Easy as Pie

I simply can’t cut the mustard. No, it’s not sour grapes—it’s just that, well, I’m a bit of a wet ...

I simply can’t cut the mustard. No, it’s not sour grapes—it’s just that, well, I’m a bit of a wet noodle in the kitchen. I still haven’t quite mastered the art of preparing pasta, my fridge is stocked solely with water and wine, and my sous chef is a mouse.

The truth is, until recently, I’d never had much of an interest in cooking. Maybe my klutziness predisposed me to avoid situations in which fire and boiling water are so prominently featured—or it could just be that I’m still scarred by my high school chemistry experience. Whatever the case, growing up, there was a reason I was lauded as the family dishwasher. Though I couldn’t sauté, I sure was a hell of a scrubber.

I should have taken it as an omen when I was lotteried out of the Science of Cooking class after arriving at school this fall. Still, having moved off campus, I was eager to put a dent in my kitchen—which I began to do by whipping up al dente pasta and tomato sauce nearly every night for the first two weeks in my new digs. Of course, that soon got old. But I was determined to branch out and become the domestic goddess I knew I could be. If the Science of Cooking lottery was going to chew me up and spit me out, then my education would simply have to be a bit more informal.

So, I did what any fastidious English concentrator would do: I read up. Emeril is beside Emerson on my bookshelf—and I’m pretty sure Batalli and Bronte are on intimate terms these days. Since Top Chef had whetted my appetite for cooking, I knew I would need to beef up my DVD collection as well. Of course, that meant ordering “Kitchen Confidential” and inviting some girlfriends over to watch “Julie and Julia”.

Now we’re cooking, I thought to myself, as my friends and I huddled around the TV and chomped on freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (if by freshly baked, you mean slice and bake). Sorry, girls, they really were too good to be true. And no, ladies, the candles were not so much for the ambience as an attempt to cover up the burnt smell from earlier that afternoon.

But I’d seen enough episodes of “Top Chef” to know that a real cook can take the heat. So, I made a date with Rachel Ray and attempted some (45-minute) 15-minute meals. I experimented with multiple varieties of stir-fry, and mastered the veggie omelet. I was becoming quite the pro—that is, until I encountered a sight even more horrifying than my botched Boeuf Bourguignon: real-life protein scampering across my countertop!

And there was more where that came from. Way more. If my loved ones were underwhelmed by my culinary prowess, apparently the mice in my building didn’t have quite the same discerning palates. I soon found myself swapping my oven mitts for rubber gloves. So what if I hadn’t found my stride as a cook?  My scrubbing skills were as finely honed as ever. My cuisine may not be plate-licking-delicious, but I still know how to make those plates shine.

My culinary exploration has been put on hold for a while, though I like to tell myself that those pesky critters aren’t just a convenient excuse to start ordering take-out. Okay, so maybe my traps have been safely mouse-free for a couple of weeks now. Don’t tell the exterminator, but I’m kind of relishing the respite from the fire.

—Lindsay P. Tanne ’11, a former Magazine Editor-at-Large, is an English concentrator affiliated with Adams House. She is happy to report that she will be moving to Manhattan, the home of the take-out menu, after graduation.