Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Please Mr. Postman

I have long said there’s nothing you can’t buy on the Internet. This is what I love about it. When a friend was getting married, and everyone in our office had chipped in to buy her a Kitchen Aid mixer and sausage making attachment, someone speculated about how the friend was going to make sausages: where on earth would she find sausage casings? Testing my theory, I did a quick search and found Synthetic, or natural?

One of the reasons I love that you can buy anything on the Internet is because I do buy all sorts of weird things on the Internet. Beyond Christmas and birthdays—for which I naturally do all of my shopping on the web—I buy all sorts of ingredients and food products online. I don’t mean premade food products from places like Williams-Sonoma, or Fruit of the Month Club offerings from Harry and David. It’s a little stranger than that.

First of all, I mail order eggs. Because I make mayonnaise from scratch, and I don’t want to be afraid to let my children lick the spoon when I make cookies, I used to buy pasteurized eggs at the grocery store. When we moved, I found that they didn’t carry them at any of the grocery stores near us. It is possible to make mayonnaise with egg substitute, which was a suggestion I read in a cookbook, but it really doesn’t taste very good. I found the company that sells the eggs online, and discovered that they would mail order them to me. I pay almost as much in shipping as I do for the eggs, but it’s worth it. I also have to buy five dozen at a time, but since they last pretty much forever, that’s not such an issue.

The first question that most people ask (after “Are you nuts?”) is “Don’t they arrive all broken?” The answer is, once. I had placed two orders with the company, and both had arrived with nary a shell cracked. Then this past Christmas, I realized I was running low, and should order a new box. My word of advice to anyone thinking of buying eggs via mail order is to avoid the holiday season. More than half of the eggs were broken when I opened the box. I emailed their customer service, and they sent me out a new shipment of eggs at no charge (which meant I had seven dozen eggs). While one or two of the second batch were broken, it was certainly not an unreasonable state of affairs. I happen to know from a college professor I once had, who worked in a UPS warehouse during grad school, that the people at UPS treat packages atrociously and it gets worse over the holidays. Evidently they’re hostile and angry because they get paid peanuts, but rather than buying assault rifles, they take out their aggressions on a bunch of innocent corrugated cardboard boxes full of My Little Pony dolls, Matchbox cars, and (in my case) pasteurized eggs.

Over the years I’ve bought one-off oddball things via mail. The King Arthur Flour Company sells all kinds of useful, hard-to-find items in their Baker’s Catalog. One year my husband decided he wanted a Malted Milk Ball cake for his birthday. I had seen the recipe and offered him a choice of several cakes, and he picked that one. The only problem was that the recipe called for malted milk powder, and I couldn’t find that at any of the specialty shops near me. Something sent me to the King Arthur Flour Company website and there, lo and behold, along with things like pretzel salt and cheese powder, was malted milk powder. I ordered it (again, the shipping was outrageous—this is the only drawback to mail order, I’ve found), and it arrived in time for me to make the birthday cake. I did learn a lesson, though: if you’re going to put crushed malted milk balls on top of a cake as a garnish, do so just before it’s served. They’ll melt if they’re scattered over the moist frosting and sit there overnight.

Once upon a time when I believed that Dr. Atkins held the solution to my weight loss problems, I ate bunless hot dogs by the pound (along with bacon and chicken salad). Normally I eat my hot dogs with yellow mustard, but for some reason this just didn’t cut it with the bunless version. Somehow I found champagne mustard. It made my hot dogs wonderful, and I soon went through a whole jar. I don’t remember where I got it, but for some reason I couldn’t get any more at any of the stores near me. In my protein-induced insanity, I was desperate. Enter the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum. This place sells every kind of mustard you’ve ever heard of (and about nine thousand kinds you haven’t heard of). Sure enough, my champagne mustard was one of their offerings. I promptly ordered several jars. Although my experience with Atkins was a bust (let’s face it—there is no silver bullet for weight loss), the mustard was a success. I don’t order it on a regular basis anymore, but I have ordered people gifts from the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum.

Then there are things that I’ve often considered buying, but haven’t yet got around to it. The one that I think of most often is Pierce’s Pit Bar-b-que. Pierce’s is a little dive outside of Williamsburg, VA, where my husband went to college. Actually, it’s in a town called Toano, which is just about as charming as its name makes it sound. In order to get there, you drive for about fifteen minutes along an access road that parallels the highway before you come to a yellow and orange building with lots of picnic tables and lots of cars in the parking lot. “What’s this?” you think the first time you see it, “And why are all these people at this dumpy place?” I’d add that you might even be able to say that to the person who brought you there and get your questions answered, because the likelihood that you’re going to find Pierce’s on your own is pretty slim. There are a couple of highway signs directing you to it, but unless you’ve heard that it’s great and you’re dying to try it, you’re going to give up your quest after the first mile or two and just go for the McDonald’s at the interchange.

