CiH's (Far from complete) guide to screwing up in the Kitchen!
Some of you may remember a certain Mr 'AE' offering his evilly insightful
recipes on his website some time ago. He managed to optimise his cooking, in
the same way he optimised his demo coding. Who can forget the 'tunnel pasta'
and 'bumpmap apple surprise', I know I haven't, in spite of extensive
counselling and other professional help!
So I, CiH, decided it was time to share some of my own kitchen secrets with
you, the larger Atari scene community. Only these aren't wise words to help
with making delicious and nutritious food to fill the bellies of top demo
coders. This is rather more of a "How not to" guide!
Some of these hints and tips I've tried out for myself. The rest of them
have been carried out by other people. Only I'm not saying which is which!
Basic Forgetting things..
Your brain is your best tool for screwing up in the kitchen. Where prompt
and timely action could save the day, forgetting things could make all the
difference. Take the following.
Fish Fingers grilled student house style.
Take a packet of frozen fish fingers, turn on the grill, and place the fish
fingers underneath. Then go off and leave them, they can cope on their own,
and it'll take ages for them to cook, right? The smoke alarm in the kitchen
will tell you when they are ready, as will the sounds of coughing coming
from a general downstairs direction. Burst into kitchen, remove hastily from
the grill and extinguish the flames, not forgetting to open a window in
order to remove the huge volumes of dense black smoke. The fish fingers are
For illustrative purposes, the end result should look like a burns-victim
reconstruction from Wednesday nights edition of "When Arsonists Attack!" on
the side facing up to the grill, but still managing to retain that just
thawed out of a tundra peat bog sogginess underneath the blackened crispy
outer layer! Yummy, delicious!
You can also apply these techniques to food preparation. When chopping
onions, their pungent odour makes you tearful. You get something with a very
similar chemical makeup in a tear gas attack. It only takes a momentary
lapse to forget to wash your hands before rubbing your eyes.. Ewww! That
stings! (Hardened pain junkies might well try that one with raw chillies,
but I really ought to point out that the writer of this article takes no
responsibility for any dire consequences incurred if anyone is stupid enough
to go that far!)
Advanced Forgetting things.
The basic techniques for forgetting things can be then applied to all sorts
of situations, pan of water heating up, you'd much rather be reading that
book you couldn't put down, which is in the other room, oops, there it goes!
A more advanced version of this technique can bring technology to your aid.
I'm going to say a little bit more about some neat ways to abuse a microwave
oven a bit later, but this is one that you can use, without even switching
Some medieval castles had a funny little hole in the floor where they
stashed people they wanted to 'forget', hence the French term 'Oubliette'.
You can use a microwave as a food oubliette, really a form of impromptu food
storage facility for something that should really be kept in a refrigerator,
but you are intending to reheat for the next day. But our old friend amnesia
comes down, like a thick fog, and it stays there.
Dairy products are ideal, especially for what happens next. Eventually,
after a couple of weeks, the super-evolved custard remnants bring themselves
back to your attention again, when they tap folornly on the front glass
door, asking to be let out! That is, if the ever increasing odour hasn't
made itself known first. Microwave ovens aren't actually odour-proof. In
that case, it is useful to have a household pet for distraction purposes,
who can be blamed for puking under the sofa in a manner which mysteriously
cannot be uncovered. But you frantically search every dark corner and hidden
space in the house anyway. The other small clue that offers itself up is
that your air freshener budget starts to top the gross national product of
Bolivia, when previously, it hardly figured as a household purchase at all.
The Wrong Tools for the Job.
A special word about knives. Knives are dangerous, especially when being
juggled, or thrown. They can also be misused with a little lack of thought
in a kitchen scenario as well.
Always make sure that the knife you use is too small for the job in hand.
The small kitchen knife that you use for slicing runner beans, is ideal to
tackle that huge turnip as well. A ten-second effortless 'slice and dice'
with a big knife will be transformed into ten minutes worth of huffing and
puffing hard labour. Remember, size DOES matter here!
Also, you might be interested to know that you get more accidents off the
not so sharpened knives. Sounds peculiar? Well think about it, a properly
sharpened blade will go through what it is supposed to be cutting, with a
minimum of effort. A blade which is less than perfect will need extra effort
to force it through, quite a bit of effort, and concentration and, there it
suddenly goes, and there go the fingers, which you momentarily forgot were
there, as well. Not to mention that where a sharp blade being brought down
suddenly to make a cut will dig in safely, a blunt blade may well bounce off
and, MIND THAT ARTERY!! (Oh, I hate cleaning blood out of things..)
But very sharp knives, although boring in the preparation stages of a
kitchen fiasco, do come into their own during the cleaning and washing up
afterwards. Why not try playing 'washing up roulette' with a bowl full of
water made opaque by over-use of washing up liquid layering soap suds
halfway up to the ceiling. The knives are down there, they're lurking in the
depths, can you get them out safely? No - OUCH! And there go the fingers
Pans, these should be too small, and with a wobbly handle, if at all
possible, to add to the fun. Also, in a spirit of 'trying to get by', the
lid should not match, and you should totally lack a sieve when draining off
rice and pasta, performing a perilous balancing act with the pan and its
non-matching lid. My favourite kind of pans are those Non-stick pans which
are way past their best, and no longer perform as advertised, and best of
all in that situation, are aged frying pans which have a special kind of
magnetism for fried eggs, where you can't get them out again without
Curiosity killed the taste.
