Kitchen Confidential

Recipes from a fin-de-siècle Irving Park Tween

By Jane Bordain

In 1931, amateur cook Irma von Starkloff
Rombauer self-published The Joy of Cooking and reinvented a genre that had been stymied by what the legendary cultural critic H.L. Mencken called “cooking-school marms.” In 1961, Julia Child followed in her footsteps with Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which decoded classical techniques for the American masses. And in the late 1980s, a 10-year-old Jane Borden made “cooking” the easiest yet, by improvising concoctions that invariably made her friends say, “No thanks, that’s gross.” Below, a collection of her most, er, famous recipes.

“Bologna Curl Ups”

Best served right after school or when trying to impress a play date.

• Remove a slice of Oscar Mayer bologna from the package in the fridge drawer. Mind the drips. Place slice on a salad plate.

• Remove a Kraft Singles from same drawer and peel away cellophane; tear it into pieces and stack them in the center of the bologna circle.

• Turn on CBS. It’s almost time for Guiding Light

• Microwave the plate for 10 to 15 seconds, or until edges of meat product curl up on the sides creating a bowl filled with melted processed cheese.

Optional: Crumble nacho-cheese flavored Doritos into the “bowl” for added crunch.

• Cut into pieces that are exactly the same size — exactly the same.

“Mashed Cake”

Best served a couple of days after someone had a birthday and there’s cake in the fridge.

• With a sturdy fork, mush the cake and icing together until a singular consistency is achieved. It should resemble a swampy brownie.

• Change the channel. DuckTales is on.

• Roll the swamp brownie into a ball, eat it like an apple, and ignore your sister telling you that it looks disgusting because, in 20 years, the same thing will be called Cake Pops and will sell for $3 a piece at fancy bakeries everywhere, so y’all can all STFU.

“What’s in the Fridge on Cheese and Rice”

If you have leftover rice, you have a canvas. The fridge door is your palette.

• Prep work: The night before, when your mother tries to toss the leftover rice from dinner — “there’s almost none left. . . it will dry out . . . no one will eat it” — remind her that you are a someone, you are an artist in search of a medium, and you can fit the entire world on a single grain of rice. Do not let her silence your voice. Resist!

• Hooray, it’s time for Tiny Toons! “They’re tiny. They’re toony. They’re altogether looney.” This show isn’t that great, but if the TV is on, it means you can keep eating.

• Fill a microwavable bowl halfway with rice. Run your fingers under the sink and flick water onto the rice, since it is seriously dry.

• Chop up cheese and mix it with the rice. Pro tip: Skip the knife and cutting board by biting off hunks and spitting them into the bowl.

• Add mustard. Or chow chow. Maybe today it’s ketchup and pickles. You get it. Cheesy rice rules and you can’t screw it up.

Pro tip: Chopped cherry tomatoes add moisture to the rice and cut the stringent flavors of your jarred items. But do use a knife and cutting board, or you’ll spray tomato juice all over your face.

“Fancy Cocktail Sandwiches for One”

These are just Lunchables.

• Grab a box of Lunchables from the fridge. They’re for school, but maybe your mom won’t notice.

Pro tip: The cheese slices are square and the weird meat is round. So if you want every bite to have the exact same amount of cheese and weird meat — exactly the same — you’ll need to pick off the corners of the cheese and carefully place them on the sides.

“A Parade of Oranges”

If you have neighbors who attend Greensboro Day School, they will knock once a year, while selling citrus as part of a school fundraiser.

• Open one of the several boxes of oranges stacked on the kitchen porch.

• Eat one after another until you get a stomach ache from the acid. You have a lot of fruit to get through.

“Ruin Your Dinner”

• When your mom starts cooking for the evening meal, she will forbid any more snacking before supper and kick you out of the kitchen. Watch television in the den.

• Once you hear that she is on the phone with Nancy, head back to the kitchen. Stand by the door until she faces the sink and then scurry, fast and silent as a mouse, into the pantry.

• Grab a bag of Doritos.

• Peer around the folding door and wait until she’s facing the sink again. Scurry back out with your contraband.

Pro tip: Mind the phone cord. If it has already wrapped itself around her body more than once, you are in danger: She could spin around without notice, to untangle herself, and see you.

• Eat your Doritos in the den. Bathe in the comfort of every chip being the same size. Then hide the empty bag under the sofa. You are a genius.

Actually, you’re a dingdong. Go outside and play.  OH

Jane Borden now lives in Los Angeles, where she continues to ruin perfectly good food items by “preparing” them. Fortunately, she married a cook.

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