Today's adventure centers around a Crock-Pot chicken recipe. It all began when we woke up at 6:30 A.M. and realized there was no electricity. We'd been having violent storms all night long, and they continued through the morning. The first thing I did was crawl back in bed since I couldn't work on my laptop and it was too early to wake Allyson.
When we got up, we enjoyed a breakfast of cold cereal and untoasted English muffins with peanut butter. Everything Allyson wanted required electricity--oatmeal? scrambled eggs? peanut butter toast?--and she was not too pleased.
I'd planned to turn on the slow cooker at 9:00, but 9:00 rolled around, and there was still no power. After a moment's thought, I decided to take the slow cooker to work with me. I knew if I left the chicken in the refrigerator, it would probably spoil. And what if the stove wasn't working when we got home?
I packed the chicken into a small cooler bag, along with several unopened packages of cheese and a package of Italian sausage, all of which I had purchased the night before. (See, this is why I usually just shop one meal at a time. Who knew that getting organized this week would cause such inconvenience?)
It took three trips to the car before I finally had Allyson strapped into her car seat. Luckily, it had stopped raining for the moment. I dropped her at Denise's house, which was also without power. Allyson was a little nervous and needed a couple extra hugs. I think she was afraid the storm would come back--which it did.
Just as I pulled into a parking space at work, the sky opened up. I couldn't wait it out because I had just six minutes until my first teleconference of the day, and I still had to load all of that food into the refrigerator and start up my laptop. I strapped the laptop's backpack on, slung the cooler bag and my purse over one arm, and stacked my Tupperware lunch container on top of the slow cooker. I took a deep breath and stumbled out into the rain, kicking the car door shut behind me.
I started to run, but the can of black beans jostled dangerously against the jar of picante sauce inside the slow cooker. So I did my quickest power walk to the building. When I arrived at the fourth floor, I was a stressed-out, drowned rat.
My local boss, Mike, spotted the slow cooker immediately. After he'd lightened my load, he asked with a laugh, "So, what's for dinner tonight?" (This wasn't the first time I'd brought the slow cooker to work, much to Bill's embarrassment. For some reason, everyone at work finds it hilarious when I cook under the desk in my cubicle.)
"Chicken with cream cheese and salsa and black beans," I answered as I hurriedly transferred the meats and cheeses into the tiny dorm-sized fridge across from my desk.
"What's the sausage for?" he asked. I explained about the power outage, and he promised to remind me to get the sausage on my way home.
When it was time to assemble the ingredients in the slow cooker, I was on my second conference call of the day. I hollered to Bill, who sits just on the other side of the divider, to ask if he would open the black beans for me. He grumbled that he didn't have time to track down a can opener, but Sherry piped up that she had one at her desk. (This is what I love about working in a cube farm! Everyone knows everyone else's business.)
Bill retrieved the can opener and opened the can for me. He handed it over gingerly, as if it might be rancid. (He hates beans.) I drained the can over the trash can and poured in only half the beans, as a compromise for Bill. "Will there be anything else?" Bill asked sarcastically--though I could hear the laughter in his voice.
"Yes, actually. Could you grab the chicken out of the fridge?"
"Sheeze! Do you want me to rub it with spices and dice it for you?"
"No, just hand it over," I said, rolling my eyes.
It was sometime around this point that I realized I didn't have a can of corn. "Oh, man!!" I wailed. Mike suggested I check the drugstore around the corner, which seemed like a good plan.
I slipped out into the hot, muggy afternoon after my teleconference and drove to CVS. A quick perusal of their one grocery aisle revealed that there was not a single canned vegetable, though I could have purchased tuna or mac n cheese or Pop-Tarts. I stood in front of the Pop-Tarts and scowled, deep in thought. I grinned when I thought of the solution: I'd just pop over to the Dickey's Barbecue, which was right on the way back around the block.
At Dickey's, I had another dilemma. My memory was correct about the corn, but all they had was half ears. Hmm... I was the only customer at 3:00 in the afternoon, so the server was patient.
At last, I announced, "I'll take... six ears of corn, please. To go."
"Will there be anything else?"
My eyes lit on the baked potato casserole right next to the corn. I wasn't even hungry, but that looked irresistible.
"And some of that potato casserole."
If the man wondered what I could want with six ears of corn and a small serving of potatoes, he didn't ask. But the angle of his eyebrows prompted me to offer an explanation anyway. "Weird, huh"
"Nnhh," he answered cryptically.
"It's for a recipe," I explained.
"Mmm." It seemed that English was his second language, so I wondered if he didn't understand me--either that, or maybe he was trying to avoid engaging in conversation with the weird lady with uncontrollable afternoon carb cravings.
"That'll be $8.59," he said. Now my eyebrows were raised. Ouch! That was a lot of money for the equivalent of a can of corn. Oh well.
Back at the office, I had just unloaded the corn onto a plate to cool and was contemplating how to cut it with a plastic fast-food knife when Bill rounded the corner. "What's with all that corn?" he asked loudly.
"Corn?" asked Rebecca, who sits just past the other divider.
"Yes, she has like a dozen ears of corn, and they're all lined up in a perfect row. Do you want some? She has plenty to share." Rebecca laughed, and I could feel my face heating up.
I explained about the trip to CVS and Dickey's.
"You thought you could find corn at a drug store?" he asked incredulously.
"Well, Mike said..."
"Why didn't you just drive to the grocery store? There's a Tom Thumb close by."
"I know, I know. That would have been smarter. I just wanted to get right in and out."
As soon as he was out of sight, I started sawing off the kernels with the blunt knife--between bites of the potato casserole, which was indescribably delicious. It was definitely worth the trip to Dickey's and the $8.59!
Meanwhile, two more people came by and exclaimed over my stockpile of corn. Several others teased me about the slow cooker under the desk.
'Round about 5:00, though, no one was laughing. "Man, that smells good!" Mike kept repeating. "I'd like to come home with you guys and eat," Don said. I just smiled like the smart, sensible ant next to the lazy grasshoppers.
Just before I left the office at 5:30, I laid the cream cheese across the top and latched the lid shut.
"Don't forget your sausage," Mike called out, and we both laughed. (Why do men always laugh when anyone says the word sausage?)
It was a long ride home, both literally and figuratively. I got stuck in a nasty traffic jam, and the chicken was smelling more and more inviting as my stomach twisted mercilessly. Just as I was pondering what I might use for an eating utensil--maybe even my hand?--the traffic started creeping along again.
At 7:00, we sat down to eat. When I prayed over the meal, Allyson added, "And Jesus, tell God not to flood the earth again. We need our power!" (The power was back on, by the way.)
At last, it was time to eat. It was sooo good. Almost as good as that potato casserole.
Now, here's what I'd like to know. Have you ever taken a slow cooker to work with you? (Potluck lunches don't count.) If you're reading this post via email, click the link just below the story, and you can take my poll.
If you've never taken a slow cooker to work, do you think it's weird? Leave me a comment to let me know what you think. I'd really like to know.