The Joy of Cooking and other Myths of Motherhood
Every once in a while I start feeling really sorry for my husband.
The man grew up with Paula Dean, Martha Stewart, and Emeril all combined in his wonderful mother.
The woman can cook. Seriously cook.
And then there's me.
I remain convinced that cooking is a direct result of the Fall of man when sin entered the world.
Anyway, today I decided that my poor husband was long overdue for a good meal. I loaded up the kids and took them to Publix, where we carefully selected each item we would need for one of his favorite dishes.
I got started right away when we got home. I carefully chopped celery and onions so they could saute in the pan. I added all the herbs and lemon zest and got to work carefully slicing the loaf of french bread to line the bottom of the skillet.
And then came the part where nothing but true love would motivate me...I had to work with a whole chicken.
Eww!!! Hate it! Would MUCH rather change a dirty diaper than deal with raw, slimy chicken with giblets and skin and...well, you get the picture. Not my favorite activity, but alas, the recipe specifically instructed to use a whole chicken for flavor.
Finally, after much face making and hand washing, I finished preparing the chicken and laid him out on top of the sliced bread and sauteed veggies. Checking the recipe once more, I popped it in the oven and set the timer for 1 1/2 hours. I smiled the contented smile of a woman who knows her family will be pleased. Score one for domestic me.
Fast forward 90 minutes. Everyone is starving. The kids are hungry enough to willingly eat fruit as they wait for the main course. I pull the piping hot dish from the oven and immediately know something is dreadfully wrong.
The blackened vegetables were my first clue.
And yet, my sweet husband says not a word as he begins carving the chicken. He dishes it out onto plates for the children while I get everyone a drink and utensils.
Remember that scene from National Lampoon's Christmas when Clark and his family are trying desperately to eat the bone dry turkey that cousin Eddie and his wife overcooked? Remember all the guzzling of water and coughing and endless chewing as they tried to be polite and eat at least a couple bites?
The scene in my kitchen was disturbingly close to this very moment in the movie (except I am not blonde nor do I wear white blouses with actual buttons to dinner).I only wished I had a cousin Eddie to blame it on. But alas, it was all ME. My fault.
The kids scraped all the chargrilled veggies off the bread. I use the word "bread" loosely. At this point it was much more identifiable as giant croutons than bread.
Have you ever tried to cut a crouton with a butter knife?
It went flying across the table, which of course caused an eruption of pent up laughter from everyone.
At the same moment, my middle child's eyes became as big as saucers and she began gulping down her water. "Too spicy!" she gasped.
The littlest one just declared she had filled up on fruit and went back to her sticker book.
And my dear, sweet husband, trying ever so hard to be thoughtful, just ate quietly. His eyes did water a little, though. It was a bit on the spicy side, I suppose.
I couldn't help it. I started laughing. This seemed to give everyone else permission to do the same.
"It's good! Really! Maybe it was in there just a tad too long," my husband offered.
But I followed the recipe exactly! I got up and pulled out that worn sheet of paper where I'd written it down years ago at my mother-in-law's house.
Hmm. I studied the cook time again. What I'd thought said 90 minutes actually said 30 minutes. That would explain it. I looked up at my poor family still trying to eat bread dry enough to scratch your throat on the way down and I took pity on them.
I got out the ice cream and we made root beer floats.
So my impressive meal didn't turn out exactly like I'd hoped. We made a memory as a family tonight. We laughed together at the table and talked about one of our favorite movies and I modeled for them (AGAIN) that it's okay to make mistakes.
And those things mean much more to me than any compliments to the chef.