Cooking with Claude

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Cooking with Claude

I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking.  If I wanted a picture I’d buy a painting.” -Andy Rooney

“Hello my Cuisinbros and Cuisinettes!  Welcome to the very first webisode of ‘Cooking with Claude’.  I’m Claude, and I’m going to walk you through those challenging menu items that seem so daunting to us.  If you’re like me, you sit down in a restaurant, order a fancy meal, and think to yourself, ‘If only I could cook these kinds of meals at home!’  Well why don’t we break down those borders right now?  Thanks for joining me.

“Today we take on a dish that taunts many.  This delicacy mocked me for years; the fluffiness, the flavor, the mouth-watering allure of it.  Yes, today we shall tackle an omelet.  I know!  You’re terrified; you fear for your pallet on such a first attempt.  But that’s why we’re doing all this together Cuisine-Crew.  That’s why we’re streaming this live with no editing.  We are teaming up to tackle this monster.  So let’s get to it.

“First off, you’ll need a few eggs.  I have a few extra in my fridge right here.  Huh.  They seem to have expired.  Ah, what’s a little disease between friends?  You’re not five years old, right?  Your immune system can certainly handle this sort of challenge.  Remember to never let those little inconveniences stop you from accomplishing what you desire.  Say, that’s pretty good.  We’re going to have to make up some t-shirts with that slogan!  Tell ya what; we’ll place a link right under this video.  You can snatch them and support our wonderful program here.  Twenty-five plus shipping sounds like a reasonable price, doesn’t it?  Let’s go with that.

“Right; back to the cooking.  That’s the reason you’re here and that’s what we’re here for.  Heretofore?  Wherefore?  I never really understood those words.  I suppose we could look them up, but we’re too busy cooking!  What we have here are three eggs.  Oh, and a bowl.  I really should have gotten that bowl first.  Hmm, this one looks a little too small.  That’s like a water dish for a kitten.  We want room to whisk, darnit!  I really should have washed the dishes first.  Now would probably be a good time to stop and edit, wouldn’t it?  Ha ha!!  Well we’ll have none of that!  I’ll just rinse out this cereal bowl.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.

“All righty.  We’ve all seen Ratatouille, we know how chefs work.  What more is there to understand?  Take your egg; thrust it onto the edge of the bowl, and crack that sucker open!  Hmm.  A little drippy.  Okay, maybe we should crack with a bit less vigor.  I really should clean that up.  Ah well, time enough for that later.  A slippery floor never hurt anyone after Vaudeville, right?  Besides, it looks like the cat of the house has it under control.  Lap it up, kitty!  Let’s just grab another egg from the fridge to replace the first one.

“Okay, with a gentle, but still enthused thrust, crack that sucker onto the bowl!  There ya go!  See the way the shell just falls open and gives you a pleasant revealing?  Huh.  That is a surprise.  I’ve never seen an egg with red before.  It’s kinda runny too.  It was just a red dot, but now it’s sort of taking over the whole bowl.  Man, that’s actually pretty gross.  It’s like the chicken is bleeding itself all over the bowl.  Eew.

“Ahem.  No time to delay, let’s just rinse that egg out and try again!  We still have three more eggs to work with; we can make a go of it!  Oh, and in case I haven’t told you already, be sure to subscribe.  I don’t really know how often I’ll be able to do this, but I’m sure it’ll be a hit.  Go ahead, sign up, and you won’t have to miss a minute!  Fun and entertaining!  We’ll have aprons and t-shirts for sale.  Ah, isn’t this the great life?

“We’ve got our bowl all washed out.  Those whole egg one and egg two dilemmas are in the past.  We have a new egg, we crack it open, and….  Look at that!  What a great yolk.  Now, if you like to add just a dash of salt or a splash of milk, this would be the perfect time.  You know, we want to have all those additives in there before we really whisk it together.  If you’re vegan or allergic, why not substitute the dairy in the milk with soy?  It should really pair well with the egg and butter.

