Kitchen Nightmares - Skillful Cook
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Kitchen Nightmares

Kind of Cake.

That right there? That was supposed to be a cake. I ate the hot gooey batter out of the pan with a spoon and really truly loved every bite, but come on. Cake? Not even close.

Then there's our frying pan.

Buying the one that was less than one dollar was not our brightest idea. Correction: my brightest idea. Every single thing I put in there sticks to the bottom and immediately gets burned, even with excessive amounts of oil and butter. Tonight we panicked because the burnt remnants of a pancake started smoking enough to set off the fire alarm.

But then we realized that we don't even HAVE a fire alarm.

Double fail.

Man holding a pan.

Cooking is a major frustration. Of all my home cooking experiences in Cebu (totaling about 8) only 1 has been successful. O-n-e. And successful is being a tad generous. There's been over-soy-sauced chicken adobo, pancakes that burn to the pan, fried rice that resembles rice pudding, and cakes that bake into hot batter (see first goobly goopy picture).

What is going on?! I could seriously cry. Ok, maybe I did cry.

It could be unfamiliarity with new foreign cooking appliances (I have definitely never used an oven that literally has a little flame inside), cheap equipment, phantom kitchen cockroaches, humidity, different ingredients, or just plain error. I don't know.

But I want to cook and I want to eat and yet somehow it seems like all I ever eat is peanut butter. Side note - they have Peanut Butter & Co's White Chocolate Wonderful at our little local Cebuano grocery store. What the what?! So as I complain about eating peanut butter, let's be real: it's exceptionally yummy peanut butter and I love it.

I fully intend to blog recipes this year, but believe me, you don't want me sharing anything that's coming out of that frying pan just yet.

Kitchen Nightmare in the oven.

I'm also feeling sad today because an inspiringly faithful lady in my hometown passed away recently after a year long battle with pancreatic cancer. What unfairness. My eyes are filling with tears as I type this, thinking about her husband and two kids who are missing her so much and the community who has lost a caring friend, teacher, and leader. I can't even come close to understanding it, but I trust and believe that her soul is with Jesus and that the Holy Spirit will bring peace and comfort that's beyond our understanding to those who are mourning.

There are no shortages of dark-ish moments for us as we adjust to life in this new place, but we're doing our best to remember that there are many who are dealing with far more difficult challenges than we are.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-8

Filed Under: Living Abroad

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m so sorry for your loss, my thoughts are with her family and friends. Life really is so unfair isn’t it? Sending lots of good thoughts your way too xoxo

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    My sympathies as you remember you friend. Hang in there – it is alway tough getting accustomed to just one of the kitchen challenges you mentioned, but all of them at once!?! Hang in there. I trust there will be successful attempts in the future and will patiently wait your posts.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Having spent most of the past 3 years in Asia, I can certainly sympathize with your cooking catastrophes. Cooking {and eating} are two of my favorite things, but it felt like I was constantly apologizing because stuff wouldn’t turn out, and for no apparent reason. I don’t know what it is, either, but I would say that ingredients and humidity/sea level play a large part in it. It is a challenge {adventure} to relearn cooking with the odds stacked against you, but you’ll figure it out! 🙂

    Stumbled across your blog recently, and am inspired and challenged by the little I’ve seen of your journey. It’s not easy, but life does “begin at the end of our comfort zones”… I’m starting to see this is actually true, not just a cool saying. Just said a prayer for grace for you both as you go through the tough adjustments. 2 Corinthians 12:9

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment LaRonda. It makes me feel so much better to know that you have also had those “I-have-no-idea-why-this-didn’t-work” moments! Where are you in Asia and what are you doing?

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I’m currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand as dean of women at an organization that exists to train young people for missions while they are living on the foreign field. I was a student at the school in ’09, and traveled throughout southeast Asia on ministry trips but have never made it to the Philippines.

        How long do you plan to be in Cebu?

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          That is so cool! We are hoping to bop around to a few other SE Asian countries before heading back to the states and Thailand is definitely on my list. We will be here in Cebu for a year.

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            Well, if you bop up to Chiang Mai and need something, feel free to give me a shout. 🙂 I’ll be here until January, most likely.

            And if you do make it here, be sure to try the Khao Soi. It’s delish. Or the som tam (green papaya salad). 🙂

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    So sorry to hear about your friend, sending {hugs}….Does it bring any comfort whatsoever to know that even though you’ve had more than your share of kitchen disasters we still love the way you write about them?? You’ll adjust, and your kitchen will once again produce delightful recipes that will give us all cooking envy… Trust me!! 🙂

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    My sympathy goes out to you and everyone who is missing the woman who passed. The fragility of life can be devastating. I also empathize deeply with attempts at cooking in a foreign country…it can be difficult getting to know appliances and cookware but once you conquer it (and you definitely will), you’ll get a good laugh and the pancake stuck to the frying pan and the overflowing cake (which I’d still eat with a spoon too) will be fond memories. Good luck and chin up!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    I think it would be great if you showed us everything you attempt to cook! 🙂 Those would be some great posts!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for this post. It was a beautiful service.

