The Shepard’s Pie Experience
I wrote this short story for an assignment in my Expository class, and I enjoyed writing this so much that I decided to post it on my blog. It originally an essay for an assignment that asked the class to review instructions for whatever activity we selected. I decided to go with a recipe. After that assignment was completed, we were asked to change our paper. I decided to change my essay into a narrative. My professor said that we could write fiction. Unfortunately, my story is all too real to be fiction.
The Shepard’s Pie Experience
“Mom, I’m going to cook a dish for a class assignment,” I said after my mother had finally answered the phone.
“You’re cooking?” She asked. I sighed as I prepared for the inevitable. I already knew where this conversation was headed.
“Yes,” I answered. There was a long pause.
“In my kitchen?” She finally asked.
“Yes, Mom. I’m going to cook Shepard’s Pie.” I said as I searched through the cabinets for the right utensils.
“Where are all the pots and pans?”
“Oh goodness, Samyra get out of my kitchen,” I heard my mom say. “Do you even know what Shepard’s Pie tastes like? Why can’t you try cooking an easier recipe like tuna salad?”
“Yes, I know what Shepard’s Pie tastes like and tuna salad doesn’t involve any cooking.”
“Exactly! Fix that for the class assignment.” I found what I was looking for and switched to speaker phone so I could pull out a few pots and pans from the lower cabinets.
“I’ll call you later when I finish cooking, Mom.” I called out to the cell phone. The line was silent for a few moments.
“Okay,” my mom finally said with a sigh.
“Either I’ll call you or the fire department will.”
“Bye!” I ended the call before she went into another tirade about my cooking skills.
Honestly, it was more like my lack of cooking skills. I decided to find a recipe that was easy for beginners to attempt. Unfortunately, Shepard’s Pie isn’t the easiest dish to cook, but once my mind (or stomach) was set on something, it was difficult for me to change my decision. Besides, I haven’t burned down a kitchen yet.
I had searched the day before for the perfect recipe. I’m just glad Google was invented. It took longer than I expected, but I finally narrowed down my results to two recipes. In the end, I went with the one with fewer ingredients and less prep time. The author kept worrying about keeping the dish authentic by using lamb, but I had no lamb in my kitchen. Unfortunately, I switched the first two steps of cooking any recipe. I bought ingredients, then found the recipe, and hoped that what I bought would match what was required.
After I finally had the utensils spread out on the counter, I grabbed the onion and began peeling. My cell phone started ringing again and I glanced down to see my mom’s picture on it. I pressed the speaker symbol and my mom’s voice filled the room.
“Can’t you wait until I get home? We can find a different recipe,” she said. I wiped at my eyes that were beginning to burn as more of the inner onion was being exposed.
“I’ve already started cooking,” I said as I backed away from the onion. I snatched up a paper towel and drenched it with water before dabbing at my eyes. I took a deep breath and approached the onion for a second time. With a knife in one hand, I began chopping it into pieces.
“Of all the recipes you had to choose this one,” my mom scolded. I grabbed the entire paper towel and wiped my face with it. It still didn’t help.
“Mom, I’ll call you back. I’m chopping onions,” I said as I walked to the other side of the kitchen. I wiped my eyes a few more times before walking back over to the half-chopped onion. I pulled out a drawer, ripped off a piece of tin foil, and wrapped the other half up before placing it in the refrigerator. That was enough onion chopping for me. I tossed the rest into one of the pans on the stove and heated it up to sauté them.
“And another thing-” I looked over at the phone. I thought that she had already hung up.
“Mom, aren’t you still at work?” I asked as I washed my hands. I didn’t know then but I know now, washing with soap and water doesn’t neutralize the onion smell.
“I’m on my lunch break,” she snapped back. “How long does it take to cook this recipe?”
“Too long,” I exclaimed, “They want me to make the mashed potatoes from scratch!” I stirred the onions as they began to cook.
“And you didn’t know this from the directions? Samyra, did you actually read the recipe before you started cooking?”
“Mother,” I said in the same condescending tone as I continued stirring, “Think about who you’re asking this question to.”
“Oh goodness,” she said for the second time. I could hear voices in the background as she leaned towards someone. “She’s going to burn my kitchen down,” I heard her say to someone. Laughter could be heard in the background as my mom continued speaking. “Keep the fire extinguisher close by.”
