Posts Tagged With: chicken

Dumb College Kid in the Kitchen

“It’s crunchy! Why the hell is it crunchy?!”–Me (circa 1995)

Hey all! Some time ago I shared with all of you an unfortunate story involving me, two of my collegiate friends and our collective ineptitude in the kitchen. If you are unfamiliar with that story then you need to check it out first then come on back just so you’ll have a point of reference as to how I dealt with goings on in the kitchen as a younger man. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait…

(Burt Bacharach music plays softly in the background)

Okay so now that you know that my culinary background is shameful and heart-wrenching you will understand where I’m coming from with my next episode of “Skrap Had No Idea What To Do With Food In College”.

A college friend of mine, a lovely young lady who we’ll call Mya for purposes of anonymity, treated me to dinner one night. She prepared a meal at her apartment and we ate and talked and watched a movie and all the other stuff that early twenty-somethings do when they have a crush on one another (except that *grumble*). After our evening was concluded and good night kisses were exchanged she looked at me with her big brown eyes and flashed a smile that said “I Have The Potential To Be Very Naughty” before saying, “Now you’re going to have to cook for me one day soon.” Of course I said I would; I mean, there she stood in her curve hugging jeans and blue Georgia Southern University hooded sweatshirt looking about as good as any woman had looked to me that semester making request. Who was I to deny her, especially since cooking for her would likely be the impetus to move us beyond first base? So obviously I told her that I would…and the panicking began soon after. I was only a few months removed from the chicken wing incident and thoughts of flaming oven mitts and screaming friends were still fresh in my head. Yet and still I had to compose myself and turn myself into a chef somehow. I determined that I would keep everything simple, cook stuff that’s near impossible to mess up and, obviously, not fry anything. About a month had passed since the initial dinner at Mya’s house which she took time to remind me of on one of our phone calls; I told her that I would cook for her that week.

I only had one class on Thursdays that semester so that made it the perfect day to go to the grocery store in preparation. I picked up some chicken breasts, some spinach, some broccoli and some rice, the really fancy kind of rice that has all the little herbs and whatnot mixed in it like they served at the fancy restaurants. I started cooking close to 6:00 after pretending to study for a Theater exam; chicken in the oven, veggies on the stove all simmering to perfection, I saved the rice for last because it wouldn’t take long for it to cook. I mean, all rice takes about 10 minutes to cook, right? Based on my timing I’d be putting food on the plate as she walked in the door which I’d told her I’d left open so she could come right in. About 6:50 I started my rice, it didn’t come in the bag like the other rice I always bought, no this rice was fancy, it was even yellow. I put it in the boiler and let it go to work; I’d cooked rice before so there was really no need to read any instructions.

As if on cue Mya knocked at the door a little before 7:00pm and then pushed it open as I advised her to so that she could see me in all my culinary glory standing over the stove. She walked over to the kitchen, about three steps from the front door, and looked over into the pots and noted on how good everything looked and it did. My chicken was right out of the oven and nice and brown, veggies seasoned just like my mother told me to when I’d called her earlier that day to ask her how, and the water had just started to roll in the rice which meant it was about done. She gave me a hug and then a kiss on the cheek before going to sit in the big comfy chair in my little cramped den to wait on her plate. Everything was great until I went to drain the rice.

Now, before this particular day I had always bought the rice in the little yellow box that said “Success” and “Only 10 Minutes” on the front of it. When you’ve done that for so long you start to think in your stupid just out of teenage brain that all rice regardless of the packaging that it is contained in only takes ten minutes from start to finish to reach its maximum rice potential. Not so. With this beautiful young lady sitting 6-7 feet away I poured the water and rice into my strainer and the sound that came back was akin to pouring cereal into a bowl. “Fluffy rice doesn’t make that sound”, I thought to myself. “Is this a special trait of ‘fancy’ rice”, I reasoned. I grabbed a fork from the drawer and took a few pieces of rice and sampled…and nearly chipped a tooth.

