Between our son’s persistent earache, the ongoing frigid temperatures and my husband’s extended coaching hours—though his basketball team is competing for the championship and I’m trying to be enthusiastic—we’ve had a trying week. So I decided to boost our spirits tonight with some comfort food. I felt our travails called for breakfast for dinner, pancakes and bacon to be exact—except that, for me, even these basic dishes prove a challenge.


First of all, premixed pancake batter still involves a measuring cup, which kind of throws me, not to mention a large, messy bowl and skillet, all of which need washing up. I tend to over-beat the slop, so the flapjacks end up rubbery. I can never decide whether or not to add butter to the pan. When I do, it scorches; when I don’t, the cakes stick. And if I get distracted during the flipping—which often happens with twin 6-year-olds and a 2-year-old under foot—I wind up with chewy, charred discs.


My husband is no help. He only made his first pancake at my behest earlier this winter, at age 43. The result was somewhat underwhelming. Besides, Jeff wasn’t even home tonight to take over if I’d wanted him to.


To complicate matters, I find simultaneously cooking pancakes and bacon, not to mention eggs, next to impossible, so some part of the meal always sits and gets cold. And while my mother’s version of pork chops and applesauce was bacon and applesauce, I neglected to pay attention or to pick up any tips. Thus I brim with bacon frying-related questions, such as whether to put on the lid while cooking to contain the splatter. But once breakfast—or in this case, dinner—concludes, I lose interest and never pursue the answers.


Tonight, I did recall a moment at a Pampered Chef party I recently attended where I saw a metal screen that fits over a pan and provides a shield for frying. But due to a paralysis that seized me during the event, as I realized just how deficient my kitchen was and just how deficient I was in it, I went home empty handed—and a little resentful. All I could think about as my friend’s friend demonstrated knives, spatulas and meat cleavers was how to use these items as weapons. I even fantasized about whacking someone over the head with the 10-inch sauté pan she passed around.


But as the hot grease hopped all over my stove, walls and countertop this evening, I wished I’d paid a little more attention—and maybe a few bucks for that metal screen gizmo. It didn’t help that in my haste to dispatch the whole affair of dinner, I had dumped in the entire package of bacon to fry at once. The house was filling with a smoldering haze. I kept waiting for the smoke alarm to sound. It never did, which may indicate another area of deficiency in my housewifery skills: a persistent reluctance to replace batteries. And then I failed to allow the oil cool before I poured it into a plastic bottle, which the searing liquid lard instantaneously shriveled in my sink, sending noxious fumes into the thickening smog.


“Dinner!” I cried, tossing pieces of charred bacon, leathery pancakes and applesauce squeezers onto three plates.


But my kids ate every bite. They even asked for seconds. And the best part was I couldn’t hear their questions and complaints over the din of the wheezing fan trying to exhale the smoke from our kitchen.


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