Being the cooking superstar that I most definitely am not, I was as surprised as anyone when I recently discovered the joy of making my own croutons for salads. Unfortunately (like always, when it comes to cooking), I’ve stumbled upon some major obstacles.
How hard can it be to make a salad, you ask? Here, I offer two exhibits from the Nastu household Crouton Conflict.
Exhibit A. “You Should Have…”
I go to the store and buy a delicious-looking loaf of French bread, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. I’m planning to let it get stale so I can make croutons the next day.
After a busy afternoon, I’m relaxing on the couch when I hear the distinct crumple of a paper bag.
Me: Hands off! That bread is for croutons.
Paul: OK. This is my last piece.
Me: Your last one? When did you have your first one?
Paul: Um, before the ones I had a little while ago?
Later, more tell-tale crinkling:
Me: Stop! Because, croutons.
Paul: This is my last piece.
Me [tearing off a chunk for myself]: I guess we won’t have any dinner tomorrow night. I hope you’re satisfied.
Paul: Here. Put some butter on.
Me [with mouth full]: This isn’t for snacking. Hand me another piece.
Paul: This is your fault, you know.
Me: How, exactly?
Paul: If you planned to hog the whole loaf for croutons, you should have bought two.
Exhibit B. My Life Has Become Unmanageable…
Today, I crave a Caesar salad. As instructed, I buy two loaves of bread. I choose a long one with a nice, firm crust, and a shorter, fatter one with soft insides. I’m not sure which will make the best croutons so I leave it up to fate (aka: Paul).
While I’m putting away the groceries, Paul finds the bread.
Paul: Oh, good.
Me: Yeah, I bought two. That one is for snacking. The other is for croutons [I give him a pointed look].
Paul: I’d rather snack on the other.
Me [unruffled, because I am not invested in the outcome, because I am flexible, people]: That’s fine. But pick one and stick with it. You can’t have both.
Paul: I can if I want to.
Me: Actually, you can’t.
Paul [sighing and gesturing with the thin loaf]: I pick this one, then.
I cut the other loaf into slices and leave them on the counter to get stale, then sit down on the couch with a sense of accomplishment: I’ve planned dinner while simultaneously heading off a bread battle. I am a multitasker and a chef.
Paul comes into the kitchen and reaches for a slice of the crouton bread.
Paul: So this is the one I can eat, then?
Me: No! God! Stay away from my slices.
I turn to glare at him. He looks away, the corners of his mouth tucked in; he’s fucking with me. I huff and roll my eyes.
A minute later, a friend of Lizzie’s wanders into the kitchen. (Note: when I tell her later that I am writing about her but that I’ll give her a pseudonym, she asks to be referred to as Celine Dion.)
Celine Dion: Hi, Mom. What are you doing with all this bread, here?
Me: Making croutons.
CD: With all of it?
CD: I’m eating this little crusty end piece.
Me [resigned, as it was already in her mouth]: One piece is fine. I have some Brie if you want to put some on there.
CD: That’s such a great idea. And I would totally do it if I weren’t lazy.
Celine Dion leaves the kitchen and I think my bread is safe, but she returns ten minutes later.
CD: I’ll have one more piece of this.
Me: [heading her off]: Wait, there’s another loaf. Eat that one and save the slices for my croutons.
CD: OK. [She waves the unsliced loaf of bread over her shoulder at me.] I’ll just take this with me.
Me: Wait, wait, not the whole thing. Leave some for Paul.
CD: He doesn’t need bread.
Me: Yes, he does. I bought two loaves because last time he ate all my crouton bread.
CD: Of course he did. What do you expect when you leave delicious slices of fresh bread all over the place?
But she amiably returns to the kitchen and cuts the loaf in half before heading back to the stairs, chewing. All hell breaks loose:
Paul [shouting]: Where are you going with my bread?
CD [pounding up the stairs]: I left you half.
Paul: But…no…wait. JEN!
CD [from the top of the stairs, clearly shouting around a mouthful of bread]: You don’t need an entire loaf of bread!
Paul [mocking]: You don’t mmph an entire mmph mmph!
Me: Very mature.
Paul: I know. They’re such children.
Me: I meant you.
Paul: Me? Was that immature? I mean, sure, I guess she’s right. I don’t exactly need an entire loaf. What’s for dinner, anyway?
Me: Caesar salad.
Paul: Actually, I already ate.
Me: You did? What did you eat?
Oh, my God, you guys! And Lizzie will probably go out with Celine Dion and won’t even be home for dinner. YOU SEE WHY I DON’T COOK?
Anyway, I’m going to go make the croutons with the bread I was forced to guard all afternoon. Then I’m going to eat all the croutons, fresh out of the oven, and not share with anybody.
Have fun ‘til next time,
PS: Lizzie’s friend is a singer like the real Celine Dion. There, as far as I know, the resemblance ends. Although to be honest, I couldn’t pick Celine Dion out of a lineup, so what do I know?
PPS: Speaking of pseudonyms, Lizzie just told me they had to come up with pirate pseudonyms in English today (you know, for obvious reasons). She now calls herself “Long John Jingle, Buccaneer of the High Seas.”
PPPS: Someday I’ll have to tell you more about Lizzie’s fixation with pirates. She wants to marry one. Well, not an actual pirate – she just wants to marry a guy who wears a lot of rings and black eyeliner and a shirt with ruffles. Basically, she wants to marry Johnny Depp. But, then, don’t we all?