After Hurricane Katrina flooded my sister's home with 10 feet of water, I discovered I could use her horrible misfortune to my advantage. I know, it's terrible isn't it? Still, bear with me, it's not like I stole her kidneys while she was distracted and doubled over with grief and confusion. You see, she lost her kitchen and was forced to use the kitchen of a FEMA trailer. If you have never been inside of a FEMA trailer, it's okay. Just reach back in your brain for the memory of the Barbie RV. Got it? Now strip it of Ken, Barbie and anything resembling a high end appliance and voila, you have a FEMA trailer kitchen picture, actual size.
My sister, Angelle, is a fabulous cook. She is the kind of person who not only has a crock pot, but actually uses it for something other than queso dip at parties. She has figured out how to actually cook whole meals in that silly little pot that I thought was just an over sized warmer. So, when that whore Katrina stole her beautiful kitchen and all her beautiful appliances, I struck. The conversation went something like this...
"Hey Ange, how are you?"
"Fine," she conceded with slight hesitation, "What do you want?"
I stop here. No, she wasn't hoodwinked. She has known me my entire life. She used to tell my other sister Alice that she was an over-achieving retarded person. Alice believed for longer than she should have that she had an IQ of 100, but simply applied herself harder than others. Angelle could smell my deal-making right over the phone. After all, she is the older sister.
So, I got right to it, "Ang, you have a need and I have a need and I think we can meet each other's needs. I need to learn how to cook and you need a kitchen."
And so, monthly cooking at my house became a regular thing. Angelle and my other sister Emily would come over and we would make massive quantities of meat balls, meat loaf and always some random chicken dish to freeze and serve as dinner throughout the coming weeks. After each session, Angelle would give a stern list of orders - "You need to get a set of fucking pot holders, for God's sake." Or, "Jesus Christ Claire, don't you have a bigger bowl?" Or, my personal favorite, which was a commentary on the concrete sink my husband made, his first actually, "What the hell, why is the drain opening so small? Tell Mike to make it bigger, we need a drain that can take something bigger than a fucking tampon."
I know I am making my sister out to sound like some kind of verbally abusive drill sergeant, but she's not. She is very funny and it is the post-Katrina tourette's syndrome that we all had that makes her sound that way.
As we met each month, my kitchen became more and more usable. I got pot holders, a big bolw, a meat pounder thing, and a crock pot. I got the non-stick aluminum foil (who knew there was such a thing?) and freezer bags versus just plan bags (again, who knew?) We had this train moving and slowly but surely I learned a little bit about cooking and eventually Angelle made it back into her house and into her own kitchen. We continued to cook every couple of months, mainly because it was fun. Angelle didn't need me anymore, but I needed her. I was still, and frankly, still am mystified by the convection oven setting on on my oven. To this day, I don't know what I am supposed to do with my roll of regular aluminum foil.
This past summer, Angelle moved away. She, like so many of us in Post-Katrina New Orleans, was done. She had enough of the bullshit and the bureaucracy and not having street lights and not getting any road home money and said goodbye to us and the city that the world has forgotten, or worse, just doesn't know how to fix. She moved up to Seattle where the air is clear and the schools are good and the buildings don't have permanent water lines. And, grudgingly, I am happy for her.
For a few months, we haven't cooked at all. Emily and I, the only 2 sisters left in the city, the only 2 in the family whose houses didn't flood, have wandered around in a haze, missing Angelle and wondering how we could cook without her. Finally, after eating Spaghetti and Ragu for 6 nights straight, I called Em and said we need to cook.
Last Friday, we embarked on our first cooking day since Angelle left. As a third, we invited my friend Tiffany. She is a good cook and a good sport. In spite of having a hurt leg, she came over and fried up 15 pounds of chicken nuggets. Yes, you read right, 15 fucking pounds. We made BBQ beef, meatballs and chicken kiev as well. We could have made stink bug soup and it would not have covered the fried chicken smell. As Emily said, at least it covers up the dog smell, but, in reality, it just smells like we deep fried a dog.
It was a success and we will eat well for the next month. But, still, I miss the running commentary on my kitchen and its lack of basic necessities. Sure, we managed to spill used frying oil on my dog last Friday and that was fun, but, something was missing. Someone was missing. And while I am happy for her new life in a real city, I miss the expletive-peppered chiding for not having basic kitchen equipment.