What can you do with corn flake crumbs? Crumbed Corn Flake Chicken, of course! (Or, I don’t know how Jacinda’s managing to steer this ship with a kid below deck, but I reckon it comes down to you Clarke.)

Though Charlie loves corn flakes for breakfast now, he’s got a thing about the last few centimetres of corn flakes in the bag. This fact / phobia / oddity / super-annoying-insistence cannot be explained. However, it can be mitigated by doing something else with those pesky end-of-bag corn flakes.

Corn Flake Crumbs

We make a lot of fried chicken around here, lately, because Charlie also, lo and behold, loves fried chicken. (I promise a recipe soon!) So when I used one of the planet’s most popular search engines to get some advice on what to do with those pesky end-of-bag corn flakes, and chicken popped up at the top of the list, oooh boy I bet you heard me howl with delight. How I love a new chicken recipe.

The idea is simple, and here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • (pesky end-of-bag) corn flake crumbs
  • chicken breasts (ideally two)
  • one egg
  • a splurt of milk
  • various seasonings

Here’s a snapshot of how it starts:

Yes, these are the various seasonings I choose. And this is the basic texture of corn flake crumbs.

About the seasonings: These are the same I use in my secret fried chicken flour recipe. Do I need to list them? No, but I will mention Badia Complete Seasoning. I don’t know what magic is in this shit — so I looked it up. Garlic, onion, various salty things — your typical mixed seasoning fare. Plus.

Wait for it.

Monosodium glutamate. (Also known as ‘Flavour enhancer (621)’ in New Zealand.)

There it is. The magic. I don’t know what the 620 other flavours that led to MSG tasted like, but my friends, they got it right on the 621st try. Mmmmhm. (I unashamedly love MSG, and I’m going to live forever.)

Method

This is pretty simple stuff (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it!)

First, crumb those flakes. I leave them in the bag and use a rolling pin to flatten them into crumbs. Takes half a minute of rolling.

Next, season the crumbs. This I leave to your sense of taste. Do I use a tablespoon of MSG powder infused Badia or two cups? Hell I don’t know. I use some. That’s a quantity that makes sense to me. So.

Same with the other seasonings. When the mix smells right, it’s right, am-i-right?

Next, whip up an egg wash by beating an egg and a splurt of milk.

Then, (this all seems so obvious) cut up the breasts into roughly one centimetre chunks, dip them in the wash, roll them in the crumbs.

Set these on a baking-paper-lined cooking sheet. A bit like this*:

* First time I did this, I learned that putting the crumbed chickens directly on the cooking sheet results in half-crumbed chicken and half-crumbed cooking sheet. I assume this is not your goal. It wasn’t mine, and I was, shall we say, pretty fucking disappointed.

Now, chuck them in an oven heated to, I dunno, the oven’s not too precise. Maybe it was 180 degrees, bottom heat with the fan. In about twenty minutes, you’ll have this*:

* I should mention: it’s a good idea to flip them half way through, or else the bottom will be soggy. There. I remembered to say it. Anyway:

I know what you’re thinking: that’s the same picture!

Nope. These things look almost the exact same coming out as they look going in, which can be a bit unnerving when you’re dealing with chicken. My solution is simple: cut the thickest one in half and if it’s cooked the whole way through, eat it without hesitation! (And wash it down with something delicious.)

Denouement

I’ll be honest — this isn’t much of a recipe. In fact, it’s pretty dull, except that snark about Flavour 621. That was ok for a giggle if you’re in good spirits to start.

Maybe I’m losing my edge, or like a butter knife, never had one. So I looked up what to do. Here’s a piece about Simple Tips to Include Humour in your Blog Posts. From the look of things, I neglected a hilarious stock photo of some rando pulling a funny face. Oops.

Other insights: Funny metaphors. Self-deprecation. Memes.

Fail. All of this is a fail.


Can we talk Clarke?

Let’s just talk here.

The thing is this: life’s hard with kids around.

2.15 AM I was awakened by the little guy shouting about his favourite lamp not being pointed in quite the right direction or some ridiculousness. That’s how it is, right? You deal with it. But for me, I know I’ll be awake, minimum, two hours. In those two hours, my mind will race, competing with nobody but itself, and that’s hard to take because everyone else goes back to sleep and you know — you just know — tomorrow’s gonna be hard now. Harder than usual. Tomorrow ruined tonight. It’s a grim feeling. I feel it too often.

So laying there sleepless, I got thinking. Two things. One: the very reason we have this recipe is that kids can be so fucking unreasonable! Why the fuck won’t Charlie eat the final two centimetres of corn flakes in the goddamned bag? Why why why?

Gets you to thinking: when I was a kid…. Well Clarke, when I was a kid, we didn’t have corn flakes. Why not? Because, inexplicably, what they called frosted flakes were cheaper, if you played your cards right. Sugar-coated corn flakes. Cheaper than the corn flakes themselves — if you had a coupon and it was double coupon day or whatever scam they ran to get you to consume this absolute garbage.

Those were different times (we tell ourselves). Sundays we’d get the big newspaper with all the advertisements, and there’d be a coupon section, and we’d lay across the floor in front of the forced hot air vent — oil-fired furnace back then and how we didn’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning is a bloody miracle — and we’d flip through and find all the goodies we liked best and clip the coupons — that’s what they called it. They even made it sound fun. We didn’t use scissors to cut out the rectangle, we clipped the motherfucker because that’s exciting!

So we’d take those coupons to the grocery store, walking around with a picture of the oversweet faux-food in our hands, find the matching box on the shelf, do a quick calculation — save fifty cents, doubled, and the frosted flakes are on special this week — and there it is. Inexplicably cheaper. Therefore, the kids get frosted flakes this week.

