Being the selfless creature I am, I’m going to bypass my own fairly odd talents (I can wiggle my ears, find a 4-leaf clover in any clover patch and sniff out scents like a bloodhound) and focus on my sister’s. When she and I were young, we forced ourselves to play a terrible game of survival that we called The Kitchen Experiment, where we would make each other mystery snacks and wait to see if the other survived. There were only two rules—nothing in the kitchen was off limits and you had to finish your entire snack.
It was always more exhilarating if we had cousins or visiting friends of the family over to share in the horror and ultimate fate of whoever was unlucky enough to be “It”, but we never foisted our nastiest, most evil concoctions on them. We saved those for each other.
Being chosen to be It first was highly desirable—you wanted your snack before anger and revenge turned the game even uglier. Once you were chosen, you had to decide whether you wanted a solid or liquid snack made for you, and then you were banished to sit on the prickly, ice-cold bricks of the family room hearth and anxiously await your secret victuals.
My sister played the game like a master. She made things even more unpredictable by sometimes whipping up a perfectly normal snack—a small dish of ice cream with sprinkles or Cheez Whiz on celery. You just never knew what you were in for.
Typically, though, a gaggle of open-mouthed children would follow my sister into the kitchen and watch her create the very worst liquid or solid creation she could fathom. Even back then, she shone in the kitchen. Her concoctions were, all at once, artistic, ingenious and repulsive.
A typical liquid concoction I’d have come up with might have been ketchup, olive juice, soy sauce and uncooked eggs mixed up in a juice glass. Uninspired. Predictable, even. My sister would have topped that off with a stealthy squirt of Palmolive and a couple of granules of Tide, stirred it in a martini shaker and served it with a smile.
My solid recipe might have been made up of vitamins, butter, parmesan and spoonfuls of black pepper over a dried-up butterscotch pudding base. My sister would never have bothered a jejune combo like this. Way too obvious. She’d have swirled a thick dollop of peanut butter between two Ritz crackers and offered me a glass of milk to wash it down. And just after I’d swallowed and congratulated myself on having not been required to ingest shoe polish, she’d announce the peanut butter was laced with Alpo. Or—as I just found out this week—cigarette ashes.
Incredibly, neither of us ever got sick. Nor did we ever tell. And when our little brothers grew old enough to beg to be included, we didn’t dare subject them to our twisted experimentation.
In spite of this (or maybe because of it), Pam grew up to be an incredible cook. If she serves homemade ice-cream cake, you can bet she’s even made the ice cream herself.
But can you blame me if I still sniff it first?