Martha's big adventure -- Cooking up a storm - Martha Carr

Alright, I admit it. I not only don't cook very well, when I make the attempt, something always happens and it goes horribly awry.

However, as my late father used to love to say, my best quality is my worst quality. I'm very stubborn and will try again and again to figure something out.

My penchant for not giving in easily can work against me when it's time to leave a failed project, a dead relationship, a bad job. I tend to want to try every angle just to be sure.

There was even a moment when I worked for a furniture store when I found myself whispering over my cell phone in the ladies room to a friend to get me out of there.

It was as if I didn't get that I could just quit. Instead, I used to pray that I'd get fired by the screaming manager or the alcoholic boss, who gave 30 minute speeches and then remembered none of it later. Eventually, I figured out that much, at least, and it probably gives everyone a little insight on why I now work from home.

But even after four decades of cooking, I still haven't gotten to a place where any of it comes easily. Cooking still has more of a science experiment quality to it where I can never be sure if it will all come together nicely or blow up like a volcano. The odds are always more in my favor when it's something that has to be fried, but even then it's a little dicey.

Just ask my son, Louie, who would be happy to tell you about the chicken that was well done on the outside and still pink on the inside. There's a very nice couple, Nick and Amanda, who I've been having over for dinner lately, and every time, things just don't quite turn out. Every time I ask them back, I expect them to politely decline, and yet, there they are eager to try again.

Last time, I forgot a major ingredient out of the two main dishes and had to improvise. I always take that as a sign that my dinner conversation must be top-notch and worth the so-so food.

Last year, a date I had cooked for, tried to pay me a compliment and said I spooned things out of containers awfully well. After a moment, we both broke up laughing.

So, now I'm trying to raise the odds of my success, and received from Louie this Christmas a shiny, new, red Crock Pot. I'm attempting a chicken with mustard and artichoke hearts recipe I got from an editor and having over Louie and his girlfriend, Kathy, for dinner. Cross your fingers, or better yet, say a prayer.

OK, so I forgot to thaw the chicken and because of the snow storm raging through the Midwest, the grocery story was running low, so I have a mixture of legs and boneless breasts. Hopefully, everything will still turn out OK.

You see, optimism is one of the other causes of my stubborn streak and is probably what Dad meant about it being my best quality as well. I'm willing to believe the next time will be better, and because of that, there are times that I'm right. There are some very nice things in life that aren't achieved or sustained without a lot of tries, like getting published or being a good parent to a grown son.

My latest attempt at optimistic stubbornness is an interactive web site, www.marthasbigadventure.com, that has had me wondering if I bit off more than I could chew. There are 16 different experts and thousands of subscribers and it sometimes feels like I'm wrangling cats. Here's where all of my earlier practice at trying every angle actually pays off.

Many people might bail out when their first attempts don't work, but I've learned to take a step back, evaluate what has worked and ask for help from those who've gone before me down a particular path. I have learned how to use my innate quality as an asset whenever possible. I think Dad would be proud. Check out the new web site and let me know what you think. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Martha's latest guide to embrace change, "The 3 x 5 Game," is now available at www.marthasbigadventure.com. E-mail her at: Martha@marthasbigadventure.com.