Now that I no longer live anywhere near Pierce’s, the only way for me to get it is via mail order. And they do take orders. You can get their great bar-b-que by the pound, and you used to be able to buy packages of their squishy rolls, sent to you overnight. If only all the places I loved that I was no longer close to would ship me their food. The only downside is that you can’t get their coleslaw shipped too. Their coleslaw is too sweet on its own, but you need that sugar to cut the heat of the sauce they use. It’s not excessive, but it’s hot enough that it needs a little tempering. In fact, my husband may get Pierce’s for his birthday in a couple of months.

These days I also buy kind of strange food items as gifts. This past Christmas one of my uncles, who also happens to have a taste for oddball food products, almost got Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup as a present. He didn’t because the shipping to get it in time would have cost me too much (I didn’t think to get it for him until pretty late in the game), but he’ll probably get something like that next year. I found a book called “Food Finds” that breaks out by category all kinds of small producers of usual and unusual foods. Whatever kind of jam, beverage, cookie, bread, meat, or vegetable you’re looking for, someone somewhere makes it. You can get things like Nut Goodies shipped to your door (these are a marshmallow, caramel, chocolate and peanut candybar-ish thing sold in the South), you can buy Cherry Wine soda, Cajun flavored potato chips, and frozen grouse. Whatever you crave, it’s all there on the Internet. What a wonderful country this is.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Alpha-Beta Cooking

“Men have gotten better at cooking, and that’s all positive. But men can’t share. If you can find a man who’s OK with a woman being in charge in the kitchen, tell any woman to marry him immediately.”

So says Alan Richman, the well-known food writer, in an article for the New York Times on alpha and beta cooks. The alpha cook is usually the woman, or used to be back in the days when he was the breadwinner and she the bread maker. These days, as men are cooking more and more, they now feel themselves in charge in the kitchen, and there’s a struggle. Many women (including Richman’s own wife, from whom he is now separated, although she says the kitchen struggles had nothing to do with it, and it was an amicable parting) are now taking a backseat to their male partners, who are more and more often responsible for whipping up dinner, either on Tuesday night, or Thanksgiving night.

In our house, we have the problem of dual alpha cooks. We’re each inclined to watch the other and think “You’re doing that wrong.” God help us if I plan the menu, and let him execute it. He’ll put dinner on the table and I’ll say, “Well, this is very nice. Thank you. Of course, I was planning to roast the green beans with shallots, instead of sautĂ©ing them with bacon, but its’ still nice…and I was going to make a bĂ©arnaise sauce for the filet mignon, instead of a mustard sauce…but it’s OK…and I was going to run these mashed potatoes through the ricer…but it’s fine.”

Ungrateful, you say? It’s part of being an alpha cook. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, it’s just that I had a meal planned and when, for one reason or another, he winds up being the one to cook it, he doesn’t always do it the way I would have. Even if I tell him how I was planning to do it.

That’s where the “This is nice but…” comments come into play. I say “Here’s what we’re having and I’m thinking this, this, and this.” He says “OK” and then proceeds to do what he wants, regardless of my instruction.

Don’t think the reverse never happens either. I’ll be making cookies, and he’ll come out and say “I was going to make Toll House bars.” I’ll say “Well, you’re getting oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.” I can see the thought as though it was in a bubble over his head, “But I wanted Toll House bars.” The bubble over my head is smaller: “Tough.”

We’ve known from the beginning that we were both alpha cooks, and that things were not going to be sunshine and roses as far as our cooking together went. I knew it as soon as I tasted his white sauce (I have no idea when he figured it out; maybe when I opened my mouth and criticized his white sauce). He didn’t salt it. Do you know what white sauce with no salt tastes like? It tastes like flour and butter with some kind of liquid in it. It tastes like hell, that’s what it tastes like.

This put me in a position of superiority in my mind (arrogant, you say? Maybe, but I can make good white sauce). You can’t make sauces, I thought. I can. In this way, if no other, my cooking skills are superior to yours. Why did I feel the neurotic need to assure myself that my cooking skills were at least as good as, if not superior to, his? Because he’s very critical, that’s why. If something burns, sticks, or otherwise doesn’t turn out, he’ll say “I thought that might happen. I noticed you weren't stirring it frequently enough.” Well, thanks.

