Things you’ll never hear me say

I was chatting with a friend recently. HE was talking about cleaning the bathroom. As in, HE was cleaning the bathroom. Himself. With bleach! I mused that my dear husband has probably never begun a sentence with, “So ,the other day? When I was cleaning the bathroom, with bleach?…”

I shared this thought with my husband, and he chuckled and agreed. We started talking about things we would never be heard saying. He offered up one for himself: “No thanks, I think I have had enough beer.” Then I thought of another one: “No, here, let ME fix that!” Because one, the man does like him some beer, and two, he’s just not all that into fixing things. Neither am I. The Fixing Gene, while present in both of our families, seems to have skipped both of us. (Fortunately, we both got the genes for good looks and charming personality.) But given the choice between fixing something and, say, drinking a beer? Beer wins 10 out of 10 times.

Then I tried to come up with things you’ll never hear ME say. First place went to two related statements: “That’s okay, I’d rather not have a massage,” and “Please, stop scratching my back.” I will never refuse a good massage, and would never dream of asking anyone to stop scratching my back. I’d seriously let my husband go for hours if he would. He’s the best back scratcher around. Maybe I was a cat in a former life.

And really, who am I kidding? I honestly can’t remember the last time I myself began a sentence that had to do with using bleach to clean the bathroom. Both of my readers know by now that I’d rather be doing anything besides cleaning. And it’s not even that; it’s more that, with three boys and two hairy pets, the cleanliness/tidiness deck is certainly stacked against me.

It was a fun exercise, but we became stumped pretty fast. We were trying not to be too snarky, and frankly, that ended up being kind of limiting. We didn’t want to totally bust on each other, especially not if it was going to be blog fodder.

So, what is one thing that you’ll never be heard saying? Please, post yours in the comments. But use quotes, because if you don’t, then it’s like you’re SAYING IT, and we really want to avoid that, don’t we?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go fix something have a beer.

How to cook ravioli (in 23 easy steps)

Tonight’s dinner is coming straight from the freezer and the pantry. Except for the freshly-grated parmesan cheese (because there are no green cans of cheez allowed in my fridge), it’s all coming from jars, cans, or plastic bags. I enjoy cooking, but I really don’t consider this cooking. It’s more like heating up.

Of course, the jars and bags I’m using contain chopped prosciutto, pesto sauce, and pine nuts, and I’m going to sauté all of that with some olive oil for a quick and tasty sauce. For the grown-ups, that is; the boys prefer plain old butter and cheese. So maybe the “cooking” comes in when you can say, what can I throw together for dinner tonight from what’s already in my pantry, and come up with something other than popping open a jar of Ragu. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Ragu.)

As I’m putting the frozen ravioli into the pot of water, I check the package instructions to see how long it says to boil ‘em. Because in my mind, and maybe it’s just me, but there really isn’t a whole lot to cooking up some frozen ravioli. You get out your pot, you boil some water, you drop in the ravioli, and you boil ‘em till they’re done. Then you drain ‘em. How hard is that?

Well, apparently the good folks who make frozen ravioli are concerned that the potential for critical error exists at every turn. That’s why they helpfully included COOKING INSTRUCTIONS that have seven whole steps. I myself have parsed these instructions, and I am worried that despite their good intentions, the manufacturer may have left room for interpretation. In fact, seven steps may not be enough to prevent ravioli tragedies from occurring. That’s why, as a public service to my ravioli-challenged readers (and I mean no disrespect), I am providing additional explanation. I urge you to print this page and keep it handy near your stove so that next time you bust out a bag of ravioli, you will know exactly what to do.

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

1. DO NOT DEFROST. If Ravioli are stuck together, please do not try to separate. They will usually separate while cooking.

OK, so with the very first instruction they ARE YELLING AT YOU! Untold bad things may happen when you defrost. Immediately, they seem to regret having yelled at their consumer, for they throw in a polite “please” in the next sentence. Then they suggest that the Ravioli will “usually” separate while cooking, and are you with me when this makes me wonder, but what if they don’t? What if they all stick together? DO NOT ASK! JUST DO AS WE SAY!

2. Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil for every two servings (approximately 8 ) of Ravioli (salt optional).