You know what — now I get it — that’s why, when I was a kid, I didn’t leave the crumbs. Because the crumbs were little pellets of sugar drugs.

Tangent: Nowadays here we are worried about privacy and tracking our web browsers and cookies and all that shit, and it occurs to me: what we got ain’t nothing new. Man, they tracked those coupons, those portable pictures of what they wanted you to buy — they had UPC codes for a good reason. They knew which newspapers to put them in, which demographic would buy the frosted shit, and they delivered that shit directly to our door. You want to talk about social media invading our privacy. Shit man. Let’s think about it short and quick: what we got ain’t nothing new. (That line is a reference to Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men”, which is one of my favourite books and films. So much of what I’m saying here is wrapped up in the story there. Worth a read, mate.)

And this reminds me of something I learned fifteen years ago when I was a computer programmer. I worked for a bank — yep, I spent a decade (eleven years really, but who other than me is counting) — and one day the president of the mortgage division was trying to tell me how their commissioning and fee system worked, and I was stumbling over all the confusion and one-off deals they ran, how shady it all sounded, trying to figure out how to automate some process for them. And he stopped me and said, and goddamn I’ll never forget this:

We always get our money.

Well blow me down, and he’s 100% right not only about banks and their money, but the grocery stores, the social media advertising machines, everyone. And it ain’t nothing new.

What I’m trying to say is that Charlie wouldn’t leave two centimetres of frosted corn flakes.

Would you?

Here’s the other thing I was thinking. Tanya asked me yesterday where I see myself in ten years.

Where do you see yourself Clarke? I figure, you’ve got this history as a tv presenter — and you’re good at it! You seem to have your act together as a guy. After reading all these recipes here, you’re probably a damned fine short order cook as well. (Who am I kidding? I’ve seen Fish of the Day. You fucking rock already. You’ll land on your feet pal. But I’m still curious to know what you think.)

Me: I honestly don’t have any idea. I quit that bank job because it was sucking my soul away, and because it cost so damned much to purchase health care in America. Then we emigrated here — and I love it. Man I love it. As you surely know by now, I’ve done this and that over the years. A bit of teaching at University of Auckland. A bit of writing. Some bicycle repair. A whole lot of editing. And these goofy little side projects, like this ridiculous site.

I also wrote a novel.

Is it any good, you ask? I dunno. I liked it. A lot of friends who’ve read it liked it. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done — including writing a PhD.

People ask me what I’ll do with it. Well, it’s been rejected a few times already — not surprising. But I’m not really putting in an effort to be honest. Does it need to be published? I dunno. I’ve got steady work so I’m not hurting for cash. My goal in writing it was to give voice to a particular character — I don’t want to ruin it for you! — and that worked. And I wanted to connect with a new friend here in Devonport who grew up around Frank Sargeson. He loves the manuscript — called it Sargesonian wouldn’t you know — and we sat and talked about characters and plot and scenes for hours. Kept us both alive sometimes. (He’s 83 and he’s an absolute treasure.)

What do you do with that Clarke? What do you do?

The way I thought of it overnight, in my manic fit of insomnia, in ten years I’d probably buy myself an orange shirt and pretend to work at Mitre10 and give people all kinds of ridiculous advice. I was thinking wouldn’t it be funny to direct everyone to the duct tape aisle, regardless of what they asked for. You know, duct tape. Fixes anything.

Then I got thinking about duct tape. It’s incredible, isn’t it. You can peel it off itself like an overripe banana, but then you can use it to close gaps between pieces of industrial ventilation systems, and it’ll hold for a goddamned decade. Now that’s some magical technology that somebody somewhere thought up, and that somebody probably had some idea where they’d be in ten years. Lucky bastard.

Here my claim to fame is what? Finding a way to keep corn flake crusted chicken — the dregs of the bag that my child rejected — from sticking to a cooking sheet. Bully for me.

Ten years, man. I’ll be 58. Nobody will hire me. I’ve already not worked for anyone since Charlie was born — that’s 11 years now. My CV is a piece of shit, to be honest. But I’ve got all these projects that I’ve tried and didn’t really go anywhere. I’ve got this manuscript. I’ll have another one soon enough — yep, novel number two is in the works!

I think back and my past was so driven by rage and heartbreak. (I wrote that line while in the insomniacal fit. Is it still true this morning? Maybe.) I was an angry kid, felt like I’d missed out on so much. And now here I am, not angry (well, not like I used to be), not missing out on anything because we’ve made it, in some sense, and I’m doing my goddamndest to give the kids something better than I had. Like we all do Clarke. What I got here ain’t nothing new.

So when the little guy wakes up at 2.15 AM, and I think my tomorrow’s ruined, well. That’s just me knee-jerking like I used to. As though what we got ain’t nothing new.

NO! Goddamn it I’ve got something new. And I made it. I fucking made it. Literally. With my hands, my mind, my words. (Maybe you’ll read the novel one day. Will you like it? Do I need to publish it? What difference will it make? What difference does Fish of the Day make?)

Maybe the question is this, my friend: Who will you be in ten years?

I’ll be this oddball with these silly projects, these serious projects, maybe still a reasonably competent editor, and one of the best goddamned short order cooks you’ll want to share fried chicken with. (Maybe I’ll buy a red shirt and pretend to manage a KFC?)

Anyway, life’s hard with kids around.

All I can say is: don’t go hard on yourself, if you’re ever tempted. I got to tell you, I don’t know how Jacinda’s managing to steer this ship with a kid below deck, but I reckon it comes down to you Clarke. You’re doing alright too, and I hope somebody’s telling you that when you need to hear it.