As a southerner, folks tend to assume I learned to cook growing up in the family kitchen under the watchful eye of mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers wielding cast iron skillets seasoned with pure lard. While I do live and die by my Lodge; I do not wield pure lard and I did not learn to cook from any of my family members.
In fact I was encouraged to stay OUT of the kitchen as a kid, largely because of the catastrophic mess I would leave in my wake. My mother will tell you that I didn’t show any interest in learning to cook, only in creating a mess. My mother may not tell you that growing up we ate out – alot – so there may have been limited opportunities to jump in the kitchen and learn. Eye-witness accounts are in conflict regarding my childhood presence (or absence) in the kitchen. The point is, at age 18 I left for college knowing how to boil noodles and microwave popcorn and that’s about it.
I went to college at a university that actually had real kitchens in the dorms. Like for real kitchens with stove tops and ovens. I pretty much avoided these appliances because I had no idea how to use them and it was easier to drive to Chick-fil-a. However, there was one appliance in our dorm room that I did know how to use and that was a microwave.
Now hear me out, I did not grow up to become one of those “anti-microwave” cooks who refuse to have one in their home. In fact, I may write an entire post on appropriate and acceptable microwave use. Nevertheless, as a college sophomore I had never turned on a stove or preheated an oven without parental supervision; but I knew that I could cook things in the microwave, like pop-corn or mac-n-cheese or “mexican grilled cheese” (a flour tortilla folded and stuffed with grated cheese, heated for 30 – 45 seconds, a favorite of one of my roommates, also known as a quesadilla).
It was January Term at Union University and only about one quarter of the campus was actually ON campus because regular spring term began in February. Tonya and MaryAnn were living in the dorm with me at the time and I had this great idea to wake up early and bake blueberry muffins for them. I had a muffin “mold” (it wasn’t actually a tin it was made of rubber or some other bendy material) and I swear to you it said “dishwasher and microwave safe” on the back. So I decided I would bake blueberry muffins in the microwave.
I prepared the batter as directed on the package, filled my little rubber muffin mold 3/4 of the way full, popped that bad boy in the microwave and set the timer for 17 minutes — because that was the cook time listed on the box.
Nearly half-way through the cooking process I started to get concerned because things were not smelling right at all. I think I may have taken a shower while they were cooking or something because the next thing I know the dorm is filling with smoke. I rush to the microwave to find my muffins have melted into a black heap of goo. The smell was the worst smell I have ever smelled. The smoke set off some kind of alarm and literally the fire department was called to the dorms. I was mortified. MaryAnn and Tonya thought it was the most hysterical thing they had ever witnessed.
We had to throw away the microwave. The smell was just too much. I don’t remember if we ended up getting a new one. I also do not remember cooking in my dorm room again that semester. I was so angry about the “microwave safe” label on the muffin thingy. I couldn’t understand WHY on EARTH a manufacturer would label something microwave safe if you were not supposed to use it in the microwave?!
This was the first of two outstanding (not in a good way) memories I have of cooking in college. Tomorrow I will share the second with you. I am sure you can’t wait to hear what happened next. Rest assured, no appliances were harmed in the second cooking adventure, just my pride folks. Just my pride.
It really is a miracle that I ever learned to cook!