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Alive 5

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
now ready.

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
it on!

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
destroying them.

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
do it!

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
last year.

Salted Tea.
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

Slovenly Oven-ly.

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
into play.)

(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 
there quick!

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
do it.

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 

Alive 5