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Growing up in 1970s Toronto, my reality was rooted in the strictly defined gender roles of the nuclear family. So you can imagine how novel we found it when my public school began offering Grade 8 boys’ cooking as part of the curriculum. I promptly signed up.
At our first class, I looked around at my dozen or so fellow pioneers. Our culinary expertise ranged from “absolutely no cooking experience” to “almost no cooking experience.” As a growing boy, I seemed to be hungry all day long. The good news, then, was that we had to eat what we cooked.
The bad news was that we had to eat what we cooked.
We started off slowly with a classic, the boiled egg. I was not aware there were quite so many ways to botch the dish. Next we tackled toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, canned Spaghettios, French toast—for a European gourmet touch—and chocolate chip cookies. By late in the term, we were feeling confident, even cocky, in the kitchen.
Then came our culinary come uppance: Rodeo Stuffed Hot Dogs. They were our culminating assignment—the Grade 8 equivalent of a Ph.D. dissertation. The class was split into teams to make the complex and challenging dish, which involved stuffing wieners full of medium cheddar cheese, wrapping them in strips of bacon anchored by toothpicks, then baking and broiling the entire creation to perfection. To an adolescent boy, hot dogs, cheese and bacon all at once was nothing short of nirvana.
The preparation proceeded satisfactorily. Even the baking seemed to progress as intended, the cheese melting and the bacon sizzling. But my team ran into trouble when we turned on the broiler to brown our masterpieces. It really wasn’t our fault; we were distracted by the members of another group, who were busy extracting their Rodeo Stuffed Hot Dogs from the oven and placing them on the counter to cool. The aroma was tantalizing. We huddled around those heavenly hot dogs and were mesmerized, paralyzed … until plumes of black smoke rising from our neglected oven abruptly ended our reverie.
It was only a small fire, but there seemed to be much more smoke than four incinerated wieners could possibly have produced. Still, we were saluted as that day’s heroes, thanks to the fire alarm, ensuing evacuation and early dismissal of the entire student body. – Terry J
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