“I’m not going to burn anything,” I said.
“That’s what they always say until they’re explaining what went wrong to the firefighters,” she chided. “Can’t you just write a paper? You’re an English major not a chef in training.”
“Bye, Mom,” I said for the second time. I pressed the end call button and removed the cooked onions from the stove. At least I did something right. Now the real work was going to begin. I walked over to where the potatoes were stored and grabbed a few handfuls. Then, I carried them back over to the sink to wash and peel them. I glanced at the recipe as I walked by. Maybe I should have read the actual directions instead of choosing a recipe based off of the ingredients.
Just as I turned on the faucet, my phone started ringing again. I reached over and pressed the speaker button.
“You’re actually cooking? By yourself?” My aunt’s voice resonated throughout the room.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Why?” She asked incredulously. I leaned closer to the phone but she didn’t give me a chance to answer. “Can’t you cook something easier than Shepard’s Pie?”
“My mom called you?” I asked as I stepped to the left to turn off the faucet.
“Yes, now answer the question. Can’t you cook something else, anything else besides that dish?”
“Like tuna salad?” I joked.
“Exactly!” She said without missing a beat. I covered my face with my hands as my aunt continued to list all the reasons why I shouldn’t be in the kitchen cooking. I knew that if one aunt was informed about something, then all of the aunts would know, and if they all knew, then I could expect four more calls within the next hour. I turned the volume down on the phone as my aunt continued on with her rant. It was going to be a long day.
It felt like an eternity before I was able to scoop all the ingredients into a casserole dish. I carried the heavy pot of the most hated mashed potatoes over to the stove and sat it beside the glass dish. My arms felt like I had been lifting weights and I definitely resented this authentic dish for it. I glanced at the recipe one last time before grabbing a spoon and shoveling the mashed potatoes out of the pot and dropping them over the rest of the ingredients. I reached over and turned the oven on to the required temperature, then snatched up the casserole dish and placed it inside. There was going to be no preheating for this recipe. I already felt like I couldn’t look at it again without getting angry. I glanced over at the sheet of paper again and picked it up and crumbled it in my hands. A tiny bit of satisfaction crossed my mind as I tossed it into the trash can. I walked out of the kitchen and over to the family room to watch TV. This was my favorite part of cooking. I didn’t mind putting something in the oven and waiting. Waiting for food to cook was something I’d perfected over the years.
The sound of angels singing reached my ears as the oven notified me of my cooked dish. I raced into the kitchen and turned the oven off. As I pulled the door open, I was met with the beautiful sight of my final product. The food looked like perfection from inside its dish. I pulled on my oven mittens and lifted the heavy dish onto the stove. Then, I quickly retrieved my fork and plate and scooped some of the food out. It smelled delicious as I carried it to the table, and my growling stomach seemed to approve. Just as I sat down, my phone rang again.
“Yes, Mom?” I said without looking to see who had called. I knew it was going to be her.
“I’m just checking to make sure you didn’t burn anything,” she said.
“No I didn’t,” I answered, “In fact, I made the perfect Shepard’s Pie.”
“Have you tasted it yet?”
“Then how do you know it’s perfect?” I could hear the disbelief in her voice. I picked up a small amount on my fork.
“Well, it looks great and I’m about to eat some of it.” The line went quiet as she waited for my reaction. I placed a chunk into my mouth and chewed. My jaw stopped moving as the flavors, or lack thereof, swept across my tongue. Only water could be blander than this. After much effort, I finally swallowed the food.
“Well?” My mom asked. Her question was met with a defeated sigh from my end. “It was that bad?”
“Yeah,” I finally said.
“Really,” I repeated. I placed the fork onto the plate and pushed the dish far away from me. The line had gone quiet again.
“Well,” she said, “I told you to make tuna salad.”
“Mom!” I shouted into the phone.
“Bye,” she said while barely holding in her laughter. She ended the call before I could say anything else. I glanced at the failed dish before putting my head down on the table. She was never going to let me forget this, and if she remembered, she’d make sure that the rest of the family remembered. I sighed again as I stood up and grabbed the plate. At least I won’t be expected to cook anything next Thanksgiving Day. I walked back over to the kitchen with a little more spring in my step. I liked waiting for food anyways.