Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Confession Wednesday: Kitchen Catastrophes

You'll have to click on that picture to see what's really going on.

Cooking has never come easily to me. I am related to several fantastic cooks, and I was trained by one of the best, but apparently when everyone else was lining up for that gene, I was back in the SPINE line, begging for a heftier helping. I can recall teenaged failures at things like popcorn (who messes up popcorn? People who open the popper mid-popping to check the progress, that's who!), and crockpot casseroles (who messes up crockpot recipes? People who fill crockpots with meat and vegetables and fail to add any liquids, that's who!). My siblings and I used to take turns cooking dinner, but you know, I don't remember cooking dinner that often. I think even my 10-year-old brother knew it was more palatable to take an extra turn than to let me loose in the kitchen.

Once when I was about 15, I was trying to make an apple pie while my mom was gone. The apples were coming along well enough, but I was mystified by the crumbly crust. Knowing I was in over my head, I called my grandma (who got a double dose of the cooking gene) and asked her what I should do. She gave me some advice, and five minutes later I called her back because it hadn't worked. She gave me another idea to try, which produced the same results. On the third phone call, her final words of wisdom were, "Good Grief. Crumble the crust over the apples. You've just made an apple crisp."

Lucky for me, I married a man who will eat anything he can douse in hot sauce, ranch dressing, sour cream, and/or ketchup. I'm a little better at making dinner than I used to be, but I'm still on the shady side of average. In fact, there's only one thing I make well: rolls. They're nothing special . . . no secret ingredient, no slaving over the stove. They don't even begin to compare to my Aunt Arlene's rolls, but it's the only recipe that rarely fails me. I've got a lot of people fooled, because rolls can be disguised as a wide variety of concoctions (bread, cinnamon rolls, breadsticks, cinnamon bread, sticky buns), but in the end it's all the same recipe.

If I had my way, I'd bring rolls to every potluck gathering until the end of time. I always have the ingredients on hand, and it doesn't require any creativity on my part. Salads, on the other hand, stress me out. You can't just bring lettuce, carrots and tomatoes anymore! Gone are the days of cool whip and colored marshmallows! Jello and fruit cocktail? History! A salad isn't a salad anymore unless it's full of nuts, craisins, strawberries, mangoes, cilantro (ack), ramen noodles, and that lettuce that looks like it was pollinated by a spider, and that you can't cut, stab or corral with a fork, so you have to resort to balancing it on the fork and cramming it rapidly into your mouth while hoping that all the tentacles will make it in before your advancing fork triggers your gag reflex.

Please understand, I find these salads utterly delectable (even the gangly spider lettuce), but the creation thereof perplexes me. I end up wandering through the produce section of the grocery store trying to decide which fruits and vegetables can peacefully coexist in a salad bowl. Green onions and mandarin oranges? Bell peppers and pears? Meanwhile my gaze keeps wandering longingly over to the aisles where jello, canned peaches and cool whip sit in all their simplicity. It's like trying to match up skirts, shirts, shoes and accessories when your fashion sense has been flat-lined since leg warmers came around the first time (or was is just one time? I haven't really been paying attention. ***See picture above.).

Please, oh please, just let me bring the rolls.

Lately, though, even the rolls have been failing me. Something just wasn't right. They looked funny, and they tasted like they needed salt, but I knew for sure I was adding just the right amount. I feared I was losing my precarious touch. What the heck was left to bring to potlucks?

A scientific investigation (I tasted the salt, my daughter tasted the salt, and then we made my husband taste the salt) revealed that my salt had lost its savor. Actually, I think it was mostly sugar and just a little salt. SOMEBODY had tampered with my baking cupboard . . . . a jealous fellow baker? A husband who will do almost anything to get out of a potluck? A three-year-old who gleefully discovered open ingredients left on the counter? The recipient of my last anonymous (I thought) April Fool's joke? Whoever it was, they've doomed me to a paranoid life-time of tasting the salt (blech) before I add it.

But the rolls are good again. (Until someone goes after the cooking oil.)

What's the best dish you make? What's the worst thing you've ever made?


Year of no Fear said...

I had the same experience with marshmellows in the microwave! We have more in common than I thought! My worst dish-mac and cheese in the crockpot, the kids are still talking about how gross it was and how we ended up throwing it out. I can't even fry tortillas (husband had to save dinner the other night) so I don't think I have a best dish! Maybe my tuna casserole!

Anonymous said...

