Monday, May 06, 2013

Why I should be America's (real life) test kitchen

I've the decided the problem with the idea behind America's Test Kitchen is that it is solely populated with adults. Sure, you can do amazing things and try out 59 ways to cook the same dish to discover which is better without any distractions. But I bet what mothers really want to know is what items can be prepared while being distracted with any number of things, including small children. I'm sure you've all discovered recipes that do not follow through on their claims, either for amount or time or how good it is supposed to taste. The real question is not which is the best way to prepare something, but can it be prepared in less than ideal circumstances, be served at a reasonable time, and be edible.

So why should I be the test kitchen? Well, first, I have a really workable kitchen. Lots of counters, big stove, double-ovens. All the stuff that a test kitchen would need. But even better, I have distractions galore. It's not every test kitchen that also has three year old twins who routinely do NOT make it to the toilet. It's not every test kitchen that is also home to a 10 month old puppy for whom learning manners is, ahem, a developing skill. (And who really likes food. And to bark. And to chew up stuff.) As if this isn't enough I also have the grade school aged child whose super power is to ask questions. And it's not just asking questions in a normal voice, but questions aimed at you as if from a weapon. Loud and never ceasing, yet somewhat erratic (in both type and amount) so as to keep you off your guard. As a bonus there is also the bundle-of-energy boy who, at odd moments, careens through the kitchen causing walking hazards along the way. This normally occurs when a very hot pot must be transported between surfaces. (And you thought cooking wasn't exciting.)

These are just the extra distractions. My kitchen is also populated with children who like to talk to (at?) you about whatever book they are reading at the moment. This one is fairly easy because it often takes the form of a monologue and as long as appropriate noises are made every so often, the cooking can continue. And there are the children who like to ask important questions regarding calendars and schedules, particularly while something must be counted. Plus the children who must eat something immediately or they will die right there on the kitchen floor, thus creating another obstacle to step over.

Having navigated these distractions, I successfully did some canning today. After ~four hours of chopping and cooking and washing and filling and processing (a midst other distractions -- see above), I now have the sum total of TWO pints of mango chutney cooling on my counter. (If you don't can, let's just say this is a disappointing amount.) This was from a recipe that promised me 9 pints when I began it. It smelled good, and it tastes good, but little else about the recipe worked as stated. It took longer to cook than stated, I managed to burn it on both pots I was using (it happened at exactly the same moment -- a moment I was distracted -- so a warning would have been appreciated), and the end quantity was far, far off.

On the plus side, I did manage to use up the six ripe mangoes out of the cases so I have a couple days break to work out plan 2 while the rest ripen. And I do have two pints of chutney. It wasn't a complete bust.

Thus ends this installment of America's real life test kitchen. Where we burn the chutney so you don't have to.

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