I never had to cook growing up and honestly, never strived to learn, thus making me very domestically challenged in the kitchen.
It wasn’t too long ago that I tried making my first cup of tea without taking the tea bag out of the wrapper, and it was just last week that I burnt a whole pot of chili, leaving me with one hour to buy canned chili and attempt to trick our dinner guests.
Just ask my husband. The poor guy probably cooked better during his bachelorhood. Now, I put dinner on the table and intently watch him take the first bite.
Mostly, so I can see if he likes it and secondly, so I feel safe to eat it, too.
When I was younger, everyone would pitch in to help during the holidays, but I was never given any job related to cooking. I was to set the table or occupy the little ones.
My parents knew my inadequate cooking skills from the beginning when I made a batch of cookies and swapped the sugar and salt ratios.
Then there was that one Thanksgiving after my great-grandmother passed away that I was given the task of making her famous rolls. Let’s just say that asking your 85-year-old great-grandmother in the midst of serious dementia for her famous roll recipe isn’t the smartest idea.
In college, I decided to cook a mock Thanksgiving. I figured that at 20 years old, I’d better learn to at least make one holiday meal.
On a hot day in July, my sister and I got out the family recipes and began to make a proper feast. After spending hours cooking, reading instructions over and over again and then having to make a number of phone calls to further explain the instructions, the table was set and it looked marvelous.
I felt good about my successful holiday meal. But before I jumped to the phone to tell everyone how I just Martha Stewart-ed a Thanksgiving dinner, my sister and I both laid on the couch, digesting mashed potatoes, turkey, rolls, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, pie and stuffing.
Wait, where was the stuffing?
Then it occurred to us, and our jaws dropped. After cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, I had forgotten to take it out. One turkey carcass and a whole bunch of Grandma’s warm stuffing was lying at the bottom of the outside Dumpster.
I would like to say after two years of being married, I am getting better in the kitchen. I have minor disasters here and there, but most of our friends continue to come back over for dinner — so that must say something. I can’t tell with my husband, because he is stuck with whatever is on the table.
The real test will be this Thanksgiving, which I will be hosting. Hosting and cooking: an art I have yet to master. I am already feeling quite encouraged by my sister’s enthusiastic acceptance of the invitation. She has never been afraid to tell me that my cooking skills are a bit under par, to put it nicely.
“I had other options,” she said. “But you’ve become so domestic these days that I know it will be really good.”
So, this year there will be no burnt casserole, undercooked rolls, dry turkey or missing stuffing. You might as well just call me Paula Deen, Tur-duck-en Queen. Happy Thanksgiving!
1. Don’t try to do something really challenging to impress. When you know the box recipe will still be a little challenge, stick with that.
2. Just cook the stuffing in the slow cooker to make it easy and avoid any misplacement.
3. Make side dishes in advance so that you’re concentrating on only one recipe at a time. Then write down somewhere what you’ve made so you don’t forget what is in the freezer.
4. Read the recipe all the way through, a few times. It doesn’t help when you make an entire dish on Thanksgiving and then find that at the end of the recipe, it says to refrigerate overnight.
5. Get out everything you will be cooking and serving with beforehand. Then you don’t have to use your baby’s bottle as a turkey baster because you forgot to replace your broken one from last year.
6. Don’t use recipes from dementia patients.
7. Hire a baby-sitter: not for the baby, but for when you have to do something and need constant eyes on the stove.
8. If you feel you’re being lied to about a good meal and clean plates, just check with the dogs. You’ll be able to tell if they have had some table scraps.
9. Lighting enough fragrant candles and keeping the oven fan on will remove the burnt food smell fast.
10. Don’t tell your city-bred, Bambi-loving relatives that they aren’t munching on beef in that casserole — it’s venison.