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Manic Mealtimes: Part 2

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Ready to dig into part 2? Good for you!

Welcome back, steadfast reader!  Hopefully you’ve read part 1 of this blog, but since some of you out there are just born ‘rule-benders’ feel free to read whatever you’d like out of all sorts-of-whack!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you if it doesn’t make sense : )

Mealtimes.  Really, they aren’t so bad.  I’ve had 31 years to get used to all my funky mealtime quirks, and most people I know probably wouldn’t have really noticed that I cringe a little on the inside if we sit down and share a meal together.  Trust me.  I get hungry and I love eating food.  Well, I like food and not feeling hungry anymore! : ) I love being together with family and friends, and since most of those times involve a meal, I just kind of make myself get over things to enjoy those good-life moments of hanging out and being with people you love.

But if I need to cook the meal…{sigh…}

My attempt at a cake. From a box mix...sigh!

If there was an activity that ever seemed foolproof, I’ve gotta tell ya, cooking is it.  Making a meal almost always come with step-by-step instructions of exactly what you need, when you need to mix it together, and how long you’re supposed to heat it up.  But despite the clear ‘plan of action’ that cooking has always presented me, I can usually find a way to muck things up.  Tonight, for instance, I grabbed a recipe online for quick and easy gravy that used bouillon, a microwave and cornstarch.  Sounded easy enough to me.  I owned all three of those things!  Alas, I learned that when your cornstarch expired in 2006, it does not quite mix properly or taste very well.  I also tried to surprise my husband with some corn bread.  I had a mix that was given to me as a gift (don’t ask) in 2005, and since it wasn’t like there was anything ‘fresh’ about the mix, I figured it would bake up warm, fluffy and yellow like picture.  Wrong.  Praise the Lord that I tried a bite first before my family did.  We are all such terrible liars, I’m sure there would have been no end to the ‘mommy, this makes my tongue sad’ comments.  The stuff baked up only as thick as a pancake and was not the vibrant yellow that was shown on the packaging, but a mild butter-yellow color, closer to the color of a nude-toned Band-Aid.  I took a bite and spit it out.  So nasty!  Lesson learned.  Don’t cook with old stuff.  I already knew this about using old spices.  Over Christmas, we teased my mom for having spice cans in her fancy new pantry that were OLDER THAN ME!  I could have brought them down to the antique store and probably made a few bucks!

Cooking bewilders me.  It seems like most friends I know are pretty amazing at it.  Male, female, mom, newlywed, single, whatever…they can all cook circles around me!  Many could have their own cookbooks!  Maria has her own food blog that is a blast to read, but her recipes are usually so complicated to my ‘Easy-Bake-Oven’ level of cooking, I get a headache just thinking about how to accomplish her magnificent food feats!  Plus she eats a lot of healthy veggies, so those are usually out…Stacie is so good, she used to sell her cookies and mastered the most delectable recipe for out of this world chocolate chip cookies.  These giant cookies had their bottoms coated in a layer of chocolate, then dipped again into bits of toffee.  TOFFEE!  Ahhh…I would love one of those things right now!  My gal Sarah can take the most random odds and ends, and make a killer Mexican salad dressing, or beautiful and crave-worthy stuffed peppers.  Her ‘Hobo Pockets’ were amazing and got me to eat more vegetables in that one sitting than I had the entire month before!  And I didn’t even have to wash them down with my drink or excuse myself to go the bathroom and secretly spit them out!  I felt like such a normal grown up!  Craig and Corryn have always been food talented with everything from BBQ to morning potatoes and eggs.  Yes, there was that time their homemade spaghetti sauce nearly singed my eyebrows off with it’s spiciness, but it was still pretty impressive!

