On Saturday morning, I made my way to the cooking school, only to discover that the instructor I had last week, Chickie Malduno, had left the country and was in a psychiatric hospital at a secret location somewhere in Palermo.
I wished him well. I had no idea that chefs were such delicate people.
However, it was a new week, with new challenges to be met, and I walked into my classroom with my head held high and a song in my heart.
And no, the song wasn’t “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
“Well hi there, y’all!” a Paula Deen knock-off exclaimed.
“Just guess what we’re gonna do today, sweetness!” she burbled, in a voice that could open clams at twenty paces.
“Better than that! We’re gonna bake somethin’.”
“Uh, did anyone tell you anything about me, yet?” I asked.
“Why, no, they din’t.”
“It’s probably better that way. So what are we baking today?”
“What are we bakin’? Why we’re just gonna bake the most delicious apple pie the world has ever known—that’s all we’re gonna do!” She followed this with a hearty slap on the back that sent me careening across the room and into the pantry, where, on impact, a canister of flour tipped over and covered me head to toe with its contents.
I tottered back out.
She took one look at me and exclaimed, “Why you look just like my Uncle Goober!”
“Your Uncle Goober?”
“Sure! He usta put on them robes and go out a’marchin’ and a’burnin…”
“Could we just get going on the pie?”
“Well, bless your little heart, a’course we can! What we’re gonna do is, we’ll both make a pie! You’ll just copy ever’thin’ I do and you’ll be just fine!”
I really wished she’d get a grip on the exclamation points.
“Sounds like a plan.”
“I’m SO happy!” she screeched, patting my face in a manner which I’m sure she thought of as affectionate, but caused my head to spin 360 degrees like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist.
“First, we make the pie crust!” she howled.
“THAT’S the spirit!” she shrieked, lobbing a mixing bowl at me. It bounced off my shoulder and dislocated my jaw.
“Uh, cownamda doemadnkea?” I asked, as clearly as my jaw would allow.
“Oh, honey, lemme just fix that fer ya!” she bellowed, lumbering at me like a rabid musk ox. She grabbed my face and twisted it. She relocated my jaw, but now my right ear was where my nose used to be.
I just chalked it up to the hazards of cooking and tried to pay attention.
“Now let’s just get the flour into that there bowl of yers!” she yawped. “I don’t never use no measurin’ cups ‘er spoons!” And with that, she dipped two hands the size of dugout canoes into the 50 lb. bag of flour she’d brought (or, as she says, ‘drug’) out the pantry, and threw it into my bowl. Flour filled the air. By the time she got through, I expected to see the Donner Party stumbling through the kitchen.
I couldn’t help but wonder, as I drifted in and out of consciousness, how I was supposed to learn this stuff, if she was going to do it all for me.
“Now we’re gonna put in the eggs!” she caterwauled. “When I put in eggs, I like to put one hand over my eyes, make a wish, then break ‘em with the other hand! Why’nt YOU try it?”
“Okay,” I replied. I closed my eyes and felt for the bowl rim and…
“No, honey, not like THAT!” she screamed. “Like THIS!” She clapped her hand over my eyes and launched me backward into the next room where the all the students were bowed down before an altar to Jacques Pepin, offering a bound and gagged Gordon Ramsay as a human sacrifice.
They ignored me.
I crawled back into the kitchen. Chef Banshee grabbed me beneath my arms to help me up and threw me through the ceiling in the process.
By the time the ambulance arrived, I was breathing on my own again, after CPR administered by you-know-who. The final tally: 6 broken ribs, a fractured skull, a broken shoulder, two black eyes, a broken nose on the wrong side of my face, and smallpox.
“Don’t worry, hon!” she brayed as they loaded me into the ambulance. “We’ll finish the pie next week!”
Y’know, cooking is turning out to be a lot more dangerous than I thought it was.