Why I Shouldn’t Be Left In The Kitchen


So I picked up a box of paczki from the Quality Dairy convenience store. I’d had to pop in for cash anyway and they had so many boxes of so many doughnuts that it felt like a mercy to buy some. Plus I was thinking of my father, who can’t appreciate them considering the state he’s in (South Carolina). On the box’s side is a paragraph of information titled The Paczki Tradition, provided I guess in the charming belief that Americans might require some coaxing into eating doughnuts that are slightly thicker than usual.

The paragraph, by one Herbert A Holinko, “Recipient of the Cavalier’s Cross, Poland’s highest civilian award”, explains that they’re made of the finest ingredients and covered with several types of sugar or glaze, and was traditionally made “to use up the ingredients in our households” before the Lenten fasts. I hope he means using up doughnut ingredients. If we tried to use up all the ingredients in our pantry ahead of Lent we’d be making paczki bulging with rice, dry spaghetti, six different bottles of vinegar each with about a quarter-inch of liquid we assume to be vinegar in them, packets of mee goreng-flavored ramen noodles, and a bin of those Boston Baked Beans candies that we only tried for the first time like a month ago and it turns out they’re pretty great. I cannot say what kind of pastry this bundle of ingredients would produce but I imagine anyone eating it would fall back on the oft-used “Frankensteinian” adjective before fleeing our house, never to return.

Holinko also explains “Our German neighbors to the west call them Berliners and our Austrian friends to the south celebrate with the Krapfen”. This is, I believe, the kindest thing any high-ranking Polish person has said about Germans or Austrians since 1683, when Jan Sobieski said, “You know, I like these coffee shops Vienna’s got all of a sudden, and this bagel thing seems like a good idea if we just added some salt or garlic or maybe chocolate chips and blueberries to it. Anyway, good start, maybe needs just a little work or cinnamon jalapeno cream cheese”.

I got to a little bit of work on a bagel yesterday when I realized we’d forgot to take any out of the freezer and wanted to have one as breakfast. Rather than give up on the bagel idea, maybe having the ramen instead, maybe carving a hole out of the center of a potato and smearing enough cream cheese on it that nobody would care about the difference instead. Since I had already gone plainly mad — it was a salt bagel, not a plain, anyway — I tried defrosting it in the microwave.

The microwave has got a defrost setting, I assume, somewhere in that collection of neglected buttons showing pictures of potatoes and popcorn and pizza and whatever other foods whose name starts with the letter ‘P’ they could think of. So I tried setting it for sixty seconds on fifty percent power and the microwave went to work on a sixty-minute cooking cycle and that is not me comically exaggerating, that is me somehow failing to press ‘6 0 Power 5 Start’. And here I need to point out that while it is technically true that I hold a doctorate in mathematics from a very well-regarded university, microwave oven button use constitutes only a very small section of one course in Functional Analysis and it’s not like you remember everything you get to in a course like that.

So I got that straightened out and the bagel down to defrosting for two minutes, at the end of which … it was piping hot and soft and, when I sliced it open, warm and flaky, with little clouds of steam rising and I’m not certain but I believe that an angel rose up from its center and gently brushed my cheek. I have known harder croissants, not to mention firmer clouds of water vapor, and I’ve been feeling guilty ever since that I committed some gross offense against the laws of bagel-preparing. I wouldn’t have had this problem with ramen; there’s very little need to defrost that, most of the time.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

16 thoughts on “Why I Shouldn’t Be Left In The Kitchen”

  1. 1. if you can pronounce paczky, you can say (keen wa)
    2. your father in s.c. can buy you boiled peanuts
    3. ich bin ein berliner means i am a jelly doughnut..(that’s what my german, german teacher said..she said kennedy should have said : ich bin berliner
    4. my m-i-l told me if you heat bread in a microwave, it gets hard very fast….but a few seconds like 5 & check is all to defrost.

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    1. Oh, my father’s mentioned the boiled peanuts, but we didn’t have the chance for any when we visited him last month. It was a bit of a whirlwind visit made more whirled by the airline messing up every stage of our journey.

      I was taking a wild guess about how to defrost a frozen bagel, and the end result was novel at least. I’m not sorry it worked out that way.

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        1. After my experience trying to fly to Charleston, I am not sure there’s actually an airport south of Virginia, but we did go through something. It was kind of a trying series of flights. I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about it yet.

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        2. i can certainly understand…once i flew charleston to charlotte to my dr.. i called cab 24 hours in advance for cab & 3 hours early to leave…they came late .i had to wait 3 hours for next plane, after a car wreck in a wheel chair for the next plane.. then the pilot asked me out. what a fruit cake.

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        3. Wow; that’s a heck of an adventure. My mother had suggested she drive from Charleston to Charlotte to pick us up, but that seemed like it was going to be too much trouble. On the other hand, compared to sitting around the airport all day … well, that’s not too bad either since I had enough books to last me.

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        4. i can tell you an adventure. don’t ever ask your husband the distance from charleston to charlotte, b/c you are used to going from greenville to charlotte,b/c he will leave you at his mother’s house & send a process server to dvorce you. lol
          yall could have come to my house, if i was still there…4 miles & one left from airport

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        5. To be fair to them this was in the midst of a major aviation mess screwing up the entire Northeast, but the proximate cause was the guy rebooking at the first airport was apparently a trainee and not up to the crisis. The airline we eventually got a flight from explained that Frontier had been sending reserved-but-not-actually-booked rebookings to them all afternoon.

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  2. I read once that the purpose behind spring cleaning was to ensure there is no unleavened bread crumbs in the couch cushions or other parts of the house before lent. I assume cleaning out the pantry would have a similar purpose.

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    1. I hadn’t heard of that before, but it does feel like, if not part of the tradition, at least part of how people would explain the tradition (if you see the difference I’m drawing there).

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