“Oh sh*t! It’s crunchy! Why the hell is it crunchy?!” That’s the thought that was screaming through my head as I tried to hide the panic from my eyes. Mya looked in my direction and asked if everything was okay and as coolly as I could I replied “Yes”. I couldn’t very well admit that I’d messed up the rice right? I mean, who jacks up rice?

No problem right, tell her that you need a few more minutes, make small talk about class that day, watch something on TV while the rice reaches maximum non crunchiness. But I couldn’t keep her waiting, I mean look at her, she’s gorgeous and you don’t keep a gorgeous woman waiting, so instead of starting the rice up again I made a plate with just the chicken, the broccoli and the spinach with a nice glass of juice, in a real glass, not my usual plastic tumbler. She smiled in approval and then asked, regrettably, “the rice looked good, I can’t have any?”

F*ck.

“The rice didn’t turn out that great so I left it off.”

She relented, “Boy, please. I want to try it.”

“Really, you shouldn’t.”

Then she got up from the chair and walked to the kitchen. Seems she’d had quite enough of me saying no so, much to my dismay, she got up to get it herself. I’d wanted to tackle her for weeks but this tackle wouldn’t be in the throes of passion as I’d hoped, this tackle would be in order to keep her from knowing a man that didn’t know that all rice didn’t take 10 minutes to thoroughly cook; yes, this would be a tackle to save her dental work and whatever money her parents had spent on braces during her high school years. But all the while I was thinking about why she needed to be tackled she already had a spoon in hand and was going in for a scoop.

“Really, you shouldn’t do that”, I cautioned.

“I already am”, she answered as she scooped a spoonful onto her plate before returning to the big chair in the den.

The grace that I prayed over that meal before we ate was likely the most sincere prayer that I have offered in my life. Ever. Reading between the lines it would have sounded like:

Dear God, bless this food that we are about to receive, especially this rice that I royally jacked up. Let the grains of rice that she scooped onto her plate be supernaturally cooking on her plate right now as I pray this prayer. I pray in advance for everything else on the plate to be so delicious that she completely forgets that my rice was crunchy. Amen.

I couldn’t even eat and of course the first thing she goes for is the yellow rice with the herbs and whatnot mixed in. My heart sank as she placed the fork in her mouth. She took a half bite down on the rice and stopped chewing almost immediately and I thought, “Damn, I’ve already destroyed one of her molars.” Her eyes narrowed a bit as she tried to continue chewing, more so in an effort to not have me further embarrassed than out of pleasure for the taste. The look in her eyes specifically said, “Is this rice crunchy?” She took a swallow of juice to wash down the rice she hadn’t already choked down. Then she moved on to the chicken to which she immediately said, “this is great!” God had heard the second half of my prayer.

She never mentioned it to anyone that I knew of. I never spied a stray glance from any of her friends on campus or caught any of her sorority sisters giggling at me as I walked by between classes. We still remain friends to this day and never once has she ever mentioned anything about the rice and though she hasn’t it is also notable that every time we’ve hung out since that day we always go out to eat. I guess that gesture speaks loudly enough.

~thanks for reading.  🙂

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Categories: Humor, Relationships, So Incredibly Random | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

16 Years Ends Today – My Poultry Saga

I’m no culinary genius although I did some very creative things with ramen noodles, ground turkey, and a slice of cheese while an undergraduate at Georgia Southern University (Go Eagles!). Anyone who has been to college knows that the average college student’s cooking ability goes as far as the pizza delivery magnet stuck to the empty refrigerator in the dorm or apartment or, of course, Ramen Noodles. But there was always the occasional exception where there would be someone from down in the country somewhere (especially at Georgia Southern) that has been cooking full meals since she was 9 years old and everybody wanted to be friends with that theml because you knew that if you didn’t feel like going to the cafeteria they were the only way you were going to get close to a vegetable that semester.

