Articles

Stir Constantly

When Bob picks up a pot, a pan, some bacon and an innocent can of soup, what should be a simple lunch turns into a nerve-racking race

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN September 15 1952
Articles

Stir Constantly

When Bob picks up a pot, a pan, some bacon and an innocent can of soup, what should be a simple lunch turns into a nerve-racking race

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN September 15 1952

Stir Constantly

When Bob picks up a pot, a pan, some bacon and an innocent can of soup, what should be a simple lunch turns into a nerve-racking race

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN

MY WIFE can start around four in the afternoon getting something ready to simmer, stew or brown for supper, and from then on put things on to bake, boil or fry at irregular intervals, and at six o’clock have it all come out even. But whenever I try cooking more than two things for the same meal the whole thing ends like the last furlong of an event at the Woodbine.

The trouble, I think, starts with my habit of selecting the order in which things should go on the stove according to which one looks the coldest. When I’m whipping up t full-scale meal, as 1 occasionally do when my wife is downtown shopping and I’m left to get lunch for myself and for Mary when she comes home from school, this means that I usually start with something like bacon, because it's nearly frozen, or left-over beans.

I always start out all right: putting a few pieces of bread in the toaster and calmly heating, say, a saucepan full of beans. If I could just stand there watching the beans I'd be okay. But I realize that I have to do something else or I won't have bacon, eggs, tomatoes, fried potatoes, tomato soup or peanutbutter sandwiches—or anything to eat them off. I open a tin of soup, empty it into a saucepan, get out the milk, remember that 1 haven’t started the coffee, put the milk down, put the coffee on. and drop a few eggs into the frying pan.

I’ve had a notion running through my head since I started -grilled bacon. It sounds delicious. I get my wife’s cookbook and start to look up grilled bacon, but I have to put it down to read the directions on the soup, which says, “stir constantly."

Beginning to panic, I start stirring the soup with one hand while I haste the eggs. Then I smell the toast burn-

ing and notice nervously out of the corner of my eye that the beans are boiling around the edge. I realize with horror that I can't stop stirring the soup. I leave the eggs and stir the beans with my other hand and remember that I have to slice tomatoes and set the table. There’s a feeling of mounting tension.

I finally drop both stirring spoons, stand there for t moment biting my nails. Then I make one great final effort. I snatch up the cookbook, find “Grill—See Broil." drop the thing in the middle of the floor, throw six slices of bacon in with the eggs. Mary comes home from school and I scream. “Don’t speak to me!"

Things are sizzling, perking, toasting, burning with increasing tempo. I begin to make little stabbing motions like somebody trying to put out a grass fire. I shake the beans, blow my fingers, flip the toaster, baste the eggs, turn the bacon and shake the soup. I start to shake everything. I shake the coffee percolator. 1 shake Mary. I start to talk to myself. I know something is going to burn, boil over or explode. I'd yell for my wife, but I know she couldn't hear me.

I usually end up by turning everything off and eating the meal the way it is: half of it burned or boiled dry, with a thin skin over it the rest lukewarm and just starting to cook, or black on the outside and red inside. Mary then asks after the first bite. “Daddv , can I go back to school?"

All in all. I’ve realized since I tried cooking on a major scale that without mv wife I’d soon be eating my food raw and snarling at anyone who came too close; and now, when at six o’clock, she coolly announces. 'All right, supper s ready.’ I realize that women may oe queer, but they have their place. ★