Ever wondered why eggs are always hard-boiled in situations where they are
going to be served up cold sometime later? I like soft-boiled eggs, when the
yolk is runny, when they are freshly cooked and hot. Note the use of the
word "hot". I tried softboiling eggs for a salad once, I was young, and
foolish, and thought that the softboiled niceness would transfer itself over
somehow. Never again! A cold yolk is like cold slime on the tongue, so don't
Sugar and Salt and all things nice.
You can even kill very simple things, like a cup of tea. Take the following
"recipe", which I tried out on the way to the second Error in Line Party
Take one normal cup of tea, and make it in the residence of a very tall
Dutch graphics person. For this recipe to work, the kitchen has to be very
untidy, and the labelling on certain condiment jars has got to be very
ambiguous and more than a little bit Dutch. Add what you think is sugar,
taste, spit out hurriedly. Then find the nearest handy Felice, just to
confirm it is salt and not the fact that the bit of your brain dealing with
taste hasn't just had a weird spasm. The gagging and retching noises coming
from Felice confirm that it wasn't sugar after all!
Follow the destructions at all times!
Inexperienced cooks will tend to follow the instructions on packets to the
point of anal stupidity. This is often quite a good way of getting off on
the wrong foot in making food! Many ready-mix foods do not quite allow for
sufficient water, especially if you cook with the heat turned right up, and
the pan lid off, in order to evaporate as much water as possible before it
gets into the food. When it has boiled to a dry shrivelled mess, then it is
"ready". Do not add any more water at any time, even if your gut instincts
are screaming at you to do so. The instructions have to be obeyed at all
A clean oven is no fun at all, but a dirty oven takes lots of dedication to
acquire. Literally weeks and months on non-cleaning will be needed, to get
the right sort of thick coating of blackened grease to build up on it. But
the end result is worth it, when you open the oven door after a hard day's
roasting. Make sure you stand as close as possible, to get those billowing
waves of greasy acrid smoke for that authentic 'Split-second escape from a
burning building' sensation. This one will stay with you, and your lungs in
particular, for a long time afterwards.
Zen and the art of Microwave oven mayhem.
Microwave ovens are one of the must-have inventions of the 20th century.
They are a quick and convenient way to some truly inspired kitchen-based
cockups, and for some things, you can't really beat them.
There are temptations posed right away in the operating handbook, "Do not
place metal objects in the microwave" indeed! Indoor fireworks are so much
more fun in the kitchen! On a more mundane food ruining note, anyone can
carry out the following recipe, although for best results, an older
microwave with analogue controls which you can leave set in position would
be preferable. (Thus bringing basic and advanced forgetting techniques back
(Barely) Baked Potatoes.
You need 1 - 4 medium sized baking potatoes. Place within the microwave
oven, and set the timer for the handbook recommended time, usually 10-15
minutes, depending on the oven's power and size. At the end, take the
potatoes out, and wonder why they seem to be hardly cooked. Repeat two or
three times BEFORE realising that the power setting is still stuck on the
rather ineffectual 'defrost' option. This has put in enough microwave energy
to barely stir a torpid hedgehog awake, let alone cook anything. Still, raw
spuds are nice, much healthier, Yum yum!
Incidentally, if you are tempted to cook these potatoes on full power, then
don't remember to pin-prick them in several places. If you do, this will
minimise the chance of them exploding.
Some of you might be concerned about microwave leakage. Well there's a
simple way to check for this, just put a pound of butter next to the
microwave when it is operating, and if it starts to melt, then get out of
A Hard Frost.
Sometimes you don't even need to cook to ruin things in the kitchen. Quite a
easy thing for you to do, is to turn up the coldness level in your
refrigerator (or turn down the temperature.) Most fridges do allow for
freezing temperatures in the less cold chill compartment, where you keep
your milk, eggs, Coca Cola etc. This is better if it is done accidentally,
without you realising it. Or if you house-share, get a friend or flatmate to
It takes a couple of days to take full effect, but the end results can be
quite entertaining. Normally liquid Coca Cola is turned into a giant cola
flavoured iceberg, wrapped in a plastic bottle. You then retrieve it from
the fridge, and allow it to thaw slightly. Next, tip the bottle upside down,
trying to get the tiny residue of liquid past the plug of solid ice which
has formed at the neck of the bottle. Undoing the top of the bottle at this
point results in a massive release of gas as all the CO2 has been frozen
out of the liquid, and a geyser of Coke coming out under very high pressure!
And best of all, you don't have to drink the coke afterwards with all those
nasty bubbles, as it will go totally flat.
Okay, that's quite enough for now, just a few simple tips can transform a
normal domestic setting, into a full dress rehearsal for Doomsday. Why not
try some of these things at home yourself?
So have any of you ever managed to come up with a truly inspiring kitchen
screw-up. Can you ruin water, merely by boiling it in a kettle, or just by
looking at it? If you are one of these unfortunate people, then feel free to
share the details with us, and we'll stick your stories in the next issue of
CiH,For Alive! Mag,May '02