Monday, April 19, 2021

Oops - by Debra H. Goldstein

Oops – by Debra H. Goldstein

 I still can’t get the hang of cooking.


Recently, I started ordering a few meals a week from Home Chef. They pretty much are no-brainers. The quality is good, the portions more than ample, the directions simple. Everything I need comes in the box in a timely manner. Technically, each is a foolproof means of serving a perfect dinner. That is, until I got my hands on them.


All my life, it was instilled in me to broil not fry. The difference between frying and sautéing was something I was never taught. When many of the Home Chef meals required the use of a frying pan and a small amount of olive oil, I was a little leery. But then I decided, how hard could it be to put the tsp of olive oil in a medium frying pan, heat it, and drop the protein in for 5-7 minutes on each side?


I gathered my supplies:  a non-stick frying pan, olive oil, and a tbsp measuring spoon and went to work. Carefully, I measured out two spoons of oil, dropped the oil into the now heating frying pan, and prepared myself, once it was warm enough, to carefully place the protein into the pan. As I turned the pan from side to side to coat it with the oil, I didn’t think it looked like I was getting a good cover, so I added a little more olive oil. When the heated oil sputtered a little, I turned the flame down and added the protein.


Within moments, oil was flying all over the stovetop, counter, floor, and overhead fan. I couldn’t understand why, so I doublechecked the directions. That’s when I caught the difference between the tsp of oil the recipe called for and the tbsp plus the bonus hit of oil I used. Oops.


It was a mess, but I managed to salvage our dinner. The same wouldn’t have been true if I were submitting a story or book for consideration. By failing to follow the submission guidelines, I would have received a rejection faster than I cleaned up my kitchen. Just like on my recipe card, agents, editors, and those putting out story calls, expect one to follow the stated submission guidelines.


I should have read the cooking directions more carefully and made sure the measuring spoon was a tsp rather than a tbsp. The same holds true for a writer who recently asked an editor, who had put out a call for “cozy mysteries featuring an amateur sleuth,” whether a story with a policeman would work. The response was a reference back to the words “amateur sleuth.”


Had that story been submitted, it would have been rejected as quickly as the oil spread a slick layer across my kitchen. Cleaning up wasn’t pleasant, but at least we came out of the situation with dinner. Failing to follow submission guidelines will leave an author with nothing to show for the time or effort put into creating the book or story.


  1. I have grammar school report cards that specify that Jimmy needs to slow down and read instructions. Some things do not change with old age.

  2. Been there, done that! I had my spices neatly organized on my wall in alpha order. My brownie recipe called for a tsp of cinnamon. I grabbed without looking and when the brownies were done, discovered I'd used a tsp of cayenne pepper. Actually, a bit of heat in chocolate is nice, a lot, not so much!

  3. One author's cozy can be an editor's noir. It's a mindset.

    Kait, alphabetized spices? Really? I have so many jars of green powdery flakes I always check the label.

  4. Oh, Debra, I can relate!
    I have to admit that I'm in Kait's camp - my spices are alphabetized, too. After my foodie daughter stayed with us, she left behind dozens of spices and when I added fennel instead of oregano to a pasta e fagiole my librarian brain decided that wasn't happening again.

  5. Well said, on both topics, Debra! My wife and I recently started a meal kit subscription and at least twice I've been caught out by not reading the directions all the way through before starting the meal prep. The clean up, though. That's the killer!

  6. I love these cooking/writing analogies, Debra! Some of my characters alphabetize their herbs and spices, Kait and Shari, but in this house we keep them in the corner cupboard with one of those lazy Susan shelving units - triple layer. With all the different jars, boxes, and tins, organizing them is more like a doing a jigsaw puzzle. Size, shape, and frequency of use trump ABC for location. Now, with other people doing some of the cooking, you might see standing forlornly spinning the Susan round and round and calling "Thyme, thyme, where did you go?" Another cooking/writing analogy!

  7. Reading submission guidelines is something I preach every time someone asks me how to find an agent or editor.

    Last winter I made a similar measurement mix-up while making potato soup, grabbing the tablespoon instead of the teaspoon for the salt. Yeah. It wasn't good.

    I'm glad your kitchen mix-up only resulted in a mess and not a fire, Debra.

  8. When all else fails, read the directions.

  9. Thanks everyone... a few things to share.. Annette.. the fire was a week or two before but was contained to the oven; Directions? I did read them... I just didn't recognize the difference between the two spoons...that's where I needed to read the difference; I would alphabetize my spices, but I have so few...and when I do pull them out, the first thing I check is whether they are even in date for cooking..a fate worse than death, but a must for someone who so enjoys to eat... Little Jimmy, have you improved?

  10. When I bought my first house, my dad made me a three-foot long four shelf spice rack. Alphabetizing was easy. Alas, I never had a kitchen with a big enough wall after that. Still have the rack though.

  11. Fun following your cooking experiences. I'm beginning to think people have a cooking gene and some people just don't have it. My husband occasionally likes to try his hand at baking. I hate to follow along with him, but invariably he'll add two tablespoons of something instead of teaspoons. But at least he tries.

  12. Great analogy, Debra! I tend to be looser with my cooking by throwing in different spices, but I have to be a stickler when baking and adhering to the measurements.