By Rodney Hays
What's in there making it green?"
It's rosemary and thyme.
What the ...?
That was my answer to my wife's question recently. We were watching the Food Network and one of the hosts was making some kind of bread concoction. She was kneading the dough and there were little flecks of green throughout the beige doughy mixture. My wife had stepped out of the room -- probably to bring me another glass of cold ice tea, but it could have been something for her -- and when she walked back in, she popped the question.
"What's she got in there making it green?"
And I knew the answer. Scary huh?
Twenty years ago I would have thought rosemary and thyme was some type of accounting office or interior decorator. I wouldn't know they were actual herbs -- not like guys named Herb as in Peaches and Herb, but actual herbs. When I was younger I was sort of a smart aleck. Here's the way the above conversation would've gone 20 years ago:
Wife: What's in there making it green?
Me: Boogers and lime Jell-O.
Me: Boogers and a lime Jell-O. You should have seen how she got it all in there.
Wife: That's disgusting.
Me: I told you we shouldn't be watching the Food Network. You would never see that type of stuff on MTV.
Wife: Isn't that the channel where they show all those shows where guys shoving menopausal porcupines up their noses to make the rest of the group laugh?
Wife: You are disgusting.
That was 20 years ago. Of course, 20 years ago we wouldn't have known what Food Network was either. And people shoving chili peppers up their nose were just trying to get into a fraternity.
Today is different. Today, I know what rosemary and thyme are. And I'm starting to learn to cook.
I remember my first cooking experience. Growing up, I didn't have to cook much. My mother is a saint of a woman and cooked pretty much every meal for us with the occasional meal out. And when I got married she taught my wife how to prepare many of my favorite dishes. But I felt like I needed to help.
I loved fried pork chops as a kid. And I thought my first meal should be fried pork chops.
After watching my mom make them for years, I figured I was pretty much an expert. At the grocery store, I carefully selected the prettiest of pork chops for my meal, took them home, plastered them with flour and stuck them in the frying pan.
Shortly thereafter, my wife came home from work to find smoke billowing out of the windows. She opened the door to a shrieking fire alarm and a living room and kitchen dense with smoke. After a quick check to see if I was in the room, I admitted that I was and that the pork chops "might be a little well done." She asked something about "did I put oil in the pan first?" to which I answered "just boogers and lime Jell-O."
The good news is I didn't burn down the house and I got much better. But not immediately.
We had college friends over one night for a little fellowship. I decided to treat the girls to some homemade nachos, not the kind you just nuke in the microwave.
I meticulously piled each chip high with beans, cheese and jalapenos then stuck them in the oven to melt the cheese.
Five minutes later I opened the oven door to what I assumed would be perfectly cooked nachos. What I found instead was what some scientist call, and I quote, "a raging inferno."
Yes, you can leave nachos in the oven too long, I quickly found out.
But I was not lost forever in the kitchen.
Fast forward a couple of years. I had another job that allowed me some free time, so I decided to help out around the house and cook a little. I tried pork chops again -- this time with oil in the pan first -- and I ventured out to other stuff like spaghetti, tacos and something called Hamburger Helper. I got pretty good at it too. I could cook up a decent meal in a little less than 30 minutes without burning down the house or poisoning the kids. I call that a success.
Now, fast forward a few more years. The Food Network has become a sensation. I'm not a smart aleck anymore. And I know my way around a kitchen. I even have several knives in my drawer -- the big, sharp kind -- that I can tell the business end from the other end. I can cut up a bell pepper to compete with some of the best chefs in America and beyond.
I'm branching out and cooking things that I read about in a book or on the Internet -- The Source Of All Truth. And every now and again, I pick up some things on the Food Network that I can use in my very own kitchen.
Things sure have changed in the past 20 years.
The Food Network has more viewers than some of the shows I watched as a kid. MTV has gotten away from music videos and now host shows about girls getting pregnant in third grade. And I enjoy some time in the kitchen.
So, you should come over sometime this week. I'm thinking about making my famous boogers and lime Jell-O with rosemary and thyme, of course.