Cooking During Quarantine With An Inept and Bumbling “Chef”

What do fire alarms, ruined pans, a butter container with a hole burnt into it and some regurgitated bread have in common? Well, you could find all of them in my kitchen on March 26. So far, I’ve spent my quarantine being unproductive and eating unhealthy desserts that I found at Safeway. But today, I decided to make a change. 

I continued to eat unhealthy desserts, but in a safe way: by staying home. I, Aidan Kohn-Murphy, an inept and bumbling chef, would attempt to bake and cook for myself. 

Throughout my culinary journey, I failed, struggled and failed again. To my shock, you can substitute neither sugar nor salt in place of flour. All of my family members are good cooks. I, on the other hand, am known for poisoning myself with pesto THRICE by not realizing that it had walnuts in it. So, I set off to see if I had what it takes to succeed in the kitchen and I filmed the process for your viewing pleasure. 

 I challenged myself to make three dishes: two desserts and one meal. I started with dessert because it seemed like the safest place to start (my mother was out of the house, and my limited cooking abilities always seem to threaten our family’s safety). I started with some good, old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies. Everyone I know can make chocolate chip cookies, so it couldn’t be that hard. I got an easy, five-ingredient recipe from Kathy W. at JustAPinch.com, and set out on my journey. Other than the stress of cracking an egg, it was a relatively painless experience. Before long, my soon-to-be cookies were in the oven. Kathy called for a mere seven minutes in the oven, so after 25 minutes, I began to get nervous. I had made my balls of dough a little bit too big and the cookies started to collapse in on each other and had formed a giant cookie pie. Delicious-looking, but not the goal. While they were baking, I got distracted a few times. Looking back on this tape of my baking journey, I yelled, “Oh god, my cookies!” no less than 14 times. But in the end, my cookies turned out fine. 

Aidan’s Personal Rating:   

Aidan’s Mother’s Rating: 

My next task was an easy looking recipe that promised to take “only five minutes.” Enticed by its simplicity, I set forth to make a “grilled s’mores sandwich.” I attempted to follow Holly N.’s recipe from SpendWithPennies.com. My attempt started poorly, continued poorly and ended poorly. I buttered a piece of toast and put it face down onto my skillet. It promptly burned and cemented itself to the pan. Pan #1 ruined. I attempted this again, but instead of being a logical human being and changing the way I made the sandwich, I tried the exact same thing again with a new pan. Before long, the fire alarm went off, and it took 20 minutes of waving a newspaper next to the detector to make it stop. Pan #2 was ruined, and I was left with an open-faced mess of a s’mores bar. I took my monster over to the table and took my first bite. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the sandwich was inedible because the bottom of the toast had been completely burned. 

Aidan’s Personal Rating:   

Aidan’s Mother’s Rating: 

Three hours later, I began making homemade pasta for dinner. I had a pasta maker and a recipe, so I didn’t see any way I could screw up. I was wrong. I loaded the correct amount of flour and water into the machine, and the machine began spitting out a floury dough-ey mess (Editor’s note: you should add eggs to your pasta dough, which Aidan did not do). I had already failed. After an hour of getting every little speck of dough out of the near-broken machine, I was tired and confused. My mother looked in and remarked, “Jesus. I’ve made pasta exactly like that forty times and that’s never happened.” I am cursed in the kitchen. I tried again and did the exact same thing, and soon, everything was working as planned. Once I had all of my uncooked pasta on a plate, I grabbed a strand and took a bite. It was disgusting. “What had I done wrong?” I thought. I consulted my mother, who told me I had forgotten one crucial step. “Oh wait, was I supposed to bake it?” I asked. No. I was not supposed to bake it. I was supposed to cook it, in a pot. Good to know. I boiled my water and before long, my pasta was ready to go. For real this time! I had even bought pesto from Costco in preparation. The pasta itself was surprisingly good! 

Aidan’s Personal Rating:   

Aidan’s Mother’s Rating: 

In closing, it was a day of many failures, but also some triumphs. I successfully made cookies and pasta! For an almost-aspiring chef like me, I did much better than expected. My s’mores sandwich, on the other hand, was the greatest failure of my young baking career. I plan to continue cooking and baking for the rest of the quarantine, because what else do I have to do? I hope that some of my fellow students are having more success in the culinary world than I am. If I had to take two lessons from my experience, they would be as follows: first, it’s always good to broaden your horizon and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Second, to my shock, you can’t substitute sugar for flour. 

Aidan Kohn-Murphy ’22