Anything but Ramen: French toast fiascos (and ultimate success)

Food columnist Aaron Pellish on cooking (somewhat) gourmet meals in the most pint-sized of kitchens

I began this wonderful summer vacation by moving into an apartment with three rooms and a bed that my feet hang off. Naturally, the kitchen is almost the size of my bathroom, because it's all very small and very cheap. When I stood in the middle of my kitchen for the first time (which is really the same as standing in the “middle” of a closet), I tried to convince myself that a small kitchen would be conducive to cooking meals more efficiently.

“I won’t have to run around my kitchen looking for things,” I told myself. “Everything I might need will be right next to me!”

I soon discovered that my dishwasher couldn’t open unless I tilted my refrigerator against the wall, and all my optimism was lost forever. At the time, I thought it would be impossible to become a master gourmet chef in a kitchen where I could touch two opposite walls at the same time. Needless to say, my ambitions as an aspiring chef had run into a huge obstacle (not in the literal sense though because, again, my kitchen is incredibly tiny). I felt defeated before I had even begun and found myself aimlessly scrambling for answers to my problem.

After countless Google searches of “small kitchen recipes,” “no effort cooking,” “easiest recipe ever” and “pizza delivery,” I finally discovered a hidden truth of cooking that had not occurred to me until that moment: some foods that sound intricate and confusing are actually very simple, straightforward and look delicious.

Something, for example, that’s called “three-cheese gnocchi with vodka sauce” is really just three cheeses, a jar of vodka sauce and a box of ready-to-cook gnocchi away from being in your mouth. This realization injected a wave of hope into my culinary dreams, and I began discovering that the world of cooking is littered with recipes that are sneakily simple.

I settled on a recipe for peanut butter and banana French toast. The first time I looked at it, I was overwhelmed by trying to even imagine what that would look like. But as I kept reading, I figured out it was just peanut butter and bananas sandwiched in between two pieces of bread, dipped in eggs and milk and cooked in a buttered pan. I called up a bunch of people who I thought might be interested in my cooking, and I began.(Unrelated note: Most people will drop what they’re doing if they hear the words “peanut butter and banana French toast," even if they have no reason to believe you will be able to cook it successfully)

Because my cooking confidence was through the roof (even though I have virtually no cooking experience), I quickly messed things up. I started cooking before I had all the ingredients because I skipped over the part of the recipe that said I needed milk. I also was not as good at cracking eggs as I thought I was, which led to me spending an obnoxious amount of time picking egg shells out of a bowl of raw eggs.

I had to blend the eggs and milk together with a fork because I’m an idiot and didn’t think to get a whisk. And if that weren’t enough, I accidentally took one of the pieces I had already finished cooking and dipped it back into the raw eggs, which is bad and stupid. Fortunately, simply cooking that piece twice was not as catastrophic as I thought it would be, so I was able to save the precious piece of French toast.

Finally, I had made eight pieces of French toast with just two bananas, a can of peanut butter, eight eggs, a jug of milk and some butter. That sounds simple even as I write it, but it actually was much more complicated than I could have imagined by just reading the recipe. That said, it wasn’t so complicated that I needed two ovens and a sous-chef to cook it. And it was absolutely delicious, which made the multiple errors, the stresses of moving into a new apartment and the frustration of a kitchen that could barely hold an Easy-Bake Oven worth it.

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