Slicing through culinary mysteries with a machete

You know what the problem with cooking is? I don’t know how to do it, for one. The other is that it takes too long.

Take rice, for example. I got into one of my rare cooking moods the other night, and I wanted it to be rice. I go about two years in between preparing a meal. This gives my family members time to allow their intestines to heal.

Anyway, apparently the brown rice we had would take 45 minutes to cook. For me, it’s a little longer, because the cooking is followed by two minutes spent wondering aloud why it tastes like Elmer’s Glue, followed by five minutes of cursing.

That’s why I want Dixie Burmeister to do a column on rice. Not Salmon with Rice Pilaf or Honey-Mustard Chicken Rice. Just rice. Like how to cook it without it resembling ceiling texture.

I tried the Internet but they weren’t any help. A website called Finecooking.com included these directions: “Letting your rice rest enlarges the window of opportunity for serving perfectly cooked rice.”

I wasn’t sure what all this “expanding their window of opportunity” business meant. After all we’re just talking about a cereal grain. But it sounded lovely. Unfortunately, between work, eating, giving the kids baths, followed by an hour of full-on warfare trying to get them to sleep, I didn’t have the time for this. I would love to give my poor little rice friends a chance to “rest” after what I’m sure was a hectic day for them, but they don’t need it. They just got out of the hot tub. My theory is that if I can’t rest, the complex carbohydrates in my kitchen shouldn’t either.

So I skipped the cooking that night and everyone slept peacefully. Until Sunday morning, when I was going to make pancakes for the first time. But not just ordinary pancakes. Anyone can make plain old flapjacks. I was going to make coconut pancakes. This sounded delicious when fetching the paper at -2 degrees, as I was longing for a taste of the sun-drenched Caribbean. Making rum pancakes crossed my mind, but we have two children, and you’re never supposed to serve children alcohol before noon.

“Do you need anything from the store?” Marie asked.

“Yeah, a coconut.”

“A what?”

“A coconut. A big one.”

“Do have any idea how hard they are to open?”

“But when we were in Jamaica that bartender did it pretty easily.”

“That’s because he used a machete.”

“Do we have a machete?”

“No, I must have forgotten to pick one up at Culinary Corner.”

“Maybe I can ask our neighbors if they have one.”

“We’ve just moved in, and you’re going to introduce yourself to our new neighbor by frightening her with a 7:30 a.m. house call to ask her for a machete?”

“I should probably change out of this blood-stained shirt.”

An hour and a cup of shredded coconut later, I served my family the flapjacks, waiting for the adulation that was soon to follow. Marie took the first bite.

“This tastes like concrete.”

Well, well, well. Apparently I married a pancake diva. At least my daughter would gobble them up. After all, she loves me and will support me to the end.

“Daddy, I don’t like these.”

Luckily my 15-month-old son can’t talk, otherwise I’m sure I’d be hearing it from him too.

It was awful. Aunt Jemima and a stick of butter gave it their all, but even they couldn’t cover up the horribleness of it.

I went over the recipe with Marie, and I won’t go into full detail about my mistake, but let’s just say that there is a big difference between baking soda and baking powder.

Fortunately it will be two years before I cook again, but next time I’ll be prepared.

I’m going to see if Culinary Corner has a machete.

Reach Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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