Thursday, 30 December 2010

Chilli con Carnage

In a deviation from your regularly scheduled programming, you will be Cooking With Soper today. Like Reinbold, I am a first-year Engling at Robinson, and like Reinbold, my incompetence in the kitchen is staggering. However, I am usually much quieter about my ineptitude. While Lotte produced and blogged the Saucepan Salad for her Engling Come Dine With Me week, I weaselled out of mine altogether. I seem to think that if I simply never cook anything for anyone else ever, people might assume I'm actually a capable – nay, a proficient cook, and I simply choose not to flaunt my ability. Perhaps I'm such a good cook that cooking itself has become tiresome child's play, and I have moved on to astrophysics, dactyliology, or something equally badass.

However, I found myself in a position this holiday where, as a matter of honour, as a matter of duty, I needed to actually produce some food. You see, Thespian Affairs I-IV have been hosted by my friend Jen. Jen is 26, has a house, and actually knows how to cook and things. But, somehow, this happened: “I'LL HAVE IT AT MY PLACE”, said I, blithely ignorant of the fact that this meant I would have to produce a main course for five people. Four of these people are close friends I hadn't seen for a while; if I failed in my mission, they could well die from food poisoning, disown me as a friend, or BOTH. The fifth is my boyfriend, who might find my lack of housewifely potential unacceptable and run off with some girl who has won prizes for her pot roast. So, reader, as you can see, the stakes were high. It's hard out there for a pimp girl who can't cook.

However, before I could have a nervous breakdown, I decided to unleash my secret weapon: my mother, she of the top grade at Cookery O-level, who for years has despaired of my culinary shortcomings. Delighted by what she saw as a newfound interest in cooking (rather than a doomed attempt to pretend to my friends that I'm a functional human being), she decided that I would serve chilli.

Chopping peppers and onions was just about straightforward enough, as was frying the beef, even though in my efforts to turn it over so the other side could brown, I succeeded in launching quite a lot of it across the kitchen. Possibly the highlight of the entire session was the addition of spices, particularly paprika, which was formerly known to me only in its Pringle incarnation. However, the intricacies of preparation were, well, intricate enough that had I not had my mother (who thinks of herself as a Nigella Lawson type, but in teaching me to cook is more like Gordon Ramsay) hovering over me and correcting my errors, I would undoubtedly have been sunk. I did, admittedly, have to portion the chilli out in a mug, because I couldn't find a ladle, but this is a negligible detail.

Tastiness - 7/10 - People ate it. Although the only proper evaluation I could get out of anyone was "it would have been better with lesbians".
Likeliness to set off a fire alarm - 1/10 in my house, but probably 9.9/10 if I ever attempted this within the kiln that is Robinson.
Likeliness to cause a fatal coronary, 20 years down the line - 2/10 - it must be healthy; my mother suggested it.

Friends lost (through death or disowning) with this endeavour - 0! All of them still speak to me, at least.
Casualties - 2 - I burnt my knuckle putting the big silver pot into the oven, and then I knocked a vase over before anyone arrived.

These positive figures are, however, misleading. This would not be a good thing to cook at university. I wouldn't have the time, energy, or enthusiasm to make something this elaborate when I have an essay due and I could just apathetically throw together my faithful pasta carbonara instead. This is why I will never have my own cookery blog, nor will I rise to the dizzy culinary heights that Reinbold someday shall. If she, in her foodie mid-life crisis, is jetting off to the Continent with an office temp called Sandra, I am listening to my wife Irene shout shrilly from the kitchen; but, despite knowing I'm the wrong side of forty and that my bald patch is growing ever larger, all I can muster the energy to do is turn the volume up one more notch on the telly.

This is Katherine's first (and most likely last) guest-blog at Cooking With Reinbold. Her interests include berets, the acquisition of chocolate chip digestives, and Martin Clunes.


  1. Soper, this is SUPERB! I love it. You MUST guest-blog more often! Also, we need to get Nautilus in on the act xxx

  2. Also, Martin Clunes, Martin Clunes, ding ding ding ding, Martin Clunes...