An Invitation for Dinner
Many people assume that just because I live alone and appear to be healthy and well fed, I must know how to cook for myself. At best, my talent for cooking is embarrassing, if not dangerous. Every time I have attempted to prepare a meal or an oven related snack, it has ended up being a disaster. The smoke alarm is a common sound emanating my home.
At first, I thought that the smoke detectors in my house were overly sensitive, and reacted from the slightest signs of exhaust from the kitchen. But after I had moved my residence two or three times and each of the smoke alarms were still set off every time I approached a heating mechanism, I realized that the problem must be my cooking techniques. For a while I refused to give up my attempts at cooking. I figured that if I cooked really fast, I would not give the smoke alarm enough time to detect that I was in the kitchen. But that didn’t work. I began using the smoke alarm as a cooking timer. I would begin preparing some food, and when the alarm sounded, I knew that it was time to flip it over and continue cooking for an additional five minutes. Fearing for my life and the buildings adjacent to mine, friends and neighbors began pleading with me to give up my attempts at learning how to cook. I conceded.
I have learned that there are three things that every unmarried non-cook should have in order to avoid starvation: a microwave oven, a car, and friends who cook.
The microwave oven is the only appliance in my kitchen that doesn’t have to be dusted. This kitchen-wonder can save a person from starvation in less than eight minutes. Its response is faster than that of a 911 emergency call. I have found that the only skills I need, in relation to the using my microwave, are the abilities to peel back a corner or pierce the plastic film with a fork. Pop the container into the microwave oven, set the timer, press start and then Voila! Dinner is served.
Occasionally my body revolts against all of the salt and preservatives that are contained in freezer burned, re-heatable, eight-minute entrees. I’m pretty sure that, by now, I have developed a shelf life of my own. When the puffiness and bloating from Propyl Gallate and Modified Food Starch start taking a toll on my body, that’s the time when I turn to my car for assistance.
Either, I leaf through the take-out menus on my desk and place a call for food delivery or simply climb into the driver’s seat of my car, start the ignition, point the car in the direction of a fast food restaurant and drive on through. It’s always important to order a salad for roughage, and for good measure. Dressing on the side. I realize that this may not be the healthiest way to eat, but at least it’s hot and it does not require clean up.
Truly, the best gift an unmarried non-cook can receive is not a cookbook but an invitation for dinner. After months of eating out, driving through, ordering in and microwaving restaurant leftovers, a friend’s invitation for a home cooked meal is a welcome one.
A well timed telephone call or surprise drop in visit can elicit a sincere dinner invitation where some, if not all, of the basic food groups will be served. The meal is served on normal dishes with actual silverware. Not microwaveable, throw-away cookware and plastic eating utensils. No greasy paper bags and crumpled napkins. Oh, the thrill. Don’t misunderstand me, this is not a manipulation of my friends’ good nature and hospitality. They are all aware of my culinary handicap. Besides, they’re genuinely concerned for my health.
I thank the heavens for friends, their generosity and their cooking skills. Friends’ who cook usually fall into one of two categories. They are either married and are preparing dinner for their families anyhow and would enjoy some outside stimulation from a dinner guest. Or, they are single, enjoy cooking, and welcome a dinner companion.
To ensure a second or third invitation, I, as the dinner guest, display proper manners and gratitude. I offer to clear the table and help with the dishes. I try to monitor the hostess’ level of exhaustion, in an effort to leave before I overstay my welcome. To show my appreciation I keep a supply of wine, (along with decorative gift bags, gift tags, and a felt tip pen) in the trunk of my car to be offered as hostess gifts. And, I’m nice to their cats.