His feeling of superiority comes from his belief that his methods are more professional than mine. “I clean as I go,” he insists, “I learned how working in restaurants.” His tone, I might add, is smug. I too learned to cook in a commercial kitchen, and I know how to clean as I go. I admit I don’t always, but then in a commercial kitchen, you have 40 gallon sinks in which to put dirty pots and pans. We don’t yet have these at home. Also, the kitchens we’ve been working in for the past 13 years have all been atrociously designed, which makes cleaning as you go a challenge (our next kitchen will be designed by us, so if the design is poor, at least we have no one to blame but ourselves). Still, he feels that his process is superior to mine, therefore he must be a better cook.

Then too, we constantly fight over how much salt goes in our food. He barely salts. I salt to a degree that he sometimes finds overwhelming. We argue about this. Salt, I say, needs to be added while you’re cooking, not afterwards. In some cases, salting after the fact is useless. He maintains that everything can have salt added to it at the table and be fine. So when I cook I salt my way, and when I ask how it is, he responds, “A little salty, but it’s good.” When he cooks he salts his way and I add extra salt at the table. He notices.

I’ve read articles in cooking magazines that give menus that couples can make together. Most of these offer both organizational structures: one person is in charge, while the other is a prep or sous chef, or each person takes a dish or two and is solely responsible for preparing those components. Really we work better with the latter model. If one of us is in charge, s/he is just too bossy and the other person winds up either pissed off or with hurt feelings (or sometimes both).

Part of my problem is that I feel like I really “own” the kitchen. I make the menus, I make the grocery lists, when we move into a new kitchen I’m the one who dictates the organization of the space. Therefore I must be in charge, right? Not as he sees it. I think he feels like I’m the kitchen manager, and he’s the executive chef. I’m responsible for making sure he has everything he needs to work his magic. I do the drudge work of deciding that we’ll have chicken, buying the chicken, making sure we have ingredients for turning the chicken into something delicious (including having all utensils and cooking implements in convenient locations), and then he steps in with his expertise and, voila! Dinner.

Despite all this, we actually do pretty well together in the kitchen, provided we have our own workstations and don’t have to cross paths too often. We’re building a new house, and the kitchen is quite large, and I will see to it that we have things like measuring cups, measuring spoons, and knives on both sides of the kitchen. The truth is that I like that he can (and will) cook. I have a friend whose significant other wouldn’t make himself a peanut butter sandwich if he was starving, but feels free to criticize anything she makes. My husband is OK with me being in charge in the kitchen, just so long as he doesn’t have to be in there at the same time. Or if he is in there, he can sit there with a drink and kibbutz my process and technique. It’s only fair—I do the same to him. I always remind him to add salt. He always ignores me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Candy Fix

I didn’t get a box of candy for Valentine’s Day. That’s OK—I don’t really need it. This candy- and flower-centric holiday got me thinking about candy in general. I love candy. I have a serious sweet tooth and have even been known to eat brown sugar straight. Not directly from the bag off a spoon or anything, but if a little clump happens to fall on the counter while I’m making cookies, I don’t have any hesitation about blotting it up with a finger and eating it. My husband cringes.

I’m mostly a milk chocolate gal, although I’ve been slowly converting to dark chocolate of late years. Right now I can go either way. I’ve tried that oft-recommended dieters’ tip to eat a single piece of very high quality dark chocolate and savor it slowly. I frankly think it’s bull. I’ve done it, but all it does is make me think “That was fine. Now, what’s for dessert?”

As with all children, I started eating candy as a pretty young kid (except some people I knew who were the neighbors of a family friend, who never gave their kids refined sugar—my friend’s son came home from an afternoon spent there one time and, when asked if he had fun, replied in a tone of painful disdain “Mom, she gave us granola for a snack.” I had to agree with him that that pretty well summed up his experience). I got my candy bars at Higger’s Drug Store up the street from my house. They cost a dime. Having heard repeatedly to my disgust and boredom as a kid about when candy bars cost a nickel, I always swore I wouldn’t use that line: “They cost a dime.” How great the divide sometimes between theory and practice.

For some reason when I was younger, I always bought Chunky bars. Except that they weren’t bars. They were cubes of chocolate. Really more of a bizarre trapezoid shape. They looked like pyramids that had had their top two-thirds whacked off. I’m not sure why, because I was perfectly adept at reading, but I could never manage to remember which one did, and which one did not have the raisins in it—the silver wrapper or some other color wrapper. I hate raisins in chocolate bars. It’s an outrage.

