Don’t try this at home

I am an orchestral violist with a liking for crime shows. Yet, my TV can only broadcast Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver. Sadly enough, I am now intimately acquainted with these names. This is the sad story behind this sorry state of affairs.

I used to have a girlfriend in the orchestra, Joyce. She’s a violinist. I was, and am still, a violist.
“Hey, James, can you spare a cake of rosin?” she asked one fateful day, during a hiatus as our conductor frowned at his score. It was our last rehearsal before tonight’s concert.
“Sure!” I smiled as I handed her my expensive French rosin, the one I usually reserve for personal use. She smiled, and the glare of the spotlights glinted off her perfect teeth.
“Thanks,” she said. Promptly sliding it along the length of her bowhairs, I caught sight of her manicured nails.
“Nice nails,” I said. My gosh, I recall blushing. I hadn’t blushed since high school.
“Thanks,” she said, smiling a cute smile as she returned me my rosin. Too late- the conductor had already raised his arms. She smiled at me again as I hastened to play something correct.

The trouble started then. Joyce and I started going out together, after rehearsals. Usually it was at some crummy cafe near the concert hall. Both of us practically lived there, anyway. We had much in common. We both like Mendelssohn, we both teach at the same conservatory. It sounded perfect.
The trouble started after the second time we went out together. We were in a diner, the one near the concert hall, with our instruments. The waitress came and patiently waited for us to decide what we wanted to eat.
“You should get the mushroom sandwich, it’s really good.”
“Nah, I don’t like mushrooms,” Joyce turned to the waitress, “I’ll have the chicken sandwich without mayonaise and please put more vegetables. Oh, and easy on the cheese. And no pickles.”
“I’ll have the mushroom sandwich, thanks.”
The food came; we ate and chatted about various violinists and musicians.
“Can you cook?”
“No,” I said. The inability to cook has been a hereditary trait in my family’s males through the years.
Joyce raised her eyebrows. I quickly added, “I can learn.”
“That’s great! Not one of my boyfriends before this could cook so much as a pancake.”
“I see.” Oh, bah.

The day after we performed Mahler’s First, we went to my home. I tried to cook something simple and nice for us. We ended up waiting for the pizza delivery. Joyce said, “You should try watch more cooking shows.”
“Okay,” I said. She went to the TV and turned it on. Naturally, something related to death, forensic science and human nature was screening. A look of disgust appeared on her face and she quickly changed channels. Suddenly, Martha Stewart’s I-know-it-all voice boomed around the apartment.
“Oh… my- Martha Stewart?!” I said with thinly disguised disgust.
“Her shows are very, very informative and useful. You should watch them!”
“Ah.” Thankfully, our conversation was truncated by the arrival of the pizza delivery man. Joyce made herself at home and fiddled around with the TV remote. Tragically I could not stop her in time, because I had to pay for the pizza. In those few seconds she had cut off access to all the crime shows broadcasted on air. I was devastated. She looked bemused.
“Don’t worry, you still have Martha Stewart…”
Well, that was the reason why I was devastated. But I couldn’t let her know.

The next time she came over, it was Christmas. Of course, she wanted to see how I had progressed. After watching several Jamie Oliver shows, I decided I would try a flambéd steak with red wine sauce. I could make the red wine sauce fine, it was just the steak… More specifically, the fire thing. That bit.
I knew I’d made a mistake when I wanted to show Joyce what I’d learned.
“I’m flambé-ing steak tonight,” I said with no trepidation at all. We went into the kitchen. She made no remark of the scorch marks on the walls.
“Great! It’s just so, so great to see that you’ve learned something from all those cooking shows.”
“I know,” I said with mock enthusiasm.
“Let’s have a look!”
After chopping the onions and preparing the red wine and the steak, now came the litmus test: could I set this thing on fire- properly? Nervously, I poured the vodka, like it said in the recipe. When enough had glugged onto the pan, I whispered to myself: “Here goes…” I warmed up the pan, like the show said, and fumbled for the gas gun.
What happened next ruined my wall altogether, shocked Joyce and scared the neighbours. To this day, I have no idea what went wrong. All I know was, I got the gas gun working after three or four clicks, and I set the steak on fire and put it down on the stove. I was going to run to the other side of the kitchen when whoom, a huge pillar of fire scorched the wall (again). I screamed. Joyce screamed. Thankfully, it was gone soon- but not soon enough to save my wall… or our relationship.
One of these days, they should add a warning to Jamie Oliver’s more dangerous shows: “Don’t try this at home.”


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