My husband loves lasagna! A few years back, I baked a store bought lasagna. I'm not really sure how I ended up with it, I RARELY buy that kind of stuff. Anyway, I baked it, served it, we ate it. After dinner my husband said, "Well, this wasn't your best effort." I laughed and said it wasn't MY effort, it was store bought. He said, "oh good, let's not buy it any more."

I have a great cinnamon/ orange/ stick/ roll/ all in one recipe too! Anyone else want to join in a cinnamon roll taste test!?

Cricket said...

My oh my you made me laugh this morning Mrs. B. I grew up helping with dinners as well. When I got married I knew how to make all sorts of jello salads and lots of desserts. That was it. My husband grew up being able to drown anything he ate in BBQ sauce. We finally had an argument over the fact that he would never taste the food before bringin' on the BBQ. So I called the Dunn's to settle the argument. They said that I was justified and that a chef at a restraunt is offended when you add salt to your meal. So my sweet husband hardly ever brings out the Sauce anymore and I gladly give him permission when it needs it. My best dish is probably my Au Gratin potatoes; worst was my attempt at BBQ pork chops (ecchh)they were dryer than the mojave desert.

bestgrandkidsever said...

My best and worst--apple pie. Usually a culinary delight, but once when my fairly new in-laws were coming to dinner I left the oven on preheat and burned the top crust to a crisp. While I was having a meltdown, hubby tried to save the day by peeling off the burned crust. The in-laws pronounced it delicious. Bless them.

Mrs. B said...

Same grandma, whole different apple crisp!

Anonymous said...

I have a bunch of good dishes, not that I can take credit for the recipes- usually quick and easy stuff. The worst has to be a rice a roni casserole- I should have known it was no good when it said rice a roni, but no it was from my mil so I thought I'd try it. I don't remember what else was in it besides mayonnaise but it wasn't the greatest dish. To make it worse I made it when we had the missionaries over. I think I made them an extra nice meal the next time they came after that!

Savannah said...

First (and most importantly) I love you Mrs.B!!!!

Second, (as everything in life is second to the first comment I made) the worst meal I can remember making was spaghetti. I make a home made sauce with lots of secret ingredients, and one time I put WAY too much Italian Seasonings in. I mean, the sauce was practically green (well maybe not that bad). But it was not tasty. We didn't eat that more than once.

My best meal? Hard to choose, but my favorite one to eat is probably Chicken Bundles. You take Chicken (cooked and chopped), onion, cream cheese, and butter and put the mixture into pillsbury croissant rolls that you flatten out and then wrap around the mixture. DELICIOUS!!!

Lissa said...

I burned water when I was a newly wed. It hasn't gotten much better since then.

Jill said...

I can't think of any huge failures which is lucky since trying new recipes is my favorite hobby. It's also unfortunate for my family who often wishes "we could just have something we know we like" (i.e. Top Ramen or Kraft Mac & Cheese). I don't have anything I'm "known" for (like CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES) but I love to make the salads you describe and any other recipe that sounds too strange to be edible. Cookbooks and recipe sites are my favorite things!

Christy said...

I think that I may be even more blessed than most of you, not that I am being prideful but my husband will eat ANYTHING without hot sauce, ketchup, or other condiments.
My mom never taught me how to cook, because she didn't cook. So while we were dating Chuck tried to teach me a few recipes. I surprised him one day by making scalloped potatoes with his sister's recipe. He tried so hard not to hurt my feelings but he just couldn't gag them down. I have improved on them since then but we still laugh about it every once in a while.
My best dish, according to my husband, is anything I grill. In my house I am the grill master. I picked out the grill, I tied it to truck bed to bring it home, and I am the only person in our house who uses it.
Some might say that my french bread's not all that bed either!

adventures in mommyland said...

My best dishes are baked good... obviously since I'm a baker! :p
My worst would have to be any sort of fish. I'm allergic but I try to cook it for my husband on special occasions for a treat for him. Last time he said "thanks but I think it would best to save the fish dishes for when we eat out." I'll take that hint!!

Tana said...

If it only has five ingredients then I am a genius and you would think I am the best cook ever. I make the best waffles with Strawberries and Whip cream. The worse dish is anything on the stove. I can't make rice-a-roni to save my life!

Sunni said...

I Love you rolls!!

I have successes and failures often. Chicken pot pie is one of my families favorites. I once made a very dry, bland chicken tetrazinni. We had to throw it out!