I also remember buying Marathon bars. I seem to be the only person who ever did because 1) they no longer make them and 2) I’ve never found anyone else who even remembers them, much less also ate them. They were long braids of caramel covered with milk chocolate. The ads on TV had an image of the “braid” going past and past and past….clearly intending to convey the message that the “Marathon” bar lasted a long time. This characteristic of lasting a long time seems to have been a big feature to promote in candy bars during the late 70s and 80s. The Charleston Chew and, I think, Sugar Daddies and Sugar Mamas, made the same claim. In the 90s they seemed to move to more of almost a “meal replacement” strategy. Snickers bars, as I recall, ran a campaign promoting a Snickers bar as a way to fill you up, and carry you until your next meal.

I always wanted stuff in my candy bars. Peanut butter, peanuts, caramel, nougat (whatever the hell that is), or that fluff in a Three Musketeers bar (whatever the hell that is). I went to Dublin on business once and spent about 50 bucks in a newsagents buying candy bars that we didn’t have in America. I noticed that they had an awful lot of offerings with raisins (ugh), but an equal number with caramel. Fortunately none of them seemed to sully the glorious caramel with the vile raisins. Caramel is my favorite candy bar filling, followed by peanut butter as a close second. Actually, hazelnut anything is my favorite candy filling, but very few of the “big” candy makers offer a candy bar with hazelnuts in it. Too expensive, I would guess.

In high school I went to Australia and was there introduced to three kinds of candy bars that I’d never had before, two of which are now available at my local grocery store. There was the Violet Crumble, which was kind of a grainy sugar, flavored with essence of violet (which sounds gross and weird, but was actually OK). The Flake bar was nothing more than very, very thin leaves of milk chocolate that would have been pretty good, except that they were so delicate that what you wound up with was a candy wrapper full of chocolate shards. You just kind of “drank” the chocolate out of the wrapper, which you opened at one end to form a tube. Then there was a honeycomb concoction the name of which escapes me. I’ve since seen this in Australian cooking magazines called generically “honeycomb” and recommended as being used to top ice cream when smashed to smithereens. It was very crunchy, and did have a distinct honey flavor. Its disadvantage was that it really stuck in your teeth. All three of these, if I’m not mistaken, were manufactured by the Cadbury company.

Cadbury is much bigger overseas than it is in this country. In this country we have Hershey’s, and M&M Mars to pretty much own the candy market. I remember reading that in the 1940s Hershey’s representatives used to go to elementary schools and hand out candy bars to all the kids. The taste of chocolate is (as you no doubt have read), like so many food products, subject to its recipe. A little more of this, a little less of that, and you’ve got a completely different taste, even though it’s still “milk chocolate.” Hershey’s idea was that kids would get hooked on Hershey bars at a young age and would come to think that the flavor of Hershey’s milk chocolate was what chocolate was “supposed” to taste like. Any other recipe would taste odd to them, and they would (in theory) find it to be inferior to the flavor of Hershey’s.

Now we also have Godiva chocolates, which used to have an air of exclusivity about them, but are now sold in every possible outlet, including gas stations and nail salons. I still think they’re good chocolates, but they’re mainstream now. This move in America to make mainstream what used to be luxury items I think is a large part of what contributes to our dietary problems. Things that used to be special occasion dishes—Fettuccini Alfredo, elaborate desserts made with pastry cream, rack of lamb—are now so commonplace that they’ve lost their impact and we don’t appreciate them anymore. As a result, we consume them too casually. Of course, the antidote for that may well be a return to the days when we ate Hamburger Helper (which of course comes in an Alfredo flavor in the form of Chicken and Tuna Helpers) and Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes for dinner, which I really can’t see as a win-win situation for anyone (except maybe General Foods). Sure, it would make “special” meals much more appealing by contrast, but it would mean we’d be eating dehydrated potatoes three hundred plus days a year, and I don’t know if I could handle that, myself.

As usual, I digress. So instead of Godiva as our exclusive chocolates, we now have “artisanal” chocolates made in small batches by hand. Often these chocolate makers have an unfortunate tendency to try jazz up (as I’m sure they see it) plain old boring chocolate, and they mix in just plain weird stuff like chili powder, black pepper, paprika, and (yes, I’ve seen this) curry powder. I really don’t think that I can think of a more disgusting thing to do to perfectly good chocolate than stick curry powder in it. I love curry powder, but it doesn’t belong in chocolate.

