A Recipe For Disaster

“Serves 2 appetites for destruction”

The world of the famous brings with it money, infamy and most uncannily, the ability to succeed in areas you have no right to. Prime examples are Paris Hilton releasing an album, Donald Trump hosting a reality TV show, or Tom Cruise doing anything. To me, the most perplexing facet of this mutant celebrity power, is the ability to find your way adeptly around a kitchen.

No, seriously.

These celebrities (the world ‘people’ feels wrong) have their lives planned, financed and to a fair extent, led by other people on their behalf. But when sprung in their picture-perfect home by interviewer and camera crew, all of a sudden the pampered primadonnas and silverscreen standards become a whirling dervish of culinary skill. Previously, I used the word ‘uncanny’ to describe this expertise – this is not just uncanny, it’s down-right unnatural.

In an attempt to understand this phenomena, I launched a slightly successful single on the internet. My friend and fellow producer has assured me that we have received somewhere in the range of between 4 and 5 downloads. This is a fair beginning – Elvis began singing hymns in a church populated by only his own mother and her swag of neuroses. Striking while the iron was luke-warm, we set up a whirlwind series of appearances, making sure I was seen sipping latte in the right company, and dressing in a decidedly too-choreographed-to-be-casual fashion whilst out shopping. The paparazzi photos of this blitz are sure to be making the rounds as you read this*, but phase three has already begun – the interviews.

Tarquin Romero, a figure on the nightclub scene and a prominent Channel 31 night-show presenter wants to interview me, he wants to find out what lies behind the Sean Connery laden visage of ‘LL D Caruso’, front man of “The Dirty Euphemism”**. He joined me in my modest apartment, self-styled to represent the beginning of my foray into my blue-collar period. A poster of Bob Dylan is pinned over my framed Batman poster – it’s very disheveled chic.

The questions begin, and I answer in words that imply depth through vagary. Tarquin nods and smiles at the right times, he accommodates my rambling, and occasional non sequitur answers. He even takes it in stride when I turn the interview around and start answering questions he’s yet to ask. (I prepared the list for him, so that this will come off as me appearing to be prescient, another of my unworldy celebrity abilities.) Then with an imperceptible drum-roll***, he asks the question I’ve been waiting for: So when you find yourself hosting at short notice, what dish do you prepare?” A smile spreads across my face, like a swelling on an anaphylactic – my time is now! I leap to my feet, my hand-me-down smashed velvet suit snapping to attention at the quick movement. I have to be careful – that tenuously-attached second button has been laboriously given that “on the way out” look twice this week already. I stride to the kitchen, hoping he notices my vintage collection of vinyl albums I picked up recently – I’ve no idea what they are, just that they are vintage, and old.

I should probably buy a turntable at some point, too.

The kitchen! The recording studio for my culinary achievements! The mixing desk for my…well, my ingredients, I guess. Tarquin is looking around at the many-doored cupboards, the interesting dried vegetables I have on the walls, the finger-painted drawings magnet-stuck to the fridge. He asks if I have a nephew or niece to whom these belong – I merely allude to having many ways of keeping myself busy whilst waiting for the creative sparks to ignite. He nods, and decides not to question further. But that’s beside the point – we are here to witness my craft at feeding faces.

Fridge! Out comes a pre-thawed plate of chicken breast. Don’t you keep pre-thawed meat on hand, just in case? Beside that, a carton of butter milk. Don’t let the pancakes on the label fool you – there are no pancakes in today’s setlist; we’re making a chicken meal.
Cupboard! The canister marked “Chicken Mix” is slammed down on the bench. What is Chicken Mix, Tarquin asks? It’s simple – a personal blend of cornflour, with a liberal application of my secret blend of spices. As it turns out, the canister is all but empty. Uh-oh. Still, I have supplies.
Cupboard again! Grab a box of cornflour, and a handful of thin glass spice jars: onion powder, Portuguese chicken seasoning, lemon pepper and Cajun chicken seasoning. The old mix included salt, black pepper, white pepper and a sprinkling of powdered Accent of Kentucky – that was stopped by a certain restaurant taking offence (Apparently the state itself didn’t care).
Drawers! Chopping board, two bowls, a tray, baking paper, a fork and a sharp knife for cutting.

