Cooking disasters; everyone has them, and preparing dinner for extended family can be tricky and extremely embarrassing. Holidays are certainly not the time to experiment on loved ones. A lesson all of us should learn is that practice makes perfect.
I have acquired quite a bit of cooking finesse in the eighteen years that I’ve been married, and besides an unexpected baby, nothing prepares you for adulthood like being asked to provide dishes for a holiday meal in your early twenties.
As Clark’s mother mentions in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation concerning failed Christmas lights, “Clark, baby, I can picture it in my mind, and it’s breathtaking.” That is exactly what your expectations are when rummaging through cookbooks and eager to prepare a fabulous entrée and side dish, albeit before the ease of Google and Food Network. Take note.
When asked to brine a turkey at the age of twenty-five, be prepared. Moms don’t always give the most direct of directions. My young husband, who listened to his mom’s advice, lovingly massaged and manipulated a large turkey with two pounds of iodized salt; inside the cavity as well as out. It’s assumed that his ability to follow directions was at fault, but needless to say, the extremely dry bird was not a hit at Aunt Tricia’s dinner party.
Sweet potatoes on the fly
We all try to emulate holiday dishes and candied yams are just one of many. It can’t be that hard to replicate mom’s dish, right? Wrong. My rendition of sweet potatoes was less than amenable and the ability to cook them to fork-tender perfection was beyond my young years. Take note: don’t rush your potatoes, ensure that the liquid is saucy, and never travel with a hot pan on your lap when in a hurry to dinner across town. Unless you enjoy your pants covered in brown sugar and mini-marshmallows, invest in good containers and cookbooks. Flying hot potatoes hurt.
Pie crust woes
Unless you are a seasoned baker, leave the pie crust to the grocery store aisles. I ensure that beginner’s crust becomes not only a disappointment in the oven; it goes on to become a pie-tastrophy when one pulls it out to cool. I embarked on this crust journey three times and have decided that I would like to leave a holiday dinner with an empty pie dish and not a full one.
It’s easy to admit that we all have holiday dinner catastrophes, especially when leading busy lives. It is harder when we are young and out college with no cooking experience to speak of. The important thing to gain from our culinary mistakes is that we learn a lesson each time and when we turn fifty, we are supposed to know how to cook everything.