Cooking Lessons for Neopets
I was awoken from my peaceful slumber by the smell of acrid smoke and shouts of alarm. I immediately jumped up from the sofa to find the source of the disturbance, which appeared to be in the kitchen. Upon entering the room, I was confronted by a scene of such devastation that I decided, there and then, that my Grundo would never again be allowed to cook.
The ceiling was covered in a thick gloopy slime of goodness knows what, the oven was belching out thick black fumes, and Finn was stood in the middle of it all, overwhelmed by the chaos he had caused.
I marched into the kitchen to sort out the mess and prevent any further damage ensuing, turning the oven off, handing Finn a mop and bucket, and throwing the cremated remains of some kind of cake into the bin.
Disaster averted, Finn approached me later that evening to discuss his grand plans to create a three-tiered chocolate cake the following morning.
"No, absolutely not!" I insisted, eager to prevent any future culinary disasters.
Finn stuck out his bottom lip in protest, knowing that it would pull on my heart strings.
"I'm sorry, Finn, but until I can trust you to cook responsibly then you will no longer be allowed near the kitchen." I stood firm against the coercive display.
Finn gave me one last pathetic look before storming upstairs in a huff. I felt guilty, but this had been the third incident of its kind in the past month and I knew that before long the consequences would be much more destructive.
I turned back to my magazine and flicked the pages, only half reading their contents. Suddenly an advert caught my eye.
'Cooking lessons for neopets!' it exclaimed in big bubble writing. 'No talent required!'
This had to be the perfect solution; a way of preventing my house from being burned down without taking away my pet's favourite hobby. I noted down the address and went upstairs to talk to Finn.
One week later Finn and I stepped off the boat onto the bright white beach of Mystery Island. Map in hand, we wandered around for just short of an hour before reaching our destination.
We entered a grand looking building and were greeted at a desk by a cheery looking Flotsam.
"Good morning! How can I help?" he asked, eagerly.
"We're here for the cookery course," I replied.
"Ah, of course. Please follow me."
We were led down a grand marble-floored hallway into a room at the back. Upon entering, we passed through a wall of heat and emerged into a huge bustling kitchen. There were shelves upon shelves of rare and outrageously expensive ingredients, several pots bubbling ferociously on multiple stoves, and the air was filled with a delicious aroma.
Finn looked at me, an expression of pure delight upon his face. I smiled back, impressed with the facilities.
"You guys must be Finn and Abs?" A large Lupe wearing a white toque approached us. "Welcome to my kitchen, I promise by the end of your short stay here you two will be able to whip up wonderful culinary creations with no problems. I have yet to fail at teaching anybody to cook. Jay here will sort you out with chef uniforms, and then we'll get started!"
We followed the overly happily flotsam into a room at the back of the kitchen, and re-emerged ten minutes later looking quite the part. We joined the chef at one of the many stainless steel worktops to await our instructions.
"Okay, so let me first introduce myself properly. My name is Alex, and I am the head chef and teacher here. This morning we will be learning how to cook an easy banana sundae, one of my personal favourite desserts."
We were each given a workstation with a set of ingredients, and followed Alex's step-by-step method to produce the treat. Forty five minutes later, and my creation was looking rather impressive, and delicious I may add, and I looked to my left to see how Finn was getting on. I did a double take, as I saw my Grundo covered in lashings of toffee sauce and it took me a few moments to realise that the pile of gunk in front of him was, in fact, his attempt at the pudding.
I saw Alex frown as he looked up and took in the scene, before making his way over to talk to Finn.
"Good attempt, little guy. I think this is a lesson for us all, that presentation is not everything as I am sure that this will taste just as good, if not better, than everybody else's!" Alex plucked a spoon out of a drawer and sampled Finn's sundae. However, instead of smiling with delight at the tasty morsel, his face grimaced slightly. "Um, did you put the right ingredients in this kiddo?"
Finn nodded, a look of hurt silently spreading across his face.