“What?  Why are you all trying to instant message me?  I really can’t take comments right now.  What are you, anti-soy?  You wacky vegans; you’re always so picky with your dairy consumption.

“Oh, but that reminds me, we really should get the pan going while we’re whisking.  Take a slab of butter, toss it on a frying pan, and really crank that heat up.  There.  That chunk’s about the size of my thumb.  That should do it.  Now I just add two more eggs.  There’s number two.  This is going to be quite the omelet!  I know; you’re hungry already.  So why aren’t you joining in?  C’mon, catch up at home!

“And here comes egg number three.  Huh.  This one feels a little heavy.  That just means it’s fat with flavor right?  We’ll just crack this guy open.  Odd.  Let me try this again.  We’ll crack…  Man, this sucker refuses to open.  Maybe if I chip away with this fork.  There we go!  We’ve got the shell started.  Aw, shoot.  It’s one big frozen mass.  There must be… yep, there it is.  A crack in the exterior; I guess this little guy’s gonna stay a solid chick-sickle.  Hey, a two-egg omelet will fill me up, right?  I mean, why not?

“Okay, time to check on our oven.  It’s been about a minute so hopefully that butter had been melting nicely while we talked.  …except it’s not.  Well isn’t that strange.  It’s still… oh, wait!  I forgot to turn the oven  on.  Hmm, I wonder why it won’t work.  What?  Oh, my cameraman is telling me the oven is gas.  I don’t actually know how to work one of these things.  Pilot?  What’s a pilot light?  This button over here?  Okay, but shouldn’t it turn out by itself?  I mean, we’re in the twenty-first century after all-

“Ah!!!  Man, that flame really jumps right up, doesn’t it?  Someone really likes to have a hot time in the ol’ kitchen!  Wow.  Good thing I trimmed my eyebrows before the show.  I’m not singed right?  Okay, good.  Keep in mind ladies, ol’ Claude keeps cool under pressure and his eyebrows tidy.  I’m just sayin’.  Women love a guy that cooks, right?

“Next up, we whisk our eggs.  I’ve got two eggs, I’ve added a splash of milk, and now I’ve decided that I do want some salt.  I wasn’t certain before, but now I’m gonna go for it.  Where’s that salt shaker…  Ah ha!  Thought you could get away from me, you little rascal?   These holes in the top look to be a tad crusted over.  I’m going to give the top a little tap.  I really want the salt to come out in a controlled manner.  A little tap…  Shoot.  I didn’t realize the lid would fall of like that.  Man that is not a small amount of salt, is it?  I mean, I can see little crystals forming together at the top.  I really think those lids should be stronger.

“What the-?  Oops!  We’ve got ourselves some smoke here.  I think this would be a great time to remind you viewers that you should always keep an eye on the burners.  You really don’t want your skillet setting off the smoke detectors.  Man that thing’s sensitive.  Shrill, too.  I always thought it would take more to set them off.  What?  You can’t hear me?  Okay, I’ll take the battery out.  We’ll have it be our little secret.

“Isn’t this fun?  And to think you could be waiting at a table for food and missing all this?  There’s no place like home… cooking!  Hey, that could be another t-shirt!  Man, I’m all kinds of quotable today!  Keep an eye out for that shirt too!  We’re gonna make sure we’re stocked up so you can get them as soon as your credit card clears.  Well, and I gotta have a big enough stack to make the trip to the post office worth my time.  C’mon, it’s like three miles away.  You folks know how it is.  Ahh, what’m I worried about?  I’m sure you’ll order plenty!

“Let’s check how we’re doing.  The smoke is almost all gone.  Whoops!  Better not hold that battery over the burner.  Ha ha!  Let’s put it over on this countertop out of the way.  We snagged a fresh pad of butter and it’s melting just fine.  Yeah, I think the pan is pretty well coated.  Time to add the eggs!