Kicking the oven to about 150 degrees, I grab the baking paper by the cardboard. Tearing off a sheet of baking paper, the tray is lined, and the rest of the roll casually thrown aside. It lands somewhere, I don’t really know. Hey, it’s my kitchen – I’m cool. The flour gets dumped in a bowl, and the lids are spun off the spice jars, with a deft, rolling flick. Grabbing each in turn, I pour a measure of their coloured powder over the white mountain of flour. Once I am happy with the combination of red, black and yellow dusting, I grab the fork and madly stir everything into a consistent mix. The flour now looks like well-sifted flour, with a dash of texture. This is correct. Pushing the bowl aside, the carton of buttermilk goes into the OTHER bowl (very important). This carton is finished with – I like to rinse it and then recycle it, but I’m not going to tell you how to run your life. Chopping board and chicken time, and watch as my deft cuts turn these cuts of meat into…smaller cuts. I don’t understand that, really. The action I am taking, is cutting. And yet at the end I have a collection of physical items referred to as “cuts”. That’s absurd. Whatever. There is now a group of strip and medallion shaped chicken pieces, ready for the Battering.

The Battering is the second episode in the series, much like Highlander 2: The Quickening. Unlike The Quickening, the Battering is actually quite a good sequel. Nothing too momentous happens – the chicken is given a quick roll in Chicken Mix, then dunked in the butter milk, before diving headfirst again into the flour mix. It’s now heavily caked in mixture, and thus placed gently on the prepared tray. At no point can I find a joke or analogy about Sean Connery’s scotsman playing an Egyptian Spaniard, so I’m going to drop the Highlander 2 thing, and just tell you that all the chicken pieces get the Battering.

With the Battering completed, we stand in the kitchen, talking. Tarquin didn’t ask my opinion on the process, or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t listening to him. So I’m telling him my opinion on pretty much anything I can stream-of-consciousness into this. I might be casually waving a knife around with one hand – I should probably put that down. It might explain Tarquin’s frozen stare. The Chicken Mix should now be properly caked – the moisture often takes a little while to completely permeate. I find ten minutes usually sufficient. Now throw the tray into the pre-heated oven. And again, put the knife down.

I turn the conversation to my Microwave. For those who haven’t met my Microwave (capitalised – it’s a name, not a description), I always assumed it was simply over-zealous – I’ve recently learnt it is not. We discuss the dormant personalities of many kitchen appliances, and then the timer announces it has completed the execution of it’s task. This is an overdue interruption, as it quickly has become apparent that Tarquin knows very little about the appliances in my kitchen, and I know very little about appliances in general. We turn back to the topic of chicken. Hot tray now in hand, surveying the cooked-through meat. It smells hot. My back to the slight celebrity, I summon my best showman voice.

“Tarquin,” I say “Do you like…chicken?” I spin around, tray in hand, and present the finished goods. He looks at them, almost as if he had an expectation of something other than that being offered, but somehow strangely impressed all the same. The batter is now crispy golden, sealing the chicken within. I place them on a plate and we give them a few moments to crisp up, before eating them. We eat them well.

Tarquin asks his final questions, which are oddly improvised. Things like “do you have any serviettes?” and “can I please have some water?” I don’t have any prepared answers for these, and so blankly stare at him whilst my mouth cycles open and closed, waiting for vocalisation orders that never arrive. He finds the things he’s looking for in the kitchen. I wonder how this will alter the end of our session together. Time for leaving now, and I switch back into gear with my prepared closing statement. Once done, I proffer him chicken to take with him, as a momento of our time together. He gratefully accepts, and I tell him to hold out his hands before tonging three pieces of food onto his palms. He nods subtly, and takes his leave, to immortalise our afternoon in writing.

And that’s my chicken recipe. Call me on the hotline number being displayed at the bottom of your screen if you want to order a pdf of the above article. Oh, and Tarquin made it home safely. I think. He’s not returning my calls. Must’ve been the knife-waving.

*The Sean Connery mask I was wearing is bound to help. Or confuse.
**’LL D Caruso’ is my stage name, and the band is self-explanatory, if you know what I mean.
***It’s not drums – it’s my pulse.

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~ by nick on October 24, 2012.

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