Saturday, November 29, 2008

Home Cooking, Not So Much*

My mom has a deep history of cooking just plain awful food. I thought I would blog about some of her more memorable moments...

The WonBomb

My dad used to love wonton soup. When he and my mom were first married she decided to make him some wonton soup at home. For those of you who haven't had the soup, it usually consists of a broth and little dumplings with meat inside. My mom made her dumplings so BIG only three would fit in the entire pot so my dad coined the term "WonBomb" soup.

Brick Bread
Also in early marriage my mother was able to make an apricot bread so dry that it was not only uneatable but unbreakable. When she threw it out to the birds, one got their beak stuck in it and she had to rescue the bird from her bread. 

Snot Surprise

When I was 12 I decided to become a vegetarian. I didn't want to eat any animals and River Phoenix was vegetarian so it sounded like a great plan. My mother, a midwesterner through and through, was worried I wouldn't get enough protein. She bought a bunch of vegetarian cook books and proceeded to not follow the recipes. She combined the following ingredients together for the most terrifying casserole on the planet...Cream of corn and mushroom soup, spaghetti noodles, mozzarella cheese and peas. The casserole came out of the oven like a wolf in sheep's clothing. I remember thinking it might actually be palatable. My mom cut into the dish, pulled out a section that looked just like a giant pile of mucus. We both screamed as a stretchy, slimy string of green tinted cheese would not release it's self from the serving spoon.

The casserole was tossed and we went out for Chinese food.

The Soy Sauce Omelet and A1 Stir Fry
My mom also made the world's saltiest omelet with soy sauce, the yellow of the egg completely turned brown. A few nights later she decide to make stir fry and we had no soy sauce (hmmm...I wonder why?) so she used A1 instead. The taste of both still make my tongue want to crawl down my throat.

The Horror Soups

I should say, my mom could make some good tasting soup, or chicken soup to be exact. She made a tasty simple chicken soup that always made you feel better when you were sick. When she strayed past that things got ugly. I remember when I was in high school she fed my friend and I a "refried bean soup" that was gray. My friend looked at me with wide eyes and whispered "It's" We threw the soup out the window and went over to our friend's house were we could smoke cigarettes and eat her family's bulk food from Sam's Club. Teenagers.
 She also made pigs feet soup. Once a month there would be a pot boiling on the stove with actual pigs feet sticking out the top. I can't tell you how awful it tasted because after taking one look at it I said "Oh hell no! " and never touched even a spoon full. She used to feed it to her coworkers who she swears to this day "just loved it".

And Two Final Highlights

My mother also had a relentless need to feed any new boyfriend I had a "grilled steak". It would take them HOURS to chew it. Maybe it was a crafty move on her part to keep us at home where she could have an eye on us.

This last bit isn't about her cooking but it usually comes up when I'm talking about her cooking. When I was maybe 8 or 9 years old "wine coolers" were popping up in the super markets. Our local grocery store carried booze on one side of an isle and juices on the other. There was a display of this "Bartles & Jaymes" right in the middle of the isle between the booze and juice which made since in retrospect. My mom, always a sucker for packaging (unlike myself :) said "Ooooh, l look at the fancy juices. Let's get some and we can put them in your lunch box!" Thank the heavens an all their glory she decided we should have a "juice" with dinner. I took one swig and said "This tastes funny...I think there is alcohol in it." My mom argued with me for about 10 minutes until I got the bottle from the kitchen, and showed her where it said ALCOHOL in the ingredients section. She was so so embarrassed, but we have spent years cracking up about me busting out a wine cooler at lunch in 4th grade. 

When my kids complain about my cooking I don't tell them about starving children in other countries, I tell them about their grandma's cooking...a very real threat close to home.