I am a city kid. I was not that student. I am not that guy.

I mentioned in passing to some friends that I attempted to cook fried chicken for the first time in 16 years which was met with a goodly measure of disbelief from those gathered. It’s a common misconception that some things are just hardwired into the DNA of Black folk like: We can all play a bass guitar within 3 minutes of having picked one up. We can all dance effortlessly. We can’t shut the hell up in a movie theater (ok, that one’s true)…and we all have prowess with the fried yard bird. Based on their disbelief that I hadn’t attempted that in my kitchen I think that they had fallen victim to the final of those theories. But it’s true, not because I don’t have the occasional prowess in the kitchen, simply because…it’s because fried chicken almost killed me. To be totally free of the pain I must sit on my version of Oprah’s couch and release these memories so I can be completely free of my fear of fried chicken.

It was Super Bowl Sunday 1994. I didn’t often have company because I lived in a small one bedroom apartment off campus that was barely big enough for me but this particular Sunday I was having my boys over for some food and football in my tiny living quarters. It was gonna be three of us which was perfect since I could only fit three chairs in the entire place. We had decided after class the previous Friday that we’d go to the grocery store and buy a couple of  5 pound bags of frozen wings since it was more cost effective than getting them prepared. One of my buddies, Rick, said he knew how to make the sauce so it would be just like the real thing; we would have wings and beer, and be man’s men while watching the Super Bowl. It was going to be epic…in theory.

I’m not completely sure how I was placed in charge of wing preparation seeing as though I’d never once cooked a single solitary wing before in my life but my attitude was how hard could it be? You get a pan, you get oil, you get the oil hot, you insert chicken, chicken cooks, dip in sauce…game, set, match. That morning the three of us pooled our meager funds, went to the Piggly Wiggly on Highway 67, and did our shopping. Before long we were back at my apartment ready to release our inner chefs. We had mozzarella sticks in the oven and I was pouring oil in the pan to start the chicken wing process. It was at this moment that I had my first moments of trepidation as the oil started the slow process of heating up. I hadn’t cooked anything more intensive than a hot dog all semester and here I am trying to cook chicken wings for me and my boys. My apprehension must have been evident through my expression as Rick asked, “Hey man, you alright? Need another beer?” I told Rick that I was cool, just needed to let the oil get hot and then I could get the chicken party started then accepted his offer for another beer since I was two or three behind anyway and had a seat to watch some TV.

Ten or fifteen minutes had passed when I was reminded by popping oil that I had a task at hand other than talking loud and throwing back Budweisers. Rick clasped his hands together and said, “That oil is good and hot now. Let’s get this chicken on.” He went to the freezer, retrieved the bags of chicken wings and placed them on the counter next to the pan which at this point was swirling and crackling evilly. I opened the bag and retrieved a couple of the ice glazed chicken wings and looked over to Rick and Kev before asking, “Yo, should we have defrosted these before cook ’em?” to which Rick answered, “Nah, homie, throw dem ******* in!” Figuring Rick had cooked a chicken wing, or seen a chicken wing cooked, more recently than I had I decided to take his advice. I removed about ten or twelve of the wings from the bag, all frozen solid but potentially golden brown and delicious in about 8-10 minutes, and slid them into the seventh circle of hell swirling in the pan on the eye of my stove.

