I fancy myself a pretty good cook.
I didn’t always. As a matter of fact, when I used to work in a restaurant (buffet, really), I considered myself an awful cook. My basic duties consisted of place chicken on sheet pan, sprinkle pepper, place in oven for one hour, dump into pan. If I was making steak or fish, I just changed the time in the oven. Terrible cook. It was like saying I was a mechanic because I could fill my own car with gas.
And then I met Shawna.
Since then, I’ve made it my mission to become something close to useful, and I’ve gone about that by learning to cook. Mostly, I stir fry. You want Kung Pao Chicken, a nice spicy vegetable dish, or even Spicy Chili Shrimp, then I’m your guy. I’m also working on my Cuban skills, and can make a fairly serviceable drunk chicken or chicken adobo.
And then there’s fish.
I used to hate fish with a fiery passion. See, Fridays at the buffet were seafood night, and for two years I went home every Friday night smelling like those scale-covered bastards (or the shrimp or crablegs or whatever the hell I was “cooking” that night). Then Shawna grilled up some fish one weekend, and now I demand we have that blessed food once a week. I’d really prefer to have it two nights a week, but I’m a little afraid to ask after swearing I hated the stuff for four years.
Well, last Friday (seafood night!) I decided to blacken some tilapia. Tilapia’s not your sturdiest fish, and a lot of people will tell you it’s about half-a-step below starkist chunks on the fish chain, but Shawna and I adore the stuff. So I oiled up the pan, rubbed in our blackening seasoning, and started blackening.
And then it all went horribly wrong.
Maybe the pan was too hot, too cool, or I didn’t use enough oil. I don’t know, but when I flipped the fish for the first time, I left all of the seasoning and about half of the fish behind on the skillet. The next flip did more of the same. Soon, I didn’t so much have blackened fish as what looked to be a torn up paper plate that smelled kinda spicy.
Shawna tried to help, and I responded in the most mature way I knew how, by throwing the spatula down, screaming “I can’t so this shit!”, and stomping into the hallway where I started to cry.
Why? It’s just fish.
Because I felt like that useless piece of shit who used to stand back by the ovens in the Argosy kitchen, waiting for the chicken to cook.
I don’t take pride in a lot of things. I’m sure Shawna’s figured out my appearance and my car certainly aren’t on the list. I also don’t take much pride in my general level of cleanliness, as a glance at my writing room will tell you. In reality, I only take pride in three things…
And I screwed one of those up on Friday, and I couldn’t let that slide.
My mom’s coming into town tonight, and I’m making stir fry for her tomorrow night. She doesn’t like fish, and that’s fine with me, but I’m going to find something new to make for her, because screwing up one Friday is too much for me, and now I have something to prove.