I am a terrible cook. I have, on several occasions: burnt Minute Rice so that it is unrecognizable; served lasagna in bowls due to its soupy consistency; and forgotten a crucial ingredient in cookies — sugar.
When asked to take on the sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving, I was hesitant. Why wouldn’t a nice, store-bought pie do? Or canned cranberry sauce, perhaps? Apparently I was late on the draw, and other lousy “cooks” had dibs on those pre-made delights.
I sought a support squad. My roommate provided the recipe and promised it was so easy even I couldn’t screw it up. Another friend offered to oversee the operation.
With three hours till turkey time, we began our campaign. First: peel the potatoes — all 7.8 pounds of them. Having a second peeler on hand would have been smart, because by the time I finished, mine had fallen apart more times than Lindsay Lohan. Next we boiled the potatoes. It went smoothly, though my friend had to temporarily tap out for burn treatment. It was only then we discovered a slight oversight on my part: we didn’t own a potato masher.
“Should we run to the store?” my friend asked.
“There’s no time for that!” I shrieked. Eighty minutes and counting.
For the next hour we attacked the sweet potatoes, my friend with a wooden spoon, me with a fork. The metal bowls were a crime scene. We mashed violently. Bits of sweet potato flew out and littered the floor. I stabbed at the boiled potatoes with my dented fork and ignored the stinging heat. My friend wanted to take a break. I asked if Rambo would take a break. We soldiered on.
We shoved the finally mashed potatoes into our only casserole dish. The last preparation was the coating: a mix of melted brown sugar and butter. The recipe said to spread this evenly throughout the dish, but since we had forgotten to drizzle it on in layers as we went, we just dumped the entire sugary concoction on top. We poked holes and hoped it would seep through. Finally, we tossed on pecans and placed it in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
After 20 minutes, my friends called to see if we were on our way. Screw it, I decided. The taters had cooked long enough. Our post-oven inspection revealed that the sugar-and-butter coating had congealed on the top layer, and 70 per cent of the pecans were charred rather than toasted. It would have to do.
After three hours of preparation, I set out for my dinner destination carrying my overflowing masterpiece. As people drove by, glancing quizzically at my oven-mitted hands, I was not embarrassed. Yes, it had been another unfortunate encounter with the deadly culinary art, but I had survived. Rambo would be proud, but I don’t know if he’d eat it.