It is at this time in this tale that I want to tell you about the logistics of my apartment at the time. I told you it was small which is accurate. It consisted of a carpeted living room which housed my desk and chair where I didn’t study enough, TV, stereo, my Sega Genesis video game (the source for me not studying enough), and another chair. On the opposite end was my bedroom, carpeted, just big enough for a twin bed, a chest of drawers, and another chair. The ten feet between those two rooms consisted of the kitchen on the right hand wall and my bathroom on the left. All told it measured about 25 feet long by about 14.5 feet wide so in all so not a roomy place but still big enough that boiling oil couldn’t splatter on all four of my walls…or could it? What follows next is a tale of fear and loathing spangled with the profanity of panicked twenty-somethings and shouting reserved only for the most frightened of collegians. Parental guidance is advised…

What I remember most was the initial pop – no, bang – and subsequent splatter. It was like the oil was angry at all three of us for even considering the act of cooking. What Rick didn’t know was that ice crystals introduced to oil causes a considerable amount of splatter so when you introduce 10-12 chicken wings dressed as bigger than average ice crystals you get, well, an explosion. I was closest to the incident so obviously I was in retreat mode quicker than right now and sooner than right away. Rick was in full on “Oh ****!” mode and scrambling away from the kitchen, Kev was furthest away enamored with the Super Bowl pre-game activities on TV before being startled by the small explosion in the kitchen 5 feet away. I’m face down on the kitchen floor until I feel liquid heat in the form of hot Mazola flying out of the pan and onto my back in small but still incredibly hot globs; even through my shirt it was no picnic. I rolled over onto my back thinking that the cool tile in the kitchen would soothe the pain but figured immediately that being face up underneath a popping quart of grease wasn’t the best of ideas.

Kevin spoke, or screamed rather,  for the first time in the ordeal, “The chicken is flying out the fryer, man. Why is the chicken flying out the ******* fryer, man!” It wasn’t really flying out of the fryer but the introduction of the frozen solid chicken into the bubbling oil was violent enough to eject one or two of the wings on the floor nearby. I got up from the floor deeming it not the safest place to be what with oil and hot frozen chicken flying all about and backed up towards the opposite end of the apartment near my bedroom. Rick yelled out, “Fire, man! On the stove.” I had two oven mitts that I kept moreso for kitchen decoration than anything else. Normally they would have been in their normal spot hanging on the hook over the stove except for the fact that we had put mozzarella sticks in the oven and would need the mitts to take them out. So they weren’t on the hook over the stove, they were on the stove on fire.  Rick yelled, “Put that s*** out man! Put it out!”. I’m standing against my bedroom door panicking and when you’re panicking everything is magnified; in actuality what we had was two oven mitts on fire and some hot grease popping and splattering all over the place. Simple; turn off the pan, put out the fire. However, what I SAW was a roaring hellacious flame and a pan full of grease that was sure to eject and impale me with a weaponized drumstick so because my perception was far scarier than my reality I just stood there. THEN a stroke of genius. In my apartment the sink was directly adjacent to the stove, I ran to the sink and started the cold water in the faucet then grabbed the spray nozzle so I could put the fire out from distance except…

Kev: “That’s a grease fire, A-hole, don’t do that…

It was too late. I hit the trigger on the spray nozzle and directed it at the stove which did nothing but turn a fire on the stove into a fire on the stove and now on the adjacent counter where my new roll of paper towels and brand new cordless phone live.  So now there’s a symphony of “Oh s****” and “What the f****” between the three of us then Rick screams, “Where’s your flour, C?!?!” I pointed to the pantry and he ran through the kitchen to get it but wait, grease makes a tile floor extremely slippery so guess what happens? Rick slips and falls. There’s a fire on the stove and the counter, I’ve lost an entire roll of Bounty paper towels, Rick is laying on his side on the floor at my feet, the antennae on my new cordless phone is melting in front of my eyes, chicken grease is having its own personal 4th of July on my stovetop and what do I scream?

“Yo! Unplug my Genesis”

Kev: “What?”

Me: “Unplug my f****** Sega Genesis and get my games, man! Now!”

That’s right, I’m potentially losing all my collegiate belongings, screw my clothes, pictures or the books I paid an arm and two legs for, just get my video games and we’re outta here.

