Donít know what I was thinking when I subbed out pineapple juice for liquid smoke in that fish dish, and Iíll never forgive myself for taking a flier on dill weed when the recipe clearly called for cayenne pepper in that pasta thing I threw together.
But Iíve always had a good, old time playing around with ingredients, using the recipe more as a list of helpful suggestions rather than ironclad edicts that must be obeyed.
And most of the time my culinary ad-libs work.
This, of course, horrifies my wife if she catches me doubling the garlic while ignoring the onion nearly altogether when Iím whipping up my pork chop surprise.
But thatís fine. Sheís a rule follower, and, well, Iím not.
This, I believe, is a key element in creating a happy marriage. One side balances the other, sort of like riding a seesaw, something weíll have been doing for 30 years come fall.
Together, we spice things up, and together, we chow down.
Such was the case last weekend when, on a whim, I decided that it was high time we experimented with the deep fryer; after all it had been nearly 10 years since we got it as a Christmas present from my niece and her husband, and all that time it had just been sitting there on an upper shelf above the stove, more a decoration than a cooking implement.
Two things had kept me from playing around with it.
First, my wife has a deep and abiding loathing for anything that messes up the kitchen, and this thing promised to spew boiling oil all over the walls, dripping down like the blood-soaked denouement of ďNight of the Living Dead.Ē
Second, I figured it wouldnít work properly. Iíve dealt with woks indoor barbecues and ex-boxer grills. Theyíre hardly ever worth the effort.
Maybe I can blame my mother for this bit of reluctance.
She was, if you held an ice pick to my head and if I had to be brutally honest, an average cook, which isnít to say that I wouldnít give up my entire collection of Hunter Thompson books just to enjoy a supper of her minute steaks and BB shots once more.
But when she did take chances, well, letís just say that itís a good thing the larder had plenty of peanut butter and jelly.
Once, after sheíd won a fondue dish when she and my father finished last in a bridge tournament, Mom served up a heaping helping of what can only be called pus on toast. It was inedible, just the worst kind of stinky, runny slop that ever graced a table.
And was I the kind, understanding, eldest child of three, setting a good example for my siblings? That would be a world of no.
But do I feel badly about the foul language and cruel invective that I hurled her way? Well, sort of.
Now that Iím a lot older than that cynical kid I was, I more than understand that taking a risk in the kitchen takes guts. So when I experimented with the deep fryer, I was fully prepared to deal with my wifeís disappointment.
But sometimes miracles happen, and the chicken wings I created turned out so well that even I was surprised.
ďTheyíre perfect,Ē my wife said, savoring a spicy garlic wing. ďBetter than the takeout youíve been getting all these years.Ē
And it was true.
Ever since we moved to Eastern Carolina at the turn of the century, Iíve been like a latter-day Dionysius, searching not for an honest man but for the best wings place on the coast.
The one time I thought Iíd finally found it, the joint closed within a few months.
And now, well, it looks like the deep fryer and I have begun a beautiful friendship. Stop in anytime youíre in the neighborhood for a taste treat.
Published: March 20, 2017