerbate my culinary ineptitude. Why bother learning how to use these energy-wasting and skill-requiring implements when modern science has provided us bachelors with the ultimate cooking tool.

I speak, of course, of mankind's greatest creation: the crock pot.

Crock pot cooking is DEFINITELY more my speed. Throw some stuff in, switch the thing on, go watch a NASCAR race and some football, and a mere 8 to 10 hours later, din-din is served. Nerds especially dig the ease and creativity of crock-pots. If you don't believe me, type "crock pot recipes" into Google and enjoy the 2,370,000 results. If they sell it in a grocery store, you can probably melt it in a slow cooker with a gob of Velveeta and some soup mix and turn it into Bachelor's Delight.

Still, I find myself not using my crock pot as much as I thought I would. I guess I tend never to know what I want 8 hours prior. When I wake up in the morning, I have a hard enough time picking breakfast cereal, let alone what I might fancy eating 10 hours down the road. So the crock pot sits most the year gathering dust. I don't know what force of nature caused me to pull it down on Sunday, but I'm so glad I did.

I found some red potatoes and threw 'em in. Added some baby carrots. Plonked in a can of condensed Cream of Chicken Soup. Then I cut up four round steaks, topped it off with a cup of red wine and a packet of pot roast seasoning. I was terrified as it was slow-cooking away, since (a) even I know that beef and chicken together isn't normal, but it was the only Cream-Of soup I had, and (b) for the first 3 hours, it smelled like I was making wine soup.

But I'll tell you what, the end result was GREAT. Try it yourself and tell my ego that it's wrong. Okay, sure, maybe I cheated with some canned soup and a seasoning packet, but I don't care. It was tasty and hearty and it came from MY kitchen. So who knows, maybe there's hope for me yet. But fear not, restaurants of Rock Island -- unless I finally figure out how to slow cook up a pepperoni pizza, you're not rid of me quite yet.

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