Rick had managed to stop wallowing on the kitchen floor and get back to his feet and grabbed the flour from the pantry and ripped open the bag and started throwing flour on the fires, wait, that’s not accurate, Rick ripped open the bag of flour, grabbed hold and FLUNG the flour throughout the kitchen and countertop. The whole bag. Meanwhile Kev had ignored my orders regarding the Sega Genesis and gone to the bathroom, grabbed some towels and was unmercifully beating what was left of the fire that hadn’t been floured out by Rick.

After a few seconds it was done. My kitchen was charred and I had half an antennae on my cordless phone now, Kev was breathing hard and sweating from beating the fires out with one of my good towels, Rick was covered in flour and was checking a bruise on his arm from when he had fallen on the kitchen floor. There was no sound except for the crackling of the chicken wings in the pan that none of us had still thought to turn off. It was like I was standing in the middle of a Three Stooges episode. We said nothing for a while, I would have taken the Mozzarella sticks out of the oven but I no longer had oven mitts, I figured I’d let them cook some more. Finally Rick broke the silence, “Yo, ummm, I got first on those wings in the pan, dude.”

So pardon my tears when I prepare fried foods, don’t mind me if I shudder when I experience a flashback, for it is not out of cowardice that I do these things but from an experience that to this day has held it’s grip over me for nearly two decades and more importantly threatened to kill my Sega Genesis and extensive game library.

But hey, last week’s attempt at fried chicken was awesome so take that!

~thanks for reading 🙂

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Categories: Humor, So Incredibly Random, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

More Decatur Stories: Ghetto Thugonomics Pimpology 101

Welcome back to Stories From Around My Way…my name is Skrap and I’ll be your host for the next 2 to 3 minutes depending on how well you used to score on those reading tests back in the day; remember those joints in elementary school? I was always a good reader so the clock never ran out on me, I finished my paragraphs in enough time to answer the comprehension questions and write a “Do you like me? Yes or No” note to that cute girl that sat three desks over…meanwhile the kid in the back of the class that rode the short bus to school and had to wear a helmet so as not to kill himself between Language Arts and Science class was slamming his pencil down because he only made it 4 sentences in. Anyway, all that to say, if you were the helmet wearing kid back in the day, it might take you a little longer to get through this…don’t bump your head walking to your car after work today, a’ight? Let’s move on.

I was on my way back to Decatur this evening after hanging with some friends of mine down at Centennial Park. There’s something about the park in the summer, the evening air, sounds of music from the nearby bandstand, the beautiful sight of black woman hips swaying in sundresses; yes, the park in summer in Atlnta is a beautiful place…anyway…I was on my way home and pondering what I was going to eat for dinner because I knew that I wasn’t going to be cooking anything; then the little voice in the back of my head said, “Hey Skrap, you haven’t had wings in a while. Why don’t you go and get some chicken wings?” The voice was right; I hadn’t had wings in a while so I pointed my car in the direction of my favorite wing joint smack dab in the middle of grey Decatur at the intersection of Memorial and Covington. When I entered the spot there were two people in front of me in line, one of which ordered up a 50 piece hot wing box which meant that I would be posted up in that spot for at least the next twenty minutes. As usual there were only three people staffing the place…there was Ming Li at the register, and Yung Won and Yung Tu were in the back firing up the grills, they do good work and the wings are always worth the wait so I grabbed a seat by the window so I could watch the world go by while I waited.

Because we’re in grey Decatur there’s no telling who is going to walk into the spot at any point. There were older people, families, and regular folk like me that came in while I was there but I’ll get straight to the principle characters in this story. About 5 minutes into my wait I notice two dudes by the entrance to the wing place. Dude One is about 17, wearing a pair of red Dickies shorts about 7 sizes too big and a white tee (of course) that was about knee length, white socks and some fuzzy house shoes. Dude Two is about 18-19, in jeans, a black shirt with a picture of a Wheaties box on the front…wait a minute…that doesn’t say “Wheaties”. After further review I see that the box printed on the front of the shirt says “WEEDIES” with a picture of Bob Marley blazing a fat one on the cover. Anyway, Dudes 1 and 2 are posted up out front, they have ordered earlier and are killing time outside smoking a cigarette.

