So, I was visiting with my neighbors last night and the gal, she’s 90 years old and is a complete hoot, asked me if I had ever had any recipes published in a cookbook before. Had my family been anywhere near the vicinity they would have laughed until they peed themselves, but I simply stared at her dumbfounded for a couple of beats and then said: “No, A. I have never, and will never, have any of my recipes published…probably because most are found on the side of the box.”
There are some things I’m pretty good at in this life (divorcing comes to mind 🙄) but cooking isn’t one of them. In fact…I wonder if there’s a connection there? Anyhoot, I’ll never forget my first foray into baking something more than chocolate chip cookies.
When my first hubby and I were going out, his grandpa was turning 80 and the family was having a shin-dig about 90 miles south of where we lived. Grandpa’s favorite dessert was lemon meringue pie and I was determined to make this for him to show M just how wonderful a wife I would be if he ever got the inclination to propose (shutty those mouths, peeps 😳). Ma found a recipe for me; remember, this was before Google, grasshoppers, and there were these things called ‘recipe cards’ that were stored in ‘recipe boxes’ everyone had on their counter. You might be able to see an example of this in a museum someday.
I ran into trouble right off the bat. Ma insisted that the only good pie crust was a home-made pie crust, but after kneading and rolling for an hour, all the while getting flour in every nook and cranny in our kitchen, she came to regret her thought. And by the way, making my own pie crust is something I will never ever ever do again come hell or high water 🤨. Then, for some godforsaken reason you had to use ‘egg whites’ and not the whole damn egg when making the ‘lemon’ part of the pie, so I got to learn the art of separating egg whites from the yolks. This took me about 10 eggs to master, and ma stood by me the entire time giving me the stink eye and getting pissy because eggs were a dime a dozen then and I was on my way to putting us in the poor house. Anyhoot, that was just the beginning of the afternoon. I spent another hour mixing up the filling and cooking it without scorching it, while ‘tempering’ the yolks (whatever that means) into the lemon glop I was constantly stirring. So far, I’d only cried twice, ma and I were still talking (in very loud voices), and I’d only told M 3 times that I hated his guts.
Then the fun part…the meringue. Did you know you have to whip and whip and whip this stuff until you want to throw your mixer out the window and never look back? Did you also know that meringue can weep (hells bells, by this time, I was too 😕)? Not only did I need to get this as ‘light’ and ‘fluffy’ as humanly possible to impress everyone, I also had to brown it so it would look picture perfect. I was so scared of doing this after all of that work, I almost puked. Or, maybe that was because I licked lemon batter with raw eggs in it. Hmmm.
Finally, the pie was done. The kitchen was totaled, ma told me (in a very snippy voice I might add) that if I ever made one of these son-of-a-bitching pies again she’d personally ‘hurt’ me, and M said that grandpa would love it and this might become an annual thing he’d want me to make. I wanted to kill him.
We left for the party and I held that damn pie on my lap for the entire 90 mile ride with the air conditioner on full blast; but the vents were pointed away so the pie wouldn’t get icky and the meringue wouldn’t blow around (BTW, this was in the winter). There were times on that ride I wanted to shove the pie in M’s face, but the thought of all of my hard work landing on his mug was something I just wasn’t willing to do, despite the temptation.
So we pull up to the party, I climb out of the car with pie in hand, and totter over to the food table. Where…wait for it…there were 4 other lemon meringue pies. Four. Since his parents were watching, I said with a smile on my face but in a ventriloquist’s voice: “What the fuck? Why didn’t you tell me there were going to be other people making this same pie?” M replied: “I didn’t check.” Now, if that’s not grounds for an attack, I truly don’t know what is. Anyhoot, I got grandpa a piece of MY freaking pie (I had pushed the others to the side and hid them behind the 5 tubs of potato salad 🤨) and he picked up his fork in his sweet, age-spotted, trembly hand and ate a bite. He said it was great and I waited for him to take another bite, but he pushed it aside. I asked M, once again under my breath: “What the hell?” And M said: “Grandpa can’t eat hardly anything anymore and his taste buds are about gone.” Go figure.
*Side Note: Grandpa was truly a sweetie though, and he hugged me after the party and told me I was his favorite grand-daughter in law. Of course, M and I weren’t married and I was doubtful I’d ever talk to him again, and the only other grandson, M’s brother, was 15. But I was the favorite! 😊
So obviously, baking is not my thing. But neither is ‘cooking’. Hubby 3’s mom was a GREAT cook, and her meatloaf was the best. I heard, time and time again, how much R liked it so I was bound and determined to make one even better. No mother in law was going to out-do me! I think I must have made dozens of meatloafs, using a different recipe every time, and each one was worse than the last. I don’t know if it’s a curse or what, but it doesn’t matter what the recipe is, mine are horrible. When I would tell R we were having meatloaf that night for dinner because I had a new recipe, he would groan (literally) and when he’d come home from work on those evenings, I always thought I smelled a Big Mac on his breath, but who knows.
Anyway, R finally put his foot down. My last meatloaf was so bad, he told me: “Kristi, I will leave you if you ever attempt to turn perfectly good ground beef into a loaf again.” He called my last attempt a ‘meat-lump’ and then this happened: R gave Dottie, our little dog who has always loved to eat her own poop, a piece. Dottie went over to the bowl with her backside wagging. She sniffed it, licked it, her tail dropped and she walked away. From meat. Let me rephrase: MY DOG WHO EATS POOP WOULDN’T EAT MY MEAT- LUMP. I never tried again.
R is in an outlaw motorcycle club and every time the guys had a big party, us ‘ole ladies’ would cook. The first time I did this, I was scared to death. Here I am a prissy professor, and I was going to cook for 50 big, tough looking bikers with names like Snake and Igor. So, I made pulled pork: I put a pork butt in a big cooker…mashed it up…and poured BBQ sauce all over it. When it was time for the party, I put the cooker in R’s van to schlep it to the clubhouse where hungry bikers were awaiting their only ‘meat dish’.
I pulled up and a guy, at least 6’6″ and covered with leather and tattoos, was waiting for the food. His name was Killer (I’m not lying…you can’t make this stuff up…😳) and I said I could handle getting it (I am woman, hear me roar). I was shaking because these guys scared me (at first but then I got to know them and they treated me like gold) and I spilled the entire fucking cooker of sticky, BBQ pork in R’s van. EVERY last bit. I burst out bawling and Killer hugged me to him (he smelled very yummy…I wonder if he’s still single…or alive…hmmmm…) and said it was OK. He scraped it up from the van floor (which was filthy since R literally transported Harleys in the back of it) with his hands, which had previously been holding a beer and cigarette, and plopped it back into the cooker. He winked at me, told me it was our secret, and those guys ate every last bit of it that night. I think part of my success with this cooking foray was that all of these bikers were either drunk or high.
So, in answer to my neighbor’s question: No, I’m not ever ever ever going to be featured in a cookbook. Ever. I have a better chance of winning the lottery or meeting Prince Charming than I do that. However, I did come across a meatloaf recipe the other day…fail proof it said…and if you’re hungry just come on by. I’m sure it will be a culinary experience you’ll never forget.