I promise, this is not another story about a childhood sweetheart named Diane (read me). I am a retiree. It seems surreal to even speak. Being retired from anything just always seemed so far away when I was younger, as I’m sure it does for many of you reading this now. I retired from P&G last July and wrote this story (read me) about my journey there.
I am retired but it sure doesn’t feel like it. I am staying very active by trading stocks part time, becoming Mr. Fixit, Mr. Project and Mr. Cook. The trading is keeping my brain stimulated as I’m doing a lot of reading and studying. I believe in always being in a learning mode. One of the things I am “re” learning is cooking. My wife continues to work part time outside the house so it my responsibility to ensure we’re well fed.
My cooking days go way back to childhood. At times when my mom worked at night, she’d often make something up and then give me instructions on what temperature in the oven to cook at and for how long. Later on, when there were nine of us kids, if you didn’t know how to heat up some soup or whip together some concoction, you might be relegated to cereal.
My favorite ‘dish’ to make as a teen was bologna salad. It’s a lunchtime sandwich kind of meal, but was perfect for hungry teenage boys like me. I still like to make this one, maybe once per year. Bologna, celery, Velveeta, hard boiled egg, onion, pickle relish and Miracle Whip. Well, that’s my recipe anyway, (though if I make any for my wife, I leave out the onions unless I want to suffer the consequences….read between the lines young grasshopper).
After getting married, my wife and I both began our life lessons in cooking, beginning of course with our moms’ recipes and a lot of spaghetti. As we got older, like you I’m sure, we experimented more and more with new recipes, new spices, new methods of cooking. Such as it was the day I decided to cook Steak Diane for us. I had eaten it one night a year earlier at a restaurant and really liked it so decided to take it on myself for the family.
The year was 1991 and we were living in Louisiana at the time. Those were the days before the internet. Information was available but more difficult to find. In the case of cooking, new recipes were handed down through the generations, written on 3×5 cards and shoved into a tin can or an old Tupperware cookie container. If the desired recipe wasn’t to be found amongst the cookie crumbs, we had to ask around or maybe go to the library. You see, in my day there were public buildings where books were stored. You could find an entire shelf that had nothing but books with recipes in them. (I swear I’m not making this up).
Steak Diane was going to be my first ever ‘flaming’ meal. By flaming, I don’t mean how it makes your insides feel. Flaming means that you actually set the food on fire. Sounds simple, huh.
Our kitchen was connected to the rear of the house which was basically a long, rectangular single level ranch. The kitchen was relatively small but directly linked to a dining area that made the kitchen seem a lot larger. The dining area opened up via sliding glass door to the exterior patio where we had a very large swimming pool. A bulk of the interior was painted a horrible old-people-green, (including the cabinet hardware), but it was a great house for partying and hanging out on the weekends. We loved that house.
Like a lot of ranch homes, the sink was attached to the exterior wall and had a window just above it, allowing the dish washer to look out on to the pool. The stove was located immediately behind the sink in an about-face.
The recipe for making steak Diane is not necessarily the easiest. There is a bit of prep work and coordination involved. Everything was going as planned and we were all looking forward to a great meal. The final step involved adding Brandy to a hot skillet. Here are those general directions:
Add some Cognac or Brandy to a hot skillet. Flame the meat by touching the Liquor with a lighted match and let the flames burn down. (Keep a large piece of foil or a skillet lid nearby in case the flames rise too high. Just cover them until they recede.)
Unfortunately, the recipe I had didn’t have that section about what to do if you set fire to yourself, your pets or the house. Maybe it helps to walk the steps out beforehand too…just in case. I began to pour in the brandy and (stupidly) I still had the burner on the skillet. There was no need to light the brandy because as soon as I poured it in, some spilled over the edge and caught fire. The alcohol in the skillet then immediately caught flame and the flames were so high that they licked the fan apparatus above the stove and caught it on fire!
Not wanting to take any chance of the fire getting any larger, I reached over to my right and took out the small fire extinguisher out of the little pantry that housed the washer and dryer. I quickly pulled out the safety pin and then aimed the nozzle at the base of the small fire in the fan and skillet. The fires were immediately extinguished. Yea!
However…..you see, this is the South and in the South all homes have about a hundred ceiling fans always circulating the air in order to help keep us from melting like the witch in the Wizard of Oz. Our kitchen/dining room fan took the chemicals from the extinguisher and quickly did what ceiling fans do – threw them all over the kitchen and dining room. Now, I had never before used this type of extinguisher and did not know what to expect. I did not realize that the extinguishing ingredient was a bright yellow in color.
The table was yellow. The counters were yellow. The chairs were yellow. The sink and stove? Well, they were yellow too. What a mess.
After making absolutely certain that there was no fire or any threat, I simply announced – ok family, let’s get cleaned up and walk down the street to Coleman’s. Coleman’s Catfish Cabin, what a great restaurant…and in walking distance. We visited Coleman’s out of desire many times for their great fried catfish and boiled crawfish, but on this evening we visited out of need. Oh, and when they cooked there never was any yellow extinguisher chemicals on our food.
Today I installed a ceiling fan in my son’s bedroom. No one was electrocuted and nothing was turned yellow. I never tried cooking Steak Diane again.