The big candy manufacturers have their own tricks to try to lure us into buying more candy. They’ve created countless variations on old favorites. Where we used to buy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Crunch bars, and M&Ms, we can now buy Caramel or White Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Crunch bars filled with caramel, and M&Ms filled with peanut butter. All of these are perfectly fine, but we’re spoiled with choices. I kind of wish we could go back to the days when my most perplexing candy problem was remembering which color Chunky wrapper had the raisins, and which did not.

I’ve always had a kind of affection for the niche candy bars. I went through phases as a kid (in the post-Chunky era) when I was attracted to Zero bars, Fifth Avenue, Zagnut, and Clark bars. With the exception of Zero bars, all of these are variations on peanut butter flavored candy. The Zero bar is a chocolate nougat, covered with something that I wasn’t clear on—it was white, but it wasn’t really white chocolate. White chocolate is an abomination, and should be outlawed. It’s not chocolate, and it just tastes like very sweet wax. In fact, I’ve found by checking the Hershey’s website (thank you, Internet) that the coating is “white fudge.” Maybe that’s just a fancy way of saying white chocolate, but in any event, there’s so little of it in a Zero bar that it manages not to offend.

In the 80s, when we all became so ludicrously afraid of fat in anything, several companies introduced reduced fat chocolate. For some time I was a devotee of Sweet Escapes candy bars, and we all started buying Three Musketeers because they were “low fat” (which translated, really, to “high air content” but that concept seemed to either elude us or not matter, so keen were we to be able to have our cake and eat it too, or in this case, to have our chocolate but not the fat). Most of these reduced fat offerings seem to no longer be available, as many people have come to their senses. Or at least switched to low carb candy bars, which I think must be pretty disgusting, so I’ve never bothered to try one. Now you can also buy chocolate bars that are enhanced with “nutrients.” This seems the most ridiculous concept of all to me. The idea of eating chocolate and soothing the guilt by reminding oneself that the candy contains calcium, or vitamin A, or something. I say, if you want vitamin A, eat a carrot. If you want chocolate, eat chocolate.

The chocolate I eat these days tends to be mostly in things, rather than just solo. I make things like chocolate chip cookies (with Toll House morsels—no overpriced Sharffen Berger shards for me, thanks). Although I love chocolate, I don’t really like chocolate ice cream, as I think the aftertaste is too strong, and if they put chocolate bits of any kind in ice cream, the effect of freezing on chocolate makes it waxy, which I loathe. I’ve also just discovered chocolate covered Altoids, which they’ve been handing out as free samples as I walk to work every morning. Doubtless these are just Altoids that are in some way deficient—chipped or otherwise deformed—that they coat with dark chocolate, but they’re really not bad. Four of them are a little mouthful, they give me a quick chocolate fix, and offer a little breath freshening bonus. The chocolate softens the usually overpowering peppermint of the mint itself.

Of course, the health reporters of the world keep assuring me that chocolate (dark chocolate, anyway) is good for my heart, and that a little bit won’t hurt me and may even be good for me. While I find this interesting information, I’m not eating chocolate because it might be good for me. I’m eating it because I like it. Even though I didn’t get any for Valentine’s Day.

P.S. For those who live close to a Godiva store, or a Barnes & Noble, and want to stock up, the day after a “chocolate” holiday (Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas), Godiva stores and BN sell the boxes of chocolates that have holiday-themed decorations at half price. My husband and I used to go and buy twice as much candy as we could have bought two days earlier, and then hang on to it, eating it a piece or two at a time over the next few months. In fact, I think we still have a box up on a high shelf from one of these buying binges. If you like Godiva chocolates, but are squeamish about the idea of paying 25 bucks a pound for it, this is the way to go.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Just Plain Yucky Food

Something got me to thinking about unappealing food tonight, and I started thinking about the worst foods or meals I’ve ever had or heard about. Thankfully, most of them are just things I’ve heard about, rather than actually been forced to eat and be polite about. Most of them seem to be the creations of relatives. I’m not sure if this is because I eat more of my relatives’ food than I do of other peoples’, or if it says something about my relatives’ cooking.

The only unappealing food that I thought of that I’d actually eaten was pre-cooked bacon that had been microwaved. I don’t mean the packaged stuff from the grocery store that’s intended to be heated up in the microwave. I mean bacon that has been cooked by conventional means, put into a baggie in the refrigerator for a day or two (or more—I don’t even want to know), and then reheated in the microwave.

