When I was in eighth grade, part of an international project we were assigned was to cook a meal. The meal I chose to cook was pork egg foo young, won ton soup and pork fried rice. Mind you now, I was all of eleven years old when this happened. My Mom is not exactly a gourmet (she set fire to the kitchen once) so I hadn’t learned much of value at all about cooking. But I recall my thoughts being “if I follow the directions everything will come out right”.
Feeling terribly grown up, I insisted on preparing the meal alone. No help from Mom or Dad. I got my recipes from a cookbook and followed them to the letter. It was surprisingly easy. Since I was having no problem following the recipe it was obvious to me that the meal was going to turn out perfectly. Just under an hour had passed when I finished cooking and asked everyone to the table. The entire family was present for my dinner. Even my Uncle joined us at the table for my first home cooked meal. After all it was my journey into cooking, and it was gourmet cooking at that. For two weeks I’d looked forward to this moment. My first step towards independence and a grown up world.
The first course was won ton soup. It was a no brainer, consisting mainly of chicken broth, spices and premade won tons. I’d made a large pot full, sure that it would be so tasty that everyone would want more. After all, the soup bowls weren’t that deep. I ladled out the soup myself, eager for everyone’s reaction. I thought it tasted awfully strong. I looked around the table, noticing that faces did not look as pleased as I’d hoped. Confused, I got up and checked the book. It seemed I’d missed adding some water to cut the strength of the chicken stock. I didn’t realize what a difference that would make until I sat back down and tasted mine. Oops. Family members were good sports nonetheless and finished their bowls.
On to the main course, egg foo young and fried rice. Everyone was enjoying the family time and looking forward to the meal, willing to forgive the soup. I knew that everyone loved fried rice from all of the times we’d ordered take out so I served a heaping pile of the tender rice onto each plate. I then served everyone a piece of egg foo young. The rice had been easy to make, the main ingredients being white rice, salt, soy sauce and eggs. Even the egg foo young hadn’t been too difficult, it’s main ingredients being eggs, pork, salt and soy sauce. Both items looked very tasty. I hadn’t even bothered to give them a taste test because I was using a recipe. That turned out to be a mistake.
Everyone waited for me to sit down so we could all enjoy the mouth watering main course together. We were only forkfuls into the meal when it started. Most of the family was drinking a lot of water. It seemed that they found the egg foo young a bit salty. Not understanding what had happened, I checked the recipe again. I didn’t understand it, I’d followed it to the letter. I was hopeful the rice would be better. It wasn’t. My father, who doesn’t like salt, found the rice to be so salty that he started coughing, at which point the rice came flying out of his mouth like little bullets. My Mom was almost crying because her mouth had puckered so much from the excess salt. Never one to mince words, my Uncle got up and yelled out “this is the worst meal I’ve ever had and you must be trying to kill us”. He then continued his trip to the bathroom, where we’d soon hear the sounds of a man vomiting into the toilet bowl.
With tears streaming down my face, I leapt up from the table to defend myself. Grabbing the cookbook, I pointed at the pages telling my parents that it wasn’t my fault, I’d followed everything to the letter. My Mom looked at the pages and asked me a few questions. As my Uncle came back into the room my Mom informed us she thought she knew where things had gone wrong. Still sobbing, I stood and faced the table.
Handing the cookbook back to me, my Mom asked me to read the ingredients aloud and show her the tools I’d used. Not understanding, I showed her the measuring cup and the tablespoon. She told me that was the problem, that I hadn’t followed the directions. I argued back, telling her “I followed the directions to the letter so it isn’t my fault”. She motioned me over to the table and pointed to the places where it said “tsp”. She informed me that I’d used a tablespoon and not a teaspoon, so that I’d basically tripled the salt the recipe called for. Apparently I’d missed one letter when following the recipe to the letter.
My family rated the meal with 2 Ds and 1F. I did not get an A on the project. After that meal was over I felt further from adulthood than I had in a long time. And since that humiliating day I have never again cooked egg foo young or fried rice, and I’ve always doublechecked that I’m using the correct measurements. I also am not terribly eager to try cooking new recipes, but then after that I doubt many people would be.