Berger’s Burg: Columnist’s cooking skills fall short of his expectations

By Alex Berger

There are some wives who think we men cannot cook. Nonsense! I happen to be the originator of the “hot yo-yos” — spaghetti wrapped around meatballs.

I was brought up in an era when men were men and women were … well, you know the rest. I participated in masculine sports during my youth — stickball, football, basketball — but no sissy games like tennis or golf.

Our freezer is small and I buy food that fits. If the available freezer space is two inches here, four inches there and seven inches everywhere, I pick a chicken two-by-four-by-seven. And I take the chicken’s left leg and wrap it around its neck. I am then able to take my four frozen meatballs and store them under the chicken’s wing.

Beer drinking with the boys, four years in the U.S. Air Force and amateur boxing shaped my macho-ness. To this day, I can never look a quiche in the eye, but I am going to let you in on my closely guarded secret: I enjoy cooking. And this was before Emeril.

It took more than the first three months of my married life to discover I cannot open an egg with a can opener.

I experienced this phenomenon when I was a bachelor, convalescing at home after minor surgery. On Sunday, my four sisters would bring me the Sunday newspapers containing the food sections. I would then clip the best recipes of the week and save them for the time I marry and have a kitchen of my own.

I make the best salmon dishes: salmon croquettes, salmon steaks and salmon salads. But twice a year I have the urge to go north and spawn.

I finally married, but had an immediate problem convincing my beloved to turn over her spatula and cooking apron to me. Gloria finally did when I said I would make her my specialty: a meat loaf and peach cobbler dinner. As both were cooling off she asked, “Which is which?” Oh, the agony of it all! But my teacher-wife smiled and said, “Try again.”

I run the only kitchen where flies come to commit suicide.

The next day I prepared dinner again. I cooked dehydrated food but forgot to add water. Gloria went out in the rain and gained 20 pounds. And to my dismay, the tea biscuits were so hard she had to rivet on the butter. But she kept smiling and, to lift my spirits, said Rachael Ray would never throw a rock through my window.

My T-bones were not bad once I tenderized the gravy.

But my wife says I am a religious cook. Everything I cook is a burnt offering and tastes like the last supper. I once burned my shopping list. When I am finished burning a roast, it can only be forensically identified through dental records.

My sweetheart gives my leftovers to our cat. The vet says the animal has only four lives left.

Nonetheless, Gloria is pleased when I make a salad for dinner. She does not smell anything burning. She informed me there were other flavors to food besides charcoal. I wear a fireman’s hat when cooking and the handiest appliance in our kitchen is the fire extinguisher. To get out of the funk, I bought myself a French cookbook. But I could not get the foreign parts.

In my house, we have Pepto-Bismol on tap.

To make matters worse, I lost my secret recipe for making orange juice and I stopped making spaghetti. I cook it too long — four feet. On the positive side, I learned never to use recipes that add chicken fat to eggs Benedict. But I kept trying to improve my gastronomical skills and my cooking has improved. To wit: I never melt steaks anymore and all my lumps are bite-sized.

I have the only dining room with a garbage disposal for a centerpiece.

I still remember when our two sons were young. Gloria would call them to dinner by yelling, “Dinner’s on the table. Come and guess it.” And for punishment, Gloria would give them seconds. I always liked to save leftovers because that was what they were at the end of meals.

Kissing does not last; cookery does.

I once set a world record: a 22-pound meat loaf. Gloria used it as a springboard for her kindergarten class. She could not eat my hamburgers either, so she soaped them up and cleaned the sink. And that’s not all. She patched a football bladder with one of my pancakes.

But all good things came to an end when Gloria secretly whispered that every time she leaves the dining table, she runs the risk of being arrested for leaving the scene of a crime. I took the hint, but I did find a new way to keep our kitchen sparkling clean.

We eat out.

Contact Alex Berger at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com.

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