Call me crazy, but I threw caution to the wind and eyeballed the water I put into my largest stock pot, and also? I failed to count the Ravioli to determine how many servings I was cooking. It was like, about half a bag-ish. Fortunately, this did not seem to matter, and every one of my approximately 16 Ravioli came out fine.

3. Place Ravioli into boiling water.

Is it just me, or should that have been Step 1?

4. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the Ravioli rise to the surface.

When I read that, naturally my first reaction was all, who are you to tell me which spoon I should use? In full rebellion against Step 4, I grabbed the closest metal spoon. Because first of all, I couldn’t reach the wooden spoons from where I was standing, and second of all, what difference does it make whether it’s wooden or metal? I’m stirring pasta in hot water. They might have done better to omit the “spoon” part of the instruction, because seriously? Are you going to plunge your arm into that hot water and stir?

5. Allow to simmer at a very slow boil for 5-7 minutes or until desired tenderness.

Here I was at Step 5, feeling like it should have been Step 2, yet still I had questions. Say I wasn’t an Experienced Cook. How would I know what a “very slow boil” is? At what temperature should I set my burner to achieve just the right rate of boil? And also, how in the heck do I know what “desired tenderness” is? Seems to me this is a good quality in a mate, for example, but as it applies to Ravioli, I’m at a bit of a loss.

6. Drain carefully.

Ah, the two-word sentence packs such a literary punch. Yet, after having been carefully guided around potential missteps in Steps 1 through 5, now I was faced with a decision: Do I fish the Ravioli out of the water with my spoon, or do I dump the whole thing into a colander? And if I do use a colander, can I use my metal colander, or would plastic be preferred? What dire consequences would befall the poor cook who chose to drain recklessly?

7. Serve with your favorite sauce.

After all of that, after painstakingly following the Steps 1 through 6, the bastards totally leave you hanging! What is your favorite sauce? What if it’s Ragu? Is the sauce ready or do you have to make it heat it up? What if you would prefer to have your Ravioli with no sauce at all? I feel like I just watched a Very Special Episode of a sitcom, only to be left hanging for a whole week to find out how it ends.

To me, it’s kind of like the shampoo instructions: Lather, Rinse, Repeat. BOIL. COOK. DRAIN. It’s not hard, people. It doesn’t warrant a seven-step process.

Back to your future?

Have you seen the car insurance commercials where the people are getting into their cars and saying things like, “today, I will be hit broadside by a drunk driver.” There’s one guy on that commerical who, as he is strapping a CHILD into a child car seat, matter-of-factly predicts the accident he’ll be in later that same day.

Yesterday, I heard a radio spot for a local hospital, using the same device. Loose transcript:

First Woman: What a lovely baby!

Other woman: Thank you! She’s eight weeks today.

Then First Woman reveals that she is a children’s heart surgeon with the area’s leading pediatric heart surgery hospital. The baby’s “heart suregon” and “neonatology nurse” also predict the future, as in, “we will perform heart surgery to correct a defect your baby’s heart, and “I am the nurse who will watch your baby EVERY MINUTE after surgery.” The mother says, with concern in her voice, “well, will, um, my baby be, OKAY?” And then you hear another woman say, “I am the case manager who will invite you and your baby back for our annual reunion of pediatric heart patients for many years to come.”

Well slap me and call me crazy, but these forward-looking commercials give me the full-on CREEPS. Perhaps it’s because I know a baby who did not survive his first year after multiple heart surgeries at the same hospital that’s advertising on the radio. Or maybe it’s because, as a parent, the actors’ matter-of-factness is incongruent with any parent’s urge to prevent harm from coming to their children. That dad, who’s strapping his baby into the seat while calmly predicting his accident later the same day? FREAKY. If he knows he’s going to have an accident, why isn’t he leaving the child at home?

Our deepest parental instinct is to prevent harm from coming to our children. That’s why I find the auto insurance commercial chilling. In the hospital commercial, the happy ending is implied in the invitation to reunions, but at the beginning, the mom has no idea who these strangers are, who say they will be doing HEART SURGERY on her baby. (!!) And that, I think, is why I find these commercials disturbing. They prey on our deepest fears in order to market their services.

I know times are tough, but should advertisers be allowed to use such blatant scare tactics to frighten us into paying for their services?