    I am hoping to get in on some of your Cebu food creations when we visit. Maybe I’ll pass on the cake?…

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    I totally get how irritating cooking and baking in another country is. I didn’t have any cookies for the first year I was living abroad. Can you imagine? No cookies. No crust. No bread. Everything was terrible until I realized that German all-purpose flour = our pastry flour. I hope things turn around for you soon. But at least you have your girls! They look super sweet. 🙂

    I love that picture of Bjork. It kind of just summarizes everything perfectly. With one picture.

    I’m sorry to hear about the lady that passed away. Another post in my Google Reader was dedicated to another lady who had just passed away. It really makes you think. 🙁

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    I can definitely sympathize with your cooking woes. I remember trying to bake a birthday cake for my grandmother in India. Everything was different from what I was used to, and it took me about 5 tries to get something that even resembled cake! Hopefully you will have better baking luck in the future. I have been enjoying reading about your new adventures!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    I bet that gooey cake batter was delicious even if it didn’t look “camera ready” so to speak. White chocolate peanut butter is all you really need anyway, that stuff is insanely good! Can’t believe they have it out there!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss, and I’ll pray for you guys and her family. It certainly does put everything in perspective. Have you thought of trying to find a toaster oven? They aren’t expensive and might get you over the hump of trying to cook in the unfamiliar oven. I don’t know if you can even find one there, just a thought!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m sorry for your loss. Times like that are so hard to be away….

    As far as your cooking – I’m not sure what the difference is! I lived with a host family in Costa Rica that cooked the most amazing food for us and when we tried to cook for them (same exact materials), it was pretty bad! One thing was that the stove was different- we thought the temperature was different than what it was, even though I was used to a gas stove. I also know that in Costa Rica, families didn’t bake. Do you have any way of knowing if other people are able to use the ovens with success?

    Other people made good points about ingredients being different, altitude, etc… maybe start with the Filipino-type food since you know it can be made there? Otherwise, just keep making that cake. I would totally eat it. 🙂

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      That’s actually Mimi’s Grandma’s fudge cake! I am embarrassed to admit that considering how nasty it looks in comparison with the real thing. But even the hot batter was so delicious. I think I might have tried to take on too much too early with that one. 🙂 I don’t even have a real baking pan!

      And I have been harassing the Filipino staff here to get as much baking/cooking advice as possible. It sounds like many people DO bake, and it DOES work, so I think I am just still getting the hang of how to adjust recipes and which ingredients can work with my recipes.

      Goal: to successfully blog the fudge cake before the end of the year.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    It stinks when things don’t work out how you want them to in the kitchen! And that’s me talking in my clean, modern, fully-functioning kitchen, so I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Don’t give up though! You’re an inspiration to us all for what you’re doing, and I enjoy even your “I failed” posts. 🙂

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    I just want to say how sorry I am for the loss of your friend and for the family and friends she left behind.

    I also want you to know that I’m enjoying your recent posts as much as your recipes, so if you don’t cook another good recipe, don’t worry, your posts are super entertaining. Seeing how you adjust to this new country and way of life is inspiring and makes me appreciate the simple conveniences that I tend to take for granted. Maybe you can make a book out of your experience.

    Anyway, hang in there. The universe has a plan for us so trust that you’re on the right path.


  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m sorry for your loss, Lindsay. It’s such a hard thing to lose a good person but like you said, trusting in the Lord and his plan is the best thing. We may never know why he does what he does, but he never fails us. Sounds like she touched the hearts of many though. I’ll say a prayer for you and her family and friends.

    As for your kitchen mishaps, I’ve been there. Looking at the picture of your cake in the oven makes me mad at myself because that’s happen to me so many times and I bop myself in the head for not remembering to put a pan under there. When my house smokes up I cry. haha And in your defense, Adobo is one of the hardest dishes EVER! I still can’t get the ratio right. I have since perfected my bistek though. SO much easier!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Joanna, thank you for reminding me about your Filipino recipe archives! I need to check those out ASAP!! And thanks for the encouragement.

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    hey, just wanna share this new blog i found: the blogger is filipina and lives in the phillippines, maybe you could communicate with her.. oh, and he loves baking..

    as for that frying pan, it’s not! that’s a saucepan. things really would stick there. try a wok (that’s what we commonly fry things in) or a proper frying pan.

    in the meantime, enjoy the mangoes (cebu is the country’s mango capital) and the peanut butter!

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    Loved the Ttv lens effect! 🙂

    Time for me to start using mine which lies somewhere in the trunk.