Slices of Life...A watched pot
At our house, my husband browns the hamburger. I don’t have the patience for it. I go in with the best of intentions. I place the ground beef in the pan, turn on the heat and grab my spatula. Then I get sidetracked. With the potatoes or maybe the corn. Sorting through the mail. Answering the phone. Twiddling my thumbs. Googling the area code for Paris.
I like to consider myself the ultimate multi-tasker. Unfortunately that’s bad news for the hamburger.
Under my watch it lies helpless and forgotten, sizzling in the pan getting clumpier by the minute — too brown in some places and still raw in others. Unappetizing and practically inedible. My husband has no patience for that. So he browns the hamburger.
Marriage is often yin and yang. While I have no talents for watching the pot, it makes me a prime candidate for any cooking tasks that involve boiling. At those I tend to excel. My husband does the watching; I do the boiling. It’s a match made in the kitchen.
I remember the first time I failed to watch a pot. I was about 10. My mom had beef stew simmering and had an errand to run. She asked me to keep an eye on dinner, making sure our stew didn’t stew to the extreme.
It was a simple request and I was eager to prove my near-adult prowess with pot watching. I was sure I could do a swell job of it. I watched the pot for a good 30 seconds and confirmed it was indeed cooking, boiling and hot. Then I got sidetracked with a Partridge Family re-run — the one where Keith sings, “I think I love you.” That used to be my favorite song. He was pretty groovy.
But I digress.
When my mom returned 20 minutes later, the stew on the bottom of the pot had done what stew does when you ignore a pot on a heated stove. It burned. Anyone who’s ever been in the same situation knows there is no quick fix when you’ve allowed a dish to go to pot. The charred flavor rises from the bottom of the kettle all the way to the top. I’ve yet to find a remedy — other than Chinese take-out or pizza delivery — for such an error.
It was a moment for me, albeit not a good one. I’d officially ruined dinner for the first time in my life; it wouldn’t be the last. Ahem.
I could say I’ve perfected my observation skills when it comes to cooking in the kitchen, but that would be the pot calling the kettle black. Some people don’t have much in pot-watching capabilities. I happen to be one of them. I can, however, stir the pot. It’s a habit that’s gotten me into hot water on occasion. So I try to avoid both — stirring and watching.
Instead, I keep my mouth shut and cook, which I can do with a fair amount of proficiency. It’s surprising, the number of dishes and meals one can prepare without a hint of talent in pot watching. You might say I’ve learned to ignore my weaknesses. Embrace them, even. It’s all because of my husband.
He discovered my inabilities early on — back when we didn’t have a pot to spit in. He may have thought about attempting to change me, but he didn’t try too hard. He is a smart man — a smart man who browns the hamburger. And while I’m no good at watching the pot, I do enjoy watching him — maybe even more than David Cassidy in a good Partridge Family rerun. But then again…
Cloquet resident Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication.” You can read more and follow her column on the Slices of Life page on Facebook.