Sunday, January 31, 2010

Recipe for a Heart Attack

Of course Mitch Omer is a recovering drug addict, alcoholic, manic-depressive, med-popping kind of guy, but I believed he wouldn’t lie to me.

I was so wrong.

First, some backstory: Maybe it’s just that my eyes are beginning to get weaker with age, but I’ve grown weary of reading between the lines when faced with a cookbook by a restaurant chef. The subtext is often just too much for me. A one-page recipe, with lots of white space, would actually be dense with six-point type if you could read all the things actually required in making this dish such as: “Buy a Cryovac vacuum-packing machine,” “Employ several hard-working Ecuadorans to prep the mise en place and mop the floors,” and “Learn how to operate a propane torch without injury to self, pets or domicile.”

The one constant subtext for all those these cookbooks should always be: “Use every single pot, pan and dish in your kitchen. Rinse. Repeat.”

So I approached Mitch Omer’s tome with healthy skepticism, but also cupfuls of hope, because I’d been to Hell’s Kitchen and I wanted to learn some secrets. What was up with that peanut butter? Were those figs in the ketchup?

I read and I learned.

The peanut butter’s secret is oven-roasted peanuts, lots of sweetener and a food processor. The ketchup’s secret is pears.

Now that I’d peeked behind the curtain and seen the great Oz for myself, I thought I could go on and find out even more.

That’s when I landed on the homemade marshmallow recipe.

It came with a long preamble from the recovering addict himself, telling me that store-bought varieties were rubbish, and that only this recipe would provide me with true ’mallow satisfaction.

I’m not proud of it, but I believed him.

Let me point out that I gave birth, 12 years ago, to a white-atarian, who prefers a diet that would blend in perfectly on the Polar Ice Cap: bagels, bananas, marshmallows. And since Mitch was touting his variety so highly, I decided to be a Good Mommy and make them.

The process started off just fine, with corn syrup and a candy thermometer and a lot of temp checks at the stovetop; nothing I couldn’t handle.

Then I read the instruction to stuff the hot goo into a pastry bag and squeeze long parallel lines on a cornstarch covered cookie sheet.

No problem, Mitch, I’m with you. I’m sure you love those long white lines, hon.

And this is where the bad part happened.

You know how a marshmallow gets at the campfire when it melts? It’s the stickiest surface on the planet, and about one full cup of this goo was now in my pastry bag. It was hot, it was thick, and it was Not Coming Out.

Man Strength, I thought. Mitch looks to be a beefy boy, and I just don’t have the upper body chops to pull this off.

I found my husband and told him I had a “little job” in the kitchen that needed his assistance.

He pushed. He squeezed. He exerted force at the fulcrum, or whatever they say in physics class.

His face was starting to turn red, but finally a tiny trickle of marshmallow lava emerged.

“Great!” I chirped, consulting the recipe. “Just, uh … sixteen more lines to go…”

He looked at me, sweat pouring from his face. “I quit. I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Plan B. I scooped the hot goo out and left it in pile on the cookie sheet.

Then I went to the computer and started doing research.

Every other recipe I could find for marshmallows called for taking the hot goo from the pan and flipping it into a cake pan to cool, then cutting it up later. Makes sense with sticky hot lava, yes?

But why didn’t it make sense for my buddy Mitch?

The subtext?

I imagined those mighty Ecuadorans, pushing manfully on the pastry bag. Fueled by youth, ambition, and a strong need to keep working and sending money to the folks back home, I’m sure that they managed to squirt that goo out of the bag every night, pleasing Mr. Mitch and staying employed.

My husband lacked all those qualities, I decided, glancing over at him as he mopped his face with a towel and laid his head on the kitchen table.


He just didn’t know how to work the recipe right.

If only he were Ecuadorian.

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