Interestingly, I’ve not only heard of this being done, but actually been forced to eat it. My friend’s mother in law does this and she told me about it. My own mother in law did it, as does my grandmother (or did—I’m not sure she really makes bacon anymore, since she really only cooks for herself now). The thing about bacon that has been subjected to this treatment is that it becomes bacon bits. On both occasions I was served it, it was really more a pile of dark brown crumbs than anything resembling strips of bacon. I can understand if this is the way you serve bacon occasionally, but in all three cases, this was their standard. They would cook off a package of bacon one day, then store it until they needed it, and reheat it in the microwave, whereupon it would dissolve into the aforementioned crumbs.

I think my grandmother did this because she bought a microwave back in the early 80s when they were still novel and interesting, and she was testing out its capabilities. When she discovered that she could have bacon in 15 seconds, well, she was thrilled. My mother in law did it out of a need to eat quickly. When hunger overtook my mother in law, there was no waiting. She was going to eat the first thing that came to hand, and if that was microwaved bacon, fine. If it was a box of graham cracker crumbs, or a raw onion, fine.

I think my friend’s mother in law was motivated by a total lack of caring about food quality. She was the type of woman who claimed that she’d provided meals for her family for twenty or thirty years or whatever it was, and she was “retiring.” Hanging up her apron, thanks. I’ve found that most women who claim they’re going to stop cooking because they’ve been doing it for so many years were never very good cooks to begin with. They turned out barely edible, largely uninteresting and unmemorable meals for all those years. Generally their families applaud (if silently) when they announce their retirement from culinary responsibilities.

Beyond that, I’ve mostly been treated to descriptions of unappetizing meals.

My husband came home from a visit to his cousin/godmother’s house one year with a horror story. First let me say that his cousin knows she’s a dreadful cook, and doesn’t try to do it often. They eat out every night. They’re an interesting combination: non-cookers, but cheap. As a result, they only eat at restaurants that are all-you-can-eat buffets, or for which they have a buy-one-get-one-free, or early bird coupon. On the occasion of my husband’s visit to their house, she decided to try to cook.

She served ham left over from Easter (it was only a week or so after Easter, so that’s not as bad as it might sound). It was a purchased ham, so there wasn’t much she could do to screw it up. The side dishes she made were Au Gratin Potatoes from a box (actually OK with my husband, because he kind of likes those), and green beans. It was the green beans that were notable. She made them in the pressure cooker. They were, according to my husband, grey. She couldn’t figure out why he didn’t want seconds.

My father in law has a stock of revolting recipes that he pulls out every now and then. He’s since moved to a small condo, but we used to go visit him when he lived in a larger house, and for some reason our visit always inspired him to have a “cookout” or a “family dinner” (depending on the season, and despite the fact that we’d already seen everyone who was invited at least two other times on any trip there). My husband and I always cooked for these gatherings, with superfluous menu input by my father in law. We’d set the menu, and he’d spend the 24 hours leading up to the event trying to add things that were unnecessary, unappetizing, and unwelcome.

“What about a cake?” he’d suggest at breakfast the morning of the party, “I have one downstairs in the freezer.” What he failed to mention was that the cake was a fully frosted cake (generally not the sort of thing that freezes well) that had been frozen since my mother in law had passed away two years earlier. We’d decline.

Always, without fail, he would suggest the addition that I found most vile, and to which we responded in the negative most vehemently. This was canned ham cooked in the slow cooker with pineapple juice. It seems this was kind of a specialty of his. Canned ham is disgusting to start with, but cook it in the slow cooker with pineapple juice and I think you really would have the most revolting concoction known to man.

My family has come up with a few winners too, most memorably a meal my grandmother offered to cook my husband when I was in the hospital after the birth of my first son. She’d come to stay and help out, and she offered to make my husband something along the lines of oriental tuna served over a baked potato. I’m not sure he how, but he managed to decline politely and without offending her.

As I say, somehow I managed to dodge most of these bullets one way or another. I’m sure when my children grow up and get married, their spouses will complain about my cooking for one reason or another. However, it won’t be because I’ve served them canned ham or microwaved bacon. They’ll have to find something else to complain about, I guess.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Status Update

Ho-kay. Here we go again. I got a job offer, and the job starts Monday. SO. Once again, I may be a little quiet until I can get into a regular groove and start posting one to two times a week, as I had always intended.

The job, btw, is with my husband's company, so that'll be convenient. For the most part we can commute together, which is kind of nice.

I'll try to get something posted in the next three days, and then see what I can do from there.

Happy Groundhog Day!