Ever since I made my friend Lindsay cry by breaking her Fisher-Price microwave (I put it in a real microwave because my playdough inside it refused to cook), I knew that my future of domestication would be riddled with disaster. I remember staring at the mini-microwave rather pathetically melting away in Linda’s Mum’s industrial eighties microwave, and I think it was at this exact moment that my fear of kitchens began.
Not to get too into gender stereotyping etc., but little girls are expected from the getgo to enjoy the art of being domestic. Laura Ashley patterns and decoupage tables are supposed to occupy our private thoughts – not blow out holidays in Ibiza involving the Italian soccer team. (What? Like it hasn’t run through your dirty little head.)
But for me, Laura Ashley brings on nothing but nausea, and until last week I thought decoupage was something to do with cleavage. I come from the strand of women whose idea of cuisine revolves around Satay Kingdom, and for whom successfully making toast is quite a complex operation. Don’t get me wrong, I do try, it’s just that the majority of times that I do, I crash and burn in quite a glorious fashion.
For instance, I was living in Italy and I offered my motley crew of foreign friends the chance to try a Kiwi culinary delight that goes by the sly name of Pavlova. I went on to these poor people for days about how nice this meringue concoction would be (funny thing is, I don’t even like Pavlova that much, I must have just been in a patriotic fervour). I invited them around on a Friday night for a piece of the action – and came home early from work to try my hand at cooking my first ever Pav, a clear rite of passage for any Kiwi woman. How hard could it be I thought? I know a few people who clearly aren’t right in the head and can still knock out a semi-decent Pavlova.
So I got it cooking, and by the time my first guest, Benji the boring Belgian had arrived, the pavvy was looking mighty savvy. Two Germans, a Swede, and a Yank later and we were ready to roll. I whipped out my magnificent creation adorned with strawberries and mandarins (kiwifruit were a bit thin on the ground) and served it up.
Benji was the first to make pavlova to mouth contact, and the second it hit his tongue he spit it up all over Sven the uptight Swede. Quite rude really, I thought in the millisecond before I got the cake in my mouth. But as I tasted it I realised that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong. It tasted like a bucket load of seawater with a bit of meths dashed in. And when you expect one thing and get something else it increases the supply tenfold. Like the classic mixing up olives for grapes trick, or the time I got an orange liquid out of my freezer thinking it was one of my home frozen orange juice popsicles, only to discover it was Uncle Barry’s fish bait.
Well turns out that in my domestic flurry I had somehow managed to mistake salt for sugar. So we ended up with a giant tower of salty meringue and one of the most heinous things I have ever put in my mouth, (and as far as my orifices go, my mouth has a fairly open door policy).
Of course the boring Belgian fixated upon the incident for weeks after, and managed to tell everyone he came within a metre radius of. I of all people appreciate taking the piss out of myself, but Benji’s slaughter of my attempt at domestic divinity got to me, maybe he’d hit a sore spot? So much so in fact that after a few too many chiantis one night, and after Benji told the story to the hot Italian guy I was trying to spade, I stood up and chinked my glass for attention and said to Benji, “Oh, fuck off back to Belguim you boring toss, all you guys are good at is eating chocolate, drinking beer, and abusing small children anyway.” Now, in slightly more sober hindsight, firstly, this would have made me no more attractive to the Italian, and secondly, pavlova, bless its soul, really has nothing on such heavyweights as beer and chocolate. But, ah well, we live and learn – and Benji, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry mate, I might have gone a bit far (but you’re still boring).
But, you know, even the Martha Stewarts out there fuck up (at least I didn’t have to do time for my pavlova). I have come to realise that being a woman doesn’t mean being genetically wired for domestication. I have since made an edible pavlova (it felt good to conquer my demons), but I have decided to take baby steps on my road to culinary and domestic heaven. There are some people in the world that you give fruit to and they return it to you quicksnap in the form of jam. There are those that bake and those that don’t, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m the latter. I would like to have the motivation to be one of those types that just whip up muffins at the throw of a hat – but I’ve realised that I’m one of those that pop down to Dorothy’s for a pain au chocolat, and too often judging by my thighs. Maybe it all started with Lindsay’s microwave, maybe it didn’t, but I am domestically challenged. I’ll get there, and don’t worry, you might too.