Column: Amateur cook remains a chicken no more after learning the basics

By Kathleen Foody

The first time I tried to cook myself dinner, I threw a frozen chicken breast in a pan and waited to see what would happen.

If you’re as incapable of providing for yourself as I was, let me tell you, not much does when you put frozen meat in a pan.

Apparently, you have to defrost meat before cooking it. Who knew?

Luckily, I learned that valuable lesson before moving into my first apartment this year. I was able to delay the inevitable by living in my sorority house during sophomore year, complete with two meals a day. But that’s another column.

Eventually, I had to leave the nest of the residence halls and a three-story house, for a four-bedroom apartment at Third and John streets. The apartment was complete with a 2 x 8 foot kitchen for preparing all my meals, and one and a half bathrooms that would need the occasional scrubdown.

I was probably better off than your average college student because of my status as the oldest of four kids with two working parents. I knew how to do dishes and laundry before I even came to college. I had even cleaned a bathroom before I started an apartment search. But the idea of cooking for myself was pretty daunting, especially considering my sparkling personal culinary history.

Luckily, I have a few future Food Network stars within my extended family who passed on some simple recipes to tide even the most hopeless amateur chef. Chicken and any type of microwaveable carbs will make you feel accomplished, even though the most work you’ll have to do is remembering to defrost the meat and pouring some water and the contents of a “flavor packet” in with your rice.

And if you really want to get fancy, put the chicken in lemon juice/Italian dressing/Worcestershire sauce for a day or two before cooking it. Cooking is kind of like an eighth-grade chemistry experiment; add things together and see how they turn out. Be careful when it comes to handling chicken or anything else that could sicken you if cooked wrong.

As for cleaning, take advantage of all the pre-made wipes and brushes sold now. They make it so easy there’s really no excuse to clean your apartment. Buy a Swiffer mop, some Lysol wipes and a bottle of Febreeze. And that includes you guys. There’s nothing worse than walking into an apartment and not being able to lift your feet because the tile and carpet are covered in a combination of Keystone beer and I-don’t-want-to-know what else. A clean apartment will earn you more respect from any girl than that plasma TV.

Really, taking care of yourself is as easy as cooking chicken once you figure out the basics – like defrosting.