Shannon Bardwell: Presentation is everything

May 16, 2011 10:36:00 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


I''ve been thinking about writing a cookbook called "Cheater Cooking." The idea came to me when I was explaining to the girl at the Shell station why I wanted six chicken nuggets. I was looking at all the fried morsels and couldn''t quite tell which ones were the chicken nugget, so I asked. 


"We''re out of nuggets, but we have boneless chicken wings," she said. 


"Boneless chicken wings? Can you explain that to me? I mean if the wing doesn''t have a bone what''s left? 


She said she didn''t know, but they were a whole lot better than the nuggets. Sounded a little fishy to me, but I said, "OK I''ll take six boneless chicken wings." They looked just like the nuggets, and the okra and the mushrooms for that matter. 


My supper plans for Sam included a fried chicken salad. By heating the chicken nuggets (rather, the boneless chicken wings), adding them to salad greens and topping them off with a good helping of Ranch dressing, I didn''t have to actually cook anything and Sam would have one of those fancy salads that you can get in any highfalutin'' restaurant. 


Another variation of the gas station menu is my homemade chicken soup for shut-ins. Again, I don''t really cook anything. Fried chicken parts from a gas station will do just fine. Cut the chicken off the bone, if it has a bone, and put it in a pot. Then add chicken bouillon, water, and maybe some chopped up celery; the chicken parts already have all the seasoning and there you have it -- homemade chicken soup.  


If I could come up with 365 cheater cooking recipes, I''d have a cookbook. I probably need to come up with a few recipes that don''t involve fried chicken parts from a gas station. 


I recently re-discovered I had authored a recipe in a cookbook 25 years ago. There it was, my green bean recipe described as "dump" green beans in a skillet, pour over Italian dressing and top with Parmesan cheese, clearly the early makings of a cheater cookbook. 


Some of my snack recipes for Sam include slicing one single piece of string cheese into six or eight pieces. Put the cheese on a saltine cracker and nuke it for about 20 seconds. Then cut a green olive in half and push it into the warmed cheese. This is a particularly frugal snack made with only one cheese stick. 


Once I was in a pinch for time and Sam was coming through the door, so I grabbed a granola bar, quickly sliced it into six pieces and arranged it attractively on a cutting board. I smiled, welcomed him home and handed him his snack. He looked incredulously at the granola bar then back at me, "I guess presentation is everything." 


"Yes, honey, it is."  


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her e-mail is [email protected]

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.