“Do we have a wok?” he yelled.
“No, just use the large frying pan.”
“Why don’t we have a wok?”
“Because we don’t, just use the frying pan.”
“You should buy a wok.”
She pulled the bedclothes up to her chin. It was going to take too much effort to answer him again.
“Do we have any sauté?” he yelled again.
“What?” she croaked from the bedroom. Her bedside table was piled high with tissues, her nose red raw from blowing. The frog in her throat was using her vocal cords as a banjo every time she tried to talk, but he insisted on yelling at her from the other room and expecting her to call back.
“Where’s the sauté kept? Do we have any?”
“What are you talking about?”
He stuck his head round the bedroom door. “Where’s the sauté?”
“I honestly don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. The sentences you’re using are like random words you’ve thrown together. Do you mean satay? Satay sauce? What do you need satay sauce for?”
“No, the packet says sauté, not satay. It says ‘add the carrot and capsicum and sauté’.”
If she’d had the energy she would have smacked her forehead in frustration, but the flu was making her arms heavy. She took a deep breath.
“Sautéing is what you’re doing, not an ingredient,” she said. “To sauté is to lightly fry, like in a frypan, it’s not something we keep in the pantry.”
“Oh!” he said sheepishly and disappeared.
Be thankful, she said to herself. Not only is he cooking dinner, but he is actually reading the instructions on the simmer sauce packet. This made a change from his usual M.O. – he usually preferred to trust his (often incorrect) instincts. Like the IKEA bookshelf that he assembled with the panels upside down so that the pre-drilled holes were showing. She’d had to pull it apart and build it again herself. And the new speakers for the TV that had shorted the circuitry of the entire house because he didn’t read the directions for which lead went in which port. They’d needed an electrician to sort that one out. Maps, recipes and lists of instructions were useless in his hands. They remained unread as he confidently surged ahead and made it up as he went along.
“I’m a great cook!” he yelled again from the kitchen. There were the sounds of food frying and dishes clunking into the sink. “I’m so efficient. I’m cleaning up as I go.”
She wondered if this was a pointed criticism of her own approach to cooking.
“Oh SHIIIIT!!” Clattering, banging and whooshing sounds emanated from the kitchen.
“What’s happened?” she croaked in alarm.
“Ah… aaaah…. OW! Shit-crap-bugger-fuck! Hang on a tick!”
More sounds of clanging and crashing reached her ears. The smell of smoke wafted into the bedroom.
“Honey, what’s going on? Are you ok? What’s happening? You’re freaking me out!”
“Hang on, I’m just fixing it…. Ah crap. Shiiit…” his voice trailed away.
There were more sounds now, the tap running, sloshing water and loud hissing.
“What’s going on?”
There was a pause.
“Ah crap. This is bollocks. I’ll show you.”
His head poked around the bedroom door again.
“What happened to your eyebrows?” she asked.
“Erm… The same thing that happened to dinner.” He stepped inside the room and showed her the pan. He had one tea towel draped over his shoulder and another two wrapped around each hand. All were blackened to some extent, but not as charcoal as the contents of the frying pan, which also had a generous lashing of soap suds washing around on top.
“I was washing up and the dinner caught fire. But I had a sink full of water so it’s ok. The fire’s out now.”
“Are you alright?” She had sat up in bed in dismay. The smudges where his eyebrows used to be were still slightly smoking.
“Yeah I’m fine. It’s possible I got a bit ahead of myself. I probably should have just focused on the cooking part, hey?” He grinned.“So what do you think. Take away?”
She laughed, relieved that he was only minimally singed. “Yes, take away is fine. Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
He took his smouldering eyebrows and the charcoal encrusted swill in the frypan back to the kitchen. He returned seconds later with the take away menu and handed it to her.
“Don’t you want to read it first?” she asked.
“No need. I’m better when I wing it.”