"Ah right, okay. Well, I am sure with some practice at home you will get this perfected." Alex turned away to walk back to the front with a slightly quizzical look.
The following day found me and Finn attempting to create a full roast dinner each. Once again my attempt was looking rather respectable for an amateur, although my gravy had turned out slightly lumpy.
Finn, however, was creating a storm in the kitchen. Despite being supervised by Alex for the majority of the process, he had still managed to burn his chicken, make his potatoes taste bitter, and accidentally add chilli powder to his gravy instead of stock cubes. I could see that Alex's patience was wearing a little bit thin, so I picked his brains about how to roast other meats to distract him from Finn's kitchen disasters.
When it came to the tasting of each of our dishes, Finn looked rather worried but Alex managed to keep an obviously fake smile plastered on his face to save Finn's feelings from taking another battering.
"He'll improve, don't worry..." I whispered to Alex as we left the kitchen that evening, although I believed we were both unconvinced by my hopeful words.
Our final day in the teaching kitchen was our chance to show off our newly acquired skills, creating a mouth-watering three course meal.
Finn had planned an ambitious menu of soup, followed by a chicken curry, all finished off with a chocolate soufflé. I was wary that this could end in a catastrophe but every time I tried to intervene or give Finn some advice he told me to leave him alone and that he could do it.
Halfway through I was feeling the strain. My potatoes weren't cooking fast enough, I had curdled my custard, and burnt my fish. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Finn seemed to not be feeling the pressure at all. He appeared calm and collected, and there was a lovely smell coming from a saucepan he'd put on the hob. Maybe he was right after all!
Alex intermittently came round, tasting any concoctions on the stove, and poking at any meat in the oven. As he came away from Finn's bench he grinned at me, giving me a discreet thumbs-up. I was pleased that Finn was finally learning, and it meant I could look forward to him safely cooking me some wonderful food when we got home.
Tasting time soon came round, and I was disappointed that I had run out of time to present my dishes as perfectly as I would have liked. Finn's on the other hand looked fabulous; I had to resist the temptation to go over there and eat some of it myself.
After Alex had perused everybody's offerings he gathered us around his bench at the front.
"I may have forgotten to mention that there is actually a prize for the best meal cooked today." A few whispers were exchanged between the other students, and Finn and I glanced at each other briefly. "I am pleased to announce that today's winner is Finn!"
Bang! An oven exploded, and what appeared to be molten chocolate flew across the room in every direction. Hot black smoke filled the air and everybody panicked.
"Calm down, everybody, someone must have been stupid enough to leave something in the oven! Who did this?" Alex bellowed over the commotion.
Finn's bottom lip quivered and his eyes glazed over, becoming teary.
"Oops..." Finn whispered.
"It wasn't that bad!" I exclaimed to Finn. We were back in our house in Neopia, sitting at our kitchen table.
"I destroyed the kitchen and everybody was mad at me! It can't get much worse than that! I am never cooking again!" Finn cried before storming upstairs.
Before I could set off after him, there was a knock at the door, and I couldn't hide my surprise when I opened it to find Alex there on my doorstep.
"Hi... Look, I'm sorry, I feel kind of bad for shouting at Finn... It's just I've never failed at teaching anybody to cook before."
"It's okay, Alex. He's upset for now but he'll get over it, I'm sure. He'll be blowing up my kitchen again before you know it!"
I noticed Alex looking behind me, and I turned around to see Finn standing there.
"I'm sorry. Do you hate me?" Finn asked Alex.
"No, of course not! It's not your fault! Clearly I didn't teach you well enough!"
"What about you, Abs, do you hate me?" Finn looked at me with deep sorrowful eyes.
"Oh Finn, I could never hate you! Anyway, I don't know what I would do if you could cook, your kitchen disasters are part of what makes you you!"
With that Finn and I embraced in a long hug, and I vowed never again to try and stop him doing something he enjoyed, even if he was hopeless at it. Except maybe I won't allow him to make any more soufflés for a while...