No, my cooking heritage was not the strongest, but my mom often tried to make some really cool things.  She once made dessert-dirt for a work party that consisted of Oreo cookies all smashed up and maybe a gummy worm or two.  She completed the ‘look’ by serving it in a plant pot and sticking fake leaves and flowers into it.  Genius!  And yummy!  (Although the Oreo is technically on my ‘Foods to Avoid’ list since you are almost guaranteed to get that black stuff into your teeth.  Not pretty!)  She also used to make these fantastic peanut butter, Rice Crispie balls than involved using real paraffin wax in the melting/coating process.  What?  Real wax?  I have no idea, but it tasted amazing!  But there was also the time when she microwaved the Thanksgiving turkey.  Now, knowing my mother, I’m sure she found a reliable recipe for this procedure, and figured it would be trustworthy.  She didn’t just come up with crazy cooking ideas on her own. It was edible, just different.  As I mentioned in part one, my mom could beat anyone in a beans and hot dogs competition or a Campbell’s tomato soup cook-off.  But we never really had any ‘this is how you make this meal’ conversations that would apply to cooking for anyone older than 8.  Luckily, my kids don’t seem to mind so much now, but my poor husband has had to go from his mother, Southern Cook-Extraordinaire, to me, so…I’m sure he’ll get a really good personal chef as one of his treasures in Heaven to make up for the downgrade!

I have managed to muddle through and have actually been complemented on my deviled eggs, chocolate chip cookies (Both Betty Crocker recipes!  Woo hoo!) and of course, my classy Velveeta/green salsa melty dip.  But I tell ya, what messes me up nearly every time is the whole ‘timing’ thing.  My meals are rarely ready at the same time.  Blame it on poor planning, spontaneous desires for some last minute garlic bread or just plain being cursed in the kitchen, but I hope to one day be able to make a meal and have everything hot and ready at the same time!

Last night, our family mealtime was plagued by yet, another food-landmine: trying to get the kids to eat what’s in front of them.  My son is crazy and actually enjoys seafood, like his dad (I guess that makes Dave and pescatarian, and not a true vegetarian like I’d mentioned before) but getting him to touch his mashed potatoes and chicken breast (he said it smelled weird) was a challenge.  Our 4 year old would choose to live on Goldfish crackers and juice forever if we let her, so we’ve been working on that girl.  She rarely eats meat, and when she does, it’s because I’ve had to create such a complex scenario if ‘talk-her-into-it-itus’ I am exhausted by the end of the meal just trying to come up with a believable story on the spot.  Last night I convinced her to try her mashed potatoes by telling her they were like a fluffy, cloud kissing her tongue. Oh, and those specs of red on her chicken breast?  Those were the pieces of sunset I chopped up and mixed in with the meal.  (Not really.  I just cooked the chicken breast in a dollop of Italian dressing instead of cooking oil.  That’s pretty much my fanciest food-feat, right there, people.)  Usually, if my kids see any green, red or even pepper on their food, I have to try and convince them that they are just sprinkles, or ‘decorations for the food’ and nothing ‘spicy’.  Ah…the generational connections my children have with spicy foods!  Ugh!  Last night we ended up with a victory after our daughter actually tried both the potatoes and the chicken and ate the majority of them, but I wish we could all sit down and talk about other things at a mealtime, instead of WHY the kids needed to eat their food and what make-believe ingredients the spices are pretending to be!  And no…there was no vegetable last night.  I was planning on prying open a juicy can of green beans, but after my gravy and cornbread failure, I decided I was done with being in the kitchen any longer.

If I were to go to my food-paradise, I would probably be alone, or with Dave watching TV (a safe alternative to eating with people when you don’t really want to be watched) and we’d be eating Aca Taco burritos.  I’d have my napkin at the ready, some yummy lemonade to wash it all down, and Winco gummy worms for dessert.  I’d be sitting cross-legged on the couch (even though we don’t let the kids eat on the couch, and if we do, we can only do it when they are not home, so we avoid the ‘Hey!  It’s not fair that you can eat there and we can’t!’ observations that would soon follow their discovery.)  It would be marvelous, and in my food-fantasy, I would get to end the meal without any worries of ‘food-on-my-face’, ‘burrito-breath’ or ‘Aca-Taco-Tushy’ (where my rear-end continues to hold onto all the weight of the burrito instead of dispersing the nutrients to the other parts of my body).  Yep.  That would be the life!  If only I could figure out how to not have to have mealtimes 3X a day!  Man…talk about pressure!

About Jenny Z

I love to overuse italics, misplaced hyphens and internal dialogue when I write about my usual favorite topic, myself.

3 responses »

  1. Alone… eating an Aca Taco burrito? Wouldn’t you be afraid you’d choke and no one would be there to save you, Liz Lemon?

  2. Pingback: Manic Mealtimes: Part 1 « jennysblogorama

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