“Those eggs are on their way now.  I like to coax them along as they cook.  You just dab at the sides when they start to bubble with your spatula.  Wait.  Where’s my spatula?  Tim did you see where…  Darnit!  Your cat’s nibbling on the spatula!  Give that back!  Ugh.  Now there’re teeth marks on it.  Dude, your cat is just messed up.  I have to rinse this stupid thing off now.  Gah.

“I’d say it’s about time we finish this puppy up.  Take your spatula and nudge at the sides a little.  There it is!  That’s more like it!  I like to flip my omelet as soon as possible; make sure both sides are evenly cooked.  Simply take your utensil, get it under there and…

“Crud.  It broke.  Eh, scrambled eggs are acceptable.  Let’s all make scrambled eggs together.  If you have a nice omelet; well then congratulations to you.  But we’re making ‘em scrambled now.  Chop ‘em up!  Chop chop chop with your spatula.  Hey, look at all those pieces of egg deliciousness!  They’re starting to get a little brown so let’s pull ‘em off and toss ‘em on a plate.

“Terrific.  Eggs, scrambled, just like that.  It couldn’t be simpler!  Now all we have to do is dig in!  Let’s all try it together shall we?

“Oh my…  Ugh.  That’s nasty.  That is like the worst thing I’ve ever…  Dude, seriously.  I can’t even get that down.  How much salt fell in there?

“Tim!  The oven!  Your cat knocked the battery onto the burner!  Put the camera down!  Grab the fire extinguisher!  Move man, move!”

The Designated Fire-Dowser

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Designated Fire-Dowser

If your neighbor’s house is on fire, you don’t haggle over the price of your garden hose.” –FDR

Floyd didn’t relish his job as the designated festivities-downer, but that was his role tonight.   He had other plans; more enjoyable plans.  His family was going to the vintage theater in town and they were going to watch a screening of Serenity.  Floyd had tried to assign one of his underlings to be on duty for him so that he could share in the calm family night, but both his supervisors and the bosses in Public Relations had nixed the idea.  Apparently The Olympic Committee didn’t like the notion that The Olympic Torch would be babysat by a rookie part-timer.  Floyd had his part to play tonight and that was that.

When Floyd had first been hired as the head of facilities for the arena, he had thought he had scored.  He had a team of twenty men and they had one building to take care of.  As long as all the lights were working and none of the chairs had any loose screens, everybody was happy.  Every once in a while Floyd would take a turn mowing the grass on the outskirts.  The work kept him grounded and made the other maintenance men respect Floyd as “one of them”.  Floyd’s casual lifestyle at work all came to a stop eight years ago.

Around a decade ago, the arena, and the city as a whole, started making bids to host The Olympics.  They wanted the attention, the income, and the crowds.  With the sports teams moving away or drawing pithy crowds, the city wanted to reestablish itself as a mover and shaker in the sports world.  They had four-lane roads, hotels, and parking garages which they yearned to see used beyond capacity.  Floyd did not share his city’s enthusiasm.

Ever since the city had gotten an official consideration from The Olympic Committee, Floyd’s job had become a never-ending battle of paperwork.  Each morning that he came into work he would find his inbox flooded with requests of things to be fixed.  He tried to institute a system where each person would ask for a certain item to be attended to and then logged, but it had failed miserably.

The regular staff had adhered to Floyd’s arrangement rather well.  However the higher-level staff all felt that they could just e-mail Floyd directly and bypass the line.  The biggest problem was the redundancies.  Floyd still remembered the time he received fifteen e-mails to replace one light bulb.  Naturally, it was the light bulb right outside the hallway for the executive offices.

It cracks me up to type this, but the image is from The Department of Defense.

Now that The Olympics were actually upon him, Floyd had somewhat resigned himself to living at work.  He tried to get a night off here or there, but all the managers and supervisors demanded that Floyd assist them in putting their best foot forward.  They would harbor no mistakes.  If something went wrong, they wanted Floyd on site to attend to it.  If this massive undertaking of a ship sprang a leak, they wanted Floyd to keep bailing until the ship went down.  Floyd often felt that if a light bulb went out in the middle of a telecast, he would be dragged onto camera and shot with a Taser to show just how serious they were about perfection.

