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playing chicken

Foibles in the kitchen are not unknown to me. From a chocolate layer cake fiasco (lucy bakes a cake) to flying salmon (swimming upstream) to ice cream sandwiches that gave new meaning to “beat the clock” (letting chips fall) — all of these previous adventures are familiar territory (along with others that I choose not to share out of the need to preserve even a modicum of self-respect). The experience behind cooking last night’s dinner, however, seems shareworthy enough for me to swallow my pride (you’re welcome).

It started out innocently enough (these things always do). It was a fairly simple task — baked, breaded, boneless chicken breasts. Easy peasy. Except. What should have been a dinner I can make in my sleep turned into a tear-the-kitchen-apart nightmare. To wit:

The trouble started somewhere between the marinade and breading steps. As I removed two of the chicken breasts from the marinade to coat them in breadcrumbs, I noted that each had a small piece just hanging off — pieces that I knew would burn if left on and baked. I expertly cut those off and put them to the side to discard. That done, breading resumed and the pan went into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Ta-da.

Or, more accurately, ta-dum. Because as I went to clean up my work area (as any cook knows, you’ve got to be super aggressive about cleaning up bowls, cutting boards, knives — in short, anything that may have come into contact with raw chicken), those two pieces that I had set aside to discard were now only one — that is, only one was there. The other had flown the coop.

What ensued was my looking in every possible hiding place. I removed everything from the countertop. No luck. I checked every inch of the kitchen floor. No clue. I opened all the drawers beneath the counter I had been working on and ransacked through them. Nada. All the drawers on the other side of the kitchen. The same. All the drawers in the bedroom even. (Did the chicken attach itself to my shirt? Did I then go into the bedroom, put away something in my dresser drawer, and have the chicken fall in? The fact that I hadn’t left the kitchen throughout this process wasn’t the point. The point was that it was now me versus the chicken and hell if it was going to win.)

When all else proved fruitless, I had no choice but to tackle the unenviable task of going through the trash, hoping to confirm that I had indeed thrown away the demon piece. No culprit chicken found. Ugh.

Why all the urgency you ask? Because, being blessed / not blessed with a writer’s imagination, I had visions of that piece of chicken deliberately hiding from me, not making itself known until hours (days?) later when I’d find it by following the horrid smell. To say nothing of then having to turn the kitchen upside down (again), this time in an effort to clean anything that might have come anywhere near it. And don’t even get me started on my worries that it might attract a picnic’s worth of ants. (Excuse me, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.)

Observing my whirling around and looking somewhat distraught, B. raised his eyebrows questioningly. I explained the ongoing crisis, and, nonplussed, my practical, pragmatic husband calmly said, “It’s got to be somewhere.” You think?

Finally, I surrendered. I threw my hands up to the kitchen gods, hoping for salvation. Maybe the fiendish fowl fragment had stuck to the other cut-off piece and had, indeed, safely made it into the trash undetected? Or maybe I had only hallucinated the two pieces and had, in reality, only sliced off and discarded one? Or, existentially, if a piece of chicken disappears completely was it ever really there at all?

My thoughts were interrupted by the ringing kitchen timer. Dinner was ready. Out of the oven it came, three crispy, golden brown, full-size pieces. And, then, after transferring them to a platter, I saw it. The fugitive, dangling piece. Hidden on the baking sheet behind the rest, it had been in the oven the whole time. Too well done to eat (which was my whole point behind trying to discard it to begin with) but, nevertheless, not lurking in some corner of the kitchen just waiting to wreak havoc.

I, apparently, had done enough wreaking on my own. Chickmate.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

One comment on “playing chicken

  1. So funny. You should write a book about your escapades!!!!!!!!!!!!

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