The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Being a 'Creative Chef' has its benefits


As I was growing up, I sometimes wondered why I wasn’t as good at working with wood as my older brothers, Danny, Wayne and Butch. And, no, getting paddled at school with a wooden board does not make someone an expert on woodworking … although I could have sworn it made me taller and for sure it did make me much more appreciative of thick sweatpants.

But I digress ...

Really, measuring, cutting and shaping a piece of wood into something useful is an amazing talent. And, when my father wasn’t having me putty baseboards or sand cabinets, I always marveled at the things they could make. On those rare occasions that I wanted to work with wood, my mother would kindly pull me back and tell me, “God gives everyone a gift, son. You just have to find yours.” It wasn’t until some years later that I realized she and my father just didn’t want me anywhere near sharp objects or nails, or anything else that I could turn into an accident and a trip to the hospital.

So I admit it: Carpentry is not a skill the Big Carpenter In The Sky blessed me with … along with plumbing, painting, masonry or most anything else one could consider useful. But some might say that nowhere am I more challenged than in the field of cooking. Bless my mother’s heart, she tried to teach me the basic skills I would one day need as a bachelor. Somewhere after “put water in the pot” I must have taken a wrong turn. If it is less basic than putting a pastry in the toaster, I pretty much suck at following directions.

I stink at washing dishes, too. Not because it is hard but because it is boring.

I tell you this because I was just thinking of the time I was sitting in a restaurant at nearly midnight watching my kids swallow food like sharks attacking a tuna.

As a cooking-challenged person I had it easy when She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Made-Mad and I were first married. We agreed early on that as long as I could watch the kids while she cooked and do the dishes afterward, we were all happy. On those occasions when she was at work and able to cook, though, no one was thrilled—and I had to get creative.

As I remember, those days usually sounded a lot like:

Bobby: Mom, are you working at the movie theater tonight?

SWMNBMM: Yes, son. I am.

Kayme: Oooooh nooooo!

SWMNBMM: Bug, (that’s short for “Bugger,” our youngest daughter’s nickname) your dad is going to make y’all something to eat.

All four kids: Oooooooh nooooo!

Bobby: Can we go to work with you?


Whitney: Do you have time to cook before you go?


Tommy Jr.: I’m just going to eat dirt.

SWMNBMM would give them each a hug before leaving and assure them that I would feed them a balanced meal. At that point, Tommy Jr. would hide under the bed. Kayme would chew on Barbie’s head. Whitney would phone a friend. And Bobby would start looking for some tender grass.

Now, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, “His cooking skills can’t be that bad.”

I would tend to agree with you. I would say I am actually a very good cook with extremely progressive ideas. I’m kind of like the first guy who cut his hair into a mohawk and then said, “Wow! This could be cool!”

Although I am no chef (because ADD, plus reading all of those darn instructions in a book is boring!), I think I do well in the kitchen. I think it would be safe to consider me a “Creative Chef.” For instance, if I have a box of spaghetti, a couple of wieners, a can of peas and one each of corn and ranch-style beans, some cilantro, a jalapeno and some salt, we can have Cowboy Spaghetti a la Vegetable. Honestly, it’s like Western, Italian, Mexican and whatever wieners are all rolled into one. And it is balanced because you have the meats, the breads and the vegetables. It’s probably better for you than peanut-butter and jelly.

[Editor’s note: Anyone wanting to use this recipe should be aware of one thing. Jalapenos can get a bit spicy.]

Being the super dad I am, I whipped up the cowboy surprise one night and set it on the stove with a stack of plates. I was ready to hear, “I’m hungry!”

But amazingly, they never mentioned food … until SWMNBMM came home.

“Didn’t you feed them?” she asked (with that scary face wives can have that’s friendly and threatening at the same time).

“I made them something,” I said. “It’s on the stove.”

Being the nosy type of person she was, she went to look.

And now you know why I was sitting in Whataburger at midnight …

On the bright side, there was only one pot to wash when we got home. Guess my cooking skills saved the day after all.

(Tommy Wells is the editor of the Seward Phoenix LOG. Everything in this column is true, except for the parts that have been fabricated, exaggerated or are just plain lies.)


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