It was my big shot at television stardom -- and I blew it.
About a year and a half ago, I got a call from a talent scout at Food Network who had heard through the grapevine that I was a notoriously terrible cook. She told me that the cable network was developing a show called "America's Worst Cooks" and she thought I might qualify.
"That sounds perfect for me!" I said.
They were looking for home cooks who were unable to produce an edible meal. At the time, I could barely prepare toast without putting the fire company down the block on alert.
"I'm your gal!"
But I quickly realized that I was not up for the challenge. While my culinary failures are legendary, I was not prepared to abandon my family and hole up for the long-term with a bunch of other bad cooks.
Last night I tuned in to a repeat of the show. Watching the contestants stumble through the kitchen, I realized that I've come a long way since that phone call. Not only can I now prepare toast (without setting off any alarms), but I can also whip up any number of other more complicated dishes.
Still, I could relate to so many of the contestants -- the young college grad who feared people's disgusted reaction to her cooking, the housewife who felt like a failure because she couldn't prepare a meal for her family, the woman who was afraid she'd cut or burn herself in the kitchen.
I'm not sure I would fare well in the competition since I don't cook well under pressure. But at least now I know how to properly hold a knife. I definitely don't regret my decision not to abandon my family for a shot at TV fame, but I wouldn't mind a Culinary Boot Camp for myself.
I definitely benefited from the quick knife skills lesson on last night's program. Here's a brief recap:
Chop - The most basic knife skill, which is used for foods that don't need to be cut in uniform shapes and sizes. To hold the knife properly, put your middle, ring and pinky fingers around the handle, and grip the blade with your index finger and thumb.
Julienne- To julienne, cut food into rectangular one-eighth-inch planks. Then stack the planks on top of each other and slice lengthwise into one-eighth-inch strips.
Chiffonade- A technique which is used to cut herbs and other leafy green vegetables into long, thin strips. Stack the leaves, roll them tightly, then cut across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife, producing fine ribbons.
Slice- You can make slices as thin or as thick as you want. Slice vegetables on the diagonal at 1/2-inch intervals with knife held at a 45 degree angle during slicing.
In all of these cases, make sure that your knife is sharp and watch out for those fingers!
You can bet I'll be tuning into "America's Worst Chef" next week to get some more pointers.