My mother is a really good cook. She bakes the classics like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, but she loves to experiment. My favorite childhood memories are of her famous strawberry Jell-O cheese casserole and chocolate chicken soup. I wish I could cook like that. All I know how to do is mix drinks together and fry up meat on a grill. I can’t even boil water. I always forget about it and let the water boil away. Once, I left the pot on for two whole weeks before I remembered it. I was lucky I was house-sitting at my friends at the time. (Well, ex-friend. He wasn’t so happy about his home burning down.)
I spend a lot of money on precooked food. Any time I want to use any form of heat inside, I call my mother and see if she can come over and help me out. I tried to get someone to cook for me, but it’s hard to find a hooker who knows how to cook. At least, all the ones I’ve tried have turned out to be duds. The first lady was a member of some small tribe from the deepest part of some rainforest (or something like that) and she would only cook by fire. She gathered a bunch of branches and leaves and stuck them in my living room. I still haven’t been able to get the scorch marks out of my carpet. The second chick wasn’t as bad, but she boiled everything. She even boiled bread. Trust me, a breakfast of boiled bacon, boiled eggs and boiled toast is NOT a good thing. The third girl wasn’t a bad cook at all. She knew how to make the flavor come alive in everything, even stuff that I never would have thought I would like. She also put in all in a blender and insisted that I sit in a giant highchair and call her “mama” while she fed me with a spoon. I had enough of that from my real mother, thank you very much. (She fed me that way until I was twelve.)
After that, I decided to stick with prepackaged meals and my mother’s cooking when I could convince her to come over. One night, when she was fixing some garlic lemon bars and tofu sundaes, I realized a way to make sure that her cooking would always be available to me. “Mom,” I said. “Why don’t you start a restaurant? I could be your manager.” She jumped at the chance. She even went out to her car and got a complete business plan written on the back of old takeout flyers. She told me she was just waiting for a relative to offer to go into the restaurant business with her.
The plan was for a mental institution themed restaurant called “Isabella’s Insanity Institute.” (Which was odd, since my mother’s name is Susan.) She wanted it built on the site of the old abandoned nuthouse at the edge of town, so that we would be able to save some time by using the equipment that was already there. It took about six months to get everything together. The main eating area was, of course, the institute’s main eating area, but the patient treatment rooms were turned into special themed rooms. (Electroshock cooking is quite a sight.) All the waiters and waitresses wore white coats and offered straitjackets to the more adventurous diners. The theme was a smash hit. We had dozens of people lined up at the grand opening. I guess everyone wants to play crazy at least once in their life.
The only problem was the food. No one like Mother’s progressive cooking. It’s a shame. She went all out and offered some of her favorites, like lamp chops stuffed with marshmallows and pickle glazed pound cake. She even invented new recipes just for the restaurant. Beer battered bubble gum and chicken peanut butter sandwiches were my personal favorites, but the meat milkshakes had their own special charm.
The ungrateful, unadventurous sheep just couldn’t handle anything that wasn’t the same old slop they always ate. The critics were the worst. They called Mother’s food “some nightmare concocted by sadists,” and said that “just because Isabella’s has a mental institution theme doesn’t meant the food has to taste like it was made by a mental patient.”
Some of our friends suggested that my mother should just drop the menu and cook her more traditional dishes, but she wouldn’t hear of it. If the world couldn’t handle her genius, they didn’t deserve her at all. We closed down the restaurant and sold it to an eccentric old man who collected mental institutions. The last I heard, he turned it into his private home. At least someone’s getting some use out of it.
What do you choose to do now?