Food Memories

“I’ll never forget our very first Thanksgiving turkey after we were married,” Mom said through tears of hysterical laughter. “The turkey was beautiful and ready to come out of the oven, but somehow when we lifted it up, it fell off the pan and bounced. There was a loud THUNK as it bounced off the door of the oven and rolled across the floor. Some of you in this room ate that turkey!”

     This topic reminded me of my sister’s bridal shower my parents hosted in 2008, the theme of which was “down home.” My mom thought it would be fun for all the women to take a fancy note card, write a recipe on one side and their worst/funniest cooking disaster on the other. Then we would go around a circle and share them. Thinking back on this shower it has occurred to me that while a delicious meal that goes off without a hitch is wonderful, the cooking disasters are where the memories are made.

     Like last Thanksgiving for example, when my brother who doesn’t like pumpkin pie decided to make a favorite dessert similar to rice krispy treats but with chocolate melted on top. We think he overcooked the rice krispy marshmallow mix because the bars came out so rock hard that we almost needed a saw to slice them and I, mean little sister that I am dubbed them cement krispies.

     Or the time Mom and I were baking oatmeal butterscotch cookies and my mom read the ingredients wrong and only put one cup of oats in when the recipe called for two. When they came out of the oven, we couldn’t figure out why they were so crumbly. That’s when Mom discovered the mistake. But hey, those crumbles made for a delicious ice cream topper and as much as we enjoy the many perfect batches of cookies that have come out of the oven since, one of us always laughs fondly and says, “remember when we made those oatmeal butterscotch cookies?”

     Or the time when Mom and Dad thought they had bought a pre-cooked ham one day last year, so they simply microwaved it a few minutes. It seemed a little tougher to all of us than ham usually is, but we thought nothing of it until Dad was putting the leftovers away and saw blood on the bone. We had basically eaten raw ham! What fun I had spreading the story to my siblings who had all moved away on Facebook and asking my sister’s husband a science guy if we were all going to die. (By the way in case you are wondering, he said that ham is so well cured that it is probably perfectly safe to eat raw, but he wouldn’t recommend risking it). When my grandma, the type of person who is so obsessed about meat being cooked thoroughly that she puts her Thanksgiving turkey in the night before, got wind of the story, she called to check on us every day for a week! But “Remember when we ate that raw ham?” we can say with a laugh now every time we have ham.

     Or my personal favorite catastrophe when a special teacher for the blind was giving me a cooking lesson. I had measured out chocolate and oil for some graham cracker bars and this teacher asked the kind of grumpy seventh grade math teacher if she could borrow the microwave in her classroom to melt the chocolate. Well the mixture burned, and when I went to math class in that room three hours later, it still smelled smoky. Instead of warm-up problems on the board that day, the teacher simply wrote “don’t mention the smell”, and banned us from using her microwave. But we still laugh about it to this day any time food enters a conversation.

     Now some of you are probably thinking, “how about sharing some cooking disasters that you are solely responsible for rather than ratting on your family and teacher.” The truth is, I am still at a phase of cooking where the prospect of my own cooking disaster scares me to death, so I only cook in the microwave, and I stay away from things that burn easily like chocolate and oil, cooking only things like frozen meals with simple goof-proof directions. Once, I almost had to clean up a baked potato explosion. I knew that you were supposed to poke holes in raw potatoes before putting them in the microwave, but when I heard a strange whistling from a potato I was reheating that had previously been cooked on the grill, I learned that grilled potatoes don’t need holes pricked in them. So I almost had a cooking disaster. I often leave the microwave unattended when I am cooking too, but fortunately that day, I was still in the kitchen, so I ran over and was able to stop the microwave before the disaster unfolded.

     So I can still brag that I have never had a cooking disaster. But eventually, I will want to graduate from microwave cooking, maybe even get married and host Thanksgiving dinner. Given that I am clumsy and kind of absent-minded, I have no doubt that this spotless record won’t last forever. But the day this record is tarnished, especially if it is a holiday, I hope I can live by the example of my parents and teacher and not think of it as a cooking disaster, but a funny memory made.

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