About 2 minutes after noticing these two I see a group of people coming in, 3 females and a male. The ringleader of this set is a female that we will refer to as “Candy” because that is what she had tattooed on her left arm. “Candy” is about 18 and is about 65 pounds past “thick”; she had on a pair of black pants with the drawstrings at the cuff and a black t-shirt that she must have borrowed from her little brother because it wasn’t quite long enough to cover what was an impressive gut by NFL Offensive Lineman standards. She had a Batman backpack purse slung over both shoulders, piercings in her eyebrow, 3-4 in each ear, and one in her tongue which I only know because she was playing with it every so often while standing in line waiting to order. Being the nosy person that I am, I noticed Dude One and Dude Two watching the crew of 4 walk into the spot. The Dudes shared a few words and went back to smoking their cigarettes until they heard their number called to pick up their order. This is about 15 minutes into my wait…and also where Skrap gets his education in new millennium Ghetto Thugonomics Pimpology 101.

Dude One in the Dickies and the houseshoes walks to the counter to pick up his wings; he gives Ming Li his ticket and she, in turn, hands him the bag of chicken wings. He turned to “Candy”, she of massive girth and piercings galore, and the following exchange takes place at regular conversation volume in the middle of a small chicken wing/chinese food restaurant populated by roughly 13 people not including the three staff members. Please excuse the profanity

Dude One: “Ay, Shawty…you dyking?”
Candy: (full of Decatur attitude) “What you say?!?!”
Dude One: “Are you gay, shawty?”
Candy: (louder and with more Decatur attitude) “Awwwww hell naw, n*gga! I don’t lick no p**sy, I like d*ck! You must got me f**ked up!
Dude One then says “A’ight then, well here…” He pulls out his cell phone and says, “I was just checkin’; you in here with these two otha hoes and this gay lookin’ n*gga so I wanted to know. Here’s my cell phone, put yo number in it, I’mma call you in about 5 minutes so I can holla at you…and make sure the number real, shawty!” Candy shoots him a smile and says “okay” (she said OKAY?!?!)and puts both her home AND cell number in the phone before handing it back to him. He looks at the numbers and says, “A’ight shawty, I’mma holla at you tonight” and he and Dude Two head out the door.

At this point my mouth, boys and girls, is wide open…I replayed the exchange over and over again in my head and tried to make sense of it all: Did this cat really roll up on Alice the Goon, ask her if she was gay and upon her denial, hand her a cell phone and say “here, put yo number in here”? Every time I asked myself the question, though, I’d get a syntax error, then a bunch of clanging noises in my head and I’d have to reboot my brain. What’s that you ask? How do I know the number was real? I’m glad you asked, boys and girls…

I’ve been waiting on wings at this point for over 20 minutes, I’ve missed a good portion of the baseball game I was listening to on the radio and my butt hurts from sitting in this hard wooden chair. Candy and her posse are sitting at a table waiting for their order and I hear a cell phone ring, Candy looks at her phone and then looks at her girls, guess who…

Candy: “Hello?…Yeah, I know you said you was gonna call…..Naw, n*gga, I told you the number wasn’t fake when you left here…..I’ll be home in about 20 minutes, call me back in 20 minutes…A’ight den…”

Mercifully, Ming Li, called out “NUMBER FIVE” and I sprung out of my seat to get my wings and get out of dodge; I’d had just about enough of this place for one night. The last thing I heard before leaving the wing shop was “Can you believe dat n*gga asked if I was a dyke? As much as I like dick???” I got in my car with my mouth still hanging open, turned the game back on the radio, and headed for the house thinking to myself, “I couldn’t have dated if I were a teenager now…”

But that’s my little slice of Decatur, and there’s no place like home…

Categories: Decatur Stories, Humor, So Incredibly Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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