I recently discovered the healthy, frugal, “have my shit together” magic known as a crockpot, specifically, a brown-and-tan, floral relic from my parents’ wedding that in a roundabout Oedipal way, led to the traumatization of my penis.
I don’t often cook. I sometimes throw a sweet potato in the oven, and on occasion, I’ll add some basil to a can of chili. My meals usually consist of protein shakes, motor dogs, Reese’s, and Babybell cheese. Until the crockpot.
The crockpot filled my freezer with Costco bags of chicken breasts, Costco bags of chicken thighs, Costco four-packs of pork loins, and styrofoam Costco trays of pork shoulder. The two percent rebate makes this stewardly. My magical, inherited slow cooker has transmogrified icy protein into salsa chicken, orange chicken, sesame chicken, Ethiopian chicken, and sweet potato chicken. My diet has ceased to embarrass me. I can contribute to potlucks and host dinner guests. My protein intake has doubled. My heart will not survive.
Like Peter Parker in his cagefight, I have sought out ways to use my newfound ability. I volunteered to cook Saturday dinner at a cabin weekend: pulled pork tacos, complete with a tome-like recipe that contained half a dozen spices, nebulous instructions like “skim off the fat,” and vegetables. While my friends drank Moscow mules and laughed about stories—stories I couldn’t hear from my hermitage in the kitchen—I diced jalapeños and rubbed cumin into slabs of pork.
But even more recently than the revelation of slow cooking, I have discovered my extroversion. A borderline INTJ/ENTJ according to Myers and Briggs, I have long claimed the introverted side as my own. Organizing the cabin weekend and preparing meals for company, Will tells me, invalidates that claim. My exile in the kitchen was confirming it—I wanted to be anywhere but in front of my crockpot, stranded among cutting boards and produce. A conversation about circumcision migrated to the hallway, and talk of a board game manifested in the living room. I chopped onions and sprinkled pepper.
And then a third, more primal contestant entered the ring. Cooking had held its own against socialization, but against urination—I skipped dicing and dropped whole garlic cloves into the crockpot, dumped the jalapeños into the mix, swabbed the counters with a single wipe, transferred my hands’ meat juice and spices to a paper towel, and—sweet relief—emptied my bladder and rejoined others.
The living room had risen twenty degrees since my arrival; the fireplace blazed and a dozen bodies bustled. It wasn’t a room for tight, stiff Levi’s, which felt so much tighter here than they had in the kitchen. Particularly tight and stiff around the schlong.
I found a pair of joggers, an ineffective attempt to relieve the tightness that soon became an itch, and then a burning. A burning Johnson, everyone knows, means one thing. I hypochondriaced myself into gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes—no matter all the sex I wasn’t having—and the bedroom became my self-exam room. No testicular cancer, but redness, yes—and getting redder. Aren’t STDs supposed to hurt on the inside? Until the cabin, I had seen Jalapeño peppers as a punchline akin to dumb blondes and one-pump chumps, exaggerated and cliched for the sake of the joke. Jalapeño peppers, it turns out, have more in common with sliding a bamboo shoot under your fingernail, especially when combined with male-specific anatomy.
Clean, jalapeño-free underwear didn’t help. A warm, wet washcloth only aggravated it. A full shower with soap and hot water turned burning into scalding. Desperate, I started whispering my problem to anyone who would listen.
“My balls are on fire.”
“They’re soaked in jalapeño juice.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I was cooking!”
“How would that help you cook?”
“You know how I cook!”
Someone, finally, suggested milk. Apparently, the proteins or the enzymes or yet another part of cooking I don’t understand could relieve the spiciness of a consumed pepper.
“But I didn’t consume it!”
“I don’t know! Pour some milk in a glass and dip your balls in it!”
I waddled back to the bathroom, a bow-legged, wincing man carrying a glass of milk to its doom. Alone in the shower, I dipped.
The pulled pork tacos, I am happy to report, turned out delicious, and my genitalia have made a full recovery. I have a new intimacy with milk. We’re very happy.
NPR called Josh “a modern-day Jack Kerouac” after he wrote about his 7,000-mile, no-money hitchhiking journey through the United States. Since hitchhiking, he’s found homes in the Pacific Northwest, the Episcopal Church, and the post calvin. He builds websites as the director of Branded Look LLC. Josh’s writing has appeared in places such as The Emerson Review, Front Porch Review, and Perspectives.