Thus, the lighting of The Olympic Torch was overseen by Floyd.  He stood in his jumpsuit and checked the fire extinguisher yet again.  Floyd was not a young man.  He had turned fifty earlier in the week, but work hadn’t even gotten him a cake.  He certainly wasn’t afforded a candle as extravagant as the one he was babysitting.  He wiped the summer sweat off of his forehead, his slicked-back widow’s peak keeping his remaining hair out of the way.  Floyd’s thoughts turned to his now-gray moustache.  It was bushy, it was friendly, and it was his son’s favorite feature about his father.  Floyd could only hope that an amber from “Ol’ Sparky” wouldn’t set it ablaze.

Floyd knew that his bosses wouldn’t approve of such a casual nickname for the torch’s end destination, but he also hadn’t told them about his constantly muttering, “Flame on!” underneath his breath.  They hadn’t consulted him when they bought the fire extinguisher, so he thought he was owed some freedom here or there.

Floyd’s lone “weapon” in the battle of an inferno was a fifty-pound industrial fire extinguisher.  It had a stored pressure system, not a cartridge-operated one like he had recommended.  The difference was that when his extinguisher ran out of fuel, he was done.  All he could do after that was toss the giant cylinder aside and hope for a miracle.  The bosses had seen their costs sky-rocketing as they prepared to host the international event and had started to cut corners.  Floyd’s preferred fire suppression system had been the first thing to go.  That, along with the extinguisher’s cart.

The fifty-pound extinguisher was made to rest on a metallic hand-truck.  However, since it cost and extra forty dollars and because there was no ramp to get to the main access door, Floyd would have to do without.  His old frame groaned under the weight of what was essentially a large child strapped to his back.  The supervisors’ thinking was simple; should the igniting not run smoothly, Floyd would run forward and put out the fire.  He would do it alone, he would do it with one extinguisher, and he would handle things until the fire trucks could drive onto the field from the loading dock.  Floyd offered that the fire truck could park under a tent on the sidelines, but that clashed with the aesthetics that everyone else was so focused on.  Floyd tried to argue logic with them, but had instead settled for triple-overtime and a very nice insurance policy, “just in case”.

Floyd really wasn’t all that worried.  He was more annoyed that he was yet again missing out on family time.  The arena had given him the materials to build the housing for the fire.  The parts had all been shoddy and under-insulated, but Floyd had created an effective and safe system.  He had every confidence that he and his crew had done an excellent job.  All the tests had run perfectly smoothly.  In three weeks the whole event would be over and Floyd would cash in on the four months of vacation time that he was owed.  All he had to do was get through tonight’s high-spectacle proceedings and it as all downhill from there.

The athletes started to fill the Astroturf and Floyd watched them all with an amused eye.  He had seen them walking around earlier in the week as they tried to get their bearings and possibly even practice between endless interviews.  They all seemed a little too pretty for Floyd.  The muscles in their neck and shoulders bulged so much that they couldn’t even keep their jackets zipped all the way up.  Floyd kept hoping one of the foreign athletes would have some scar or a unibrow that would instill in him the relief that one of them was human and not some paragon of physical perfection.  So far the results had been as annoyingly fruitless as his search for a day off.

The one thing that Floyd had kept from everyone else, even his staff, was that there were certain advantages to his guard duty.  Everyone was so busy running around and viewing the spectacle that they had forgotten about him.  He wasn’t allowed to be in public sight because his jumpsuit and metal tank-backpack might infuse a feeling of uncertainty into the crowd.  Floyd sat in the shade of the tent and pulled out his new phone.  No one could see him, and his headphones worked just fine.  Floyd pulled up his list of television shows he had downloaded and felt that Firefly was an appropriate choice.  He probably should have been watching the flame when it was lit flawlessly, but at the moment Floyd didn’t care.  He was watching a fun show and, if he was honest, he aimed to misbehave.

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