As a closing note, my mother made up for her poor cooking skills by having lots and lots of love.
*Rehashed from my 12/06 Myspace Blog

Under the Influence

I need to stop watching Top Chef and move away from Chicago. For Thanksgiving I made homemade macaroni and cheese that suuuuuucked. I had made the same recipe at Thanksgiving three years earlier and one of my sister-in-law's still talks about how amazing it was. I hadn't made this mac and cheese recipe since then and was a little cocky. The dish was bone dry, slightly sour and I was mortified. I also made red velvet cake for the first time and burnt corners. The shame! Eric had to listen to me obsess over my missteps all the ways home.

It's all Top Chef and the city of Chicago's fault, I never would have cared about this years ago when the show didn't exist and I lived in a small college town out West. I need to be living somewhere where the only pizza you can get is from Little Cesears. A town where you can't eat food from around the world and "Italian" is considered exotic. I know what good food tastes like. I hold myself to much higher standards now.

I woke up yesterday morning intent on redoing the recipes. I figured out what happened with the macaroni immediately. I had forgotten to double certain parts of the recipe, like the butter and milk...the things that would have helped take the crunchy texture out of the macaroni. Yeah. My Black Friday mac and cheese turned out beautifully (see picture). I stood over my stove cooing "You. You should have been the one..." Since the red velvet cake turned out decent I decided to make a gluten free white cake with blueberrys and no burned corners.

A few family and friends got to gobble down my food remix and I slept soundly last night.

Monday, November 17, 2008

And they call it "Torty" love!

I figured the best way to launch into the blogging world would be to introduce you to our newest family member, Torty. He is a Sulcata tortoise from Africa. I'll bet you'll never guess in a million years what Torty is short for.

He came to live with us 3 days ago when Jose, my brother-in-law called me from work and said, "Do you guys want a tortoise?" He assured us that the tortoise would arrive with everything needed and that he would be a low maintenance pet. I called Eric and we both agreed it was a good idea. Plus we could rack up some "Coolest Parents in the World" points, so why not?

Eric and Jose hauled up this giant blue plastic bin to our third floor apartment, set it on the floor and Jose pulled out the tortoise for us all to see. I thought I would take a half-hearted interest in the little walking shell for the most part, wanting my cool points more then anything else. Jose could hold the tortoise's elaborately patterned shell between his thumb and middle finger. You could tell the tortoise was a bit scared not having solid ground underneath his feet. He was moving his spiky legs this way and that, hoping to connect with something solid. His eyes were unsure as he took in his new surroundings. I found myself saying, "Aww, he's so sweet." and was completely charmed.

The kids discussed what to name our new little friend. Omar suggested Snow Drop, a highly appropriate name for any African desert reptile. However, Tevya won out with the name Torty. His full name is Torty Tortisan Snow Drop in case you were wondering.
I didn't realize until the next day that out of all of us, Torty had stolen Eric's heart the most. Eric went on a research frenzy and discovered all sorts of interesting things about Torty. First off, we had all the wrong stuff for him to eat, walk on or to have a happy home life in general. Eric and Omar went out to buy special dirt and vitamin D supplements for tortoises. Eric made him a house to hide in, cleans out his water dish constantly and makes sure Torty is eating a well balanced diet. Eric emailed me 4 times today about Torty, and it is currently just past noon. He has joined an online group for Sulcata owners for advice. It is clear that he loves the tortoise more then the rest of us.

Another startling discovery was that in 5-6 years, Torty could weigh 50 pounds. He's currently about the size of a tea saucer, to give you some perspective. A 50 pound tortoise + chicago apartment (with no yard) = "What the hell did we get ourselves into?". It appears that after the 6th year they have an even bigger growth spurt and can get up 100 pounds. Eric read that people will abandon their Sulcatas in Texas or New Mexico, climates similar to the northern parts of Africa, when they get too big. Tevya mentioned we could give him to a zoo and Omar broke into a huge sobbing fit at the idea of loosing Torty. It is something to think about for the future but right now I can't wait to take him out to the park for a little snack when the grass is growing again.