COVID Chronicles: Kitchen Fail

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

“My talent is in pipetting 0.5µL of clear liquid from one container to another. How am I supposed to actually know how much a pinch of salt is?” – Alex Smart, graduate student.

MISSION BAY HOUSING – With yet another COVID surge, free food on campus has once again ceased, and work from home is encouraged. Graduate student Alex Smart has once again taken this opportunity to once again attempt the arguably essential, yet daunting adult skill of… cooking.

After what scant free food on campus that scarcely returned vanished, Alex was once again left to his own devices to fill his stomach. With inflation on the rise and the cost of take out getting higher and higher, Alex felt cash strapped.

One day, after a long day of working on a genomic library preparation, however, inspiration struck.

“A science protocol is just like a cooking recipe. In my protocol, there are reagents and steps to follow. In a cooking recipe, there are ingredients, just like reagents, and steps to follow too. If I can do a 14-page library preparation and sequencing protocol with such precision and accuracy, I can definitely cook too.” Alex said.

So off he went, on to Google, to find the simplest recipe there was. Using the key words, “3 ingredient” and “one pot recipe”, filtering for the most popular hit, Alex soon found a pasta dish that seemed doable.

Mustering up his newfound courage, he then proceeded to the nearby grocery store to get his cooking reagents, and set up his kitchen lab, only to be stumped.

Who knew that pasta did not consist of just spaghetti? What in the world were Rigatoni and Fusilli? Aren’t these just all noodles?

Why were there 3 different types of ground beef? What was 80% lean supposed to mean? Also, why were there so many pasta sauces that looked the same?

This exploit yielded a randomly chosen type of pasta, spaghetti, the only one Alex was familiar with, ground beef, and the first jar of marinara sauce Alex saw.

Alex heaved a sigh of relief. Cooking recipes should have catalog numbers too. But at least he procured something that seemed decent.

Then, with some trepidation, he started the first step – brown the beef. Taking his roommate’s olive oil, he poured some into the pan and turned on the gas stove.

The recipe didn’t state it, but the pan needs to be heated first… At least that’s the way Gordon Ramsay does it on TV right?

He then turned away to start preparing his ingredients, only to find that the jar of sauce was stuck.

“Okay,” he muttered to himself, “nothing too hard that I cannot do.”

Alex squeezed and turned and turned and squeezed the jar lid. But it refused to budge. He gripped the jar lid from all different angles. Yet it wouldn’t open. Then suddenly, the fire alarm went off.

Lo and behold, his pan had caught fire! Extra virgin olive oil was never meant to be left heated and unwatched in a pan on high heat!

The shrill cry of the fire alarm shot through Alex’s ears, sending him into a panic.

What should he do first? Open the windows? Turn off the fire? Or silence the fire alarm?

He quickly poured a cup of water over the fire, but that only made the fire bigger.

Alex froze in fear. He had before described his experiments as going up in flames, but not quite so literally.

Thankfully, a now annoyed roommate had now emerged. Taking a baking sheet, he put out the fire by covering it.

Then, after the fire alarm was appeased and the remainder of the kitchen cleaned, Alex’s roommate looked at him and asked, “I guess we are going to SPARK today?”

“Yeah, I guess, SPARK it is. I owe you one.” Alex said.

The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.