Joe’s car broke down on Friday, and he decided to try to fix it himself. Despite his many strengths and the fact that he worked in apartment maintenance for six years, my husband is not a handy bloke. He just isn’t.
While he was working on his car outside, in the drizzly rain, Grace and I baked pies for our Sunday dinner. Truthfully, though, Grace pretended to feed her Baby and played with her magnetic farm while I baked two pies. Since she didn’t seem to want to chat, I had plenty of time to reflect on this year’s Thanksgiving celebration and the ones of the past.
Reflection always makes me laugh. Despite the fact that I’m inspiring so many of you Dear Readers to attempt great things in your homes, I am prone to ridiculously funny failures in my own. As I dealt with another mishap prepared and baked pies, I pondered my most ridiculous Thanksgiving bloopers.
Too much food – The very first time we hosted Thanksgiving, I over planned and over cooked. Everyone told me that I was making too much food, but I was worried that someone wouldn’t have enough to eat. I forced poor Joe to peel and mash 10 pounds of potatoes. For 8 people. We had a 24.5 pound turkey, 3 pies, a cake, 3 sweet potato dishes, a huge salad, 3 different steamed vegetables, and a bunch of other stuff. I don’t know what I was thinking. I could have fed 40 people with the spread I prepared. Except that no one liked half of it, which leads me to my next issue.
Being adventurous – There is a time and place for being adventurous in the kitchen. In fact, Joe and I try at least one unfamiliar recipe every week. However, I have learned (the hard way) that Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with fancy new dishes. That 10 pounds of mashed potatoes I made Joe make? No one liked them. The recipe called for onions, which sounded like a good idea. We added them to the already cooked potatoes, however, and never actually cooked the onions, so we served hot mashed potatoes with raw onion chunks in them. Fail. We ended up throwing out 8 pounds of freezer burnt mashed potatoes the following May. That same year, there was also a 9×13 pan full of a fancy sweet potato and mushroom gratin that no one liked. I think those leftovers rotted in the back of our fridge. I could go on, but I won’t. You get the picture. Every Thanksgiving since, I’ve stuck to tried and true recipes that I know everyone loves.
The creature – Imagine my surprise when I sat down on the couch in my living room and saw a mole eating out of the cat’s dish. On Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving. The first time that my future in-laws would ever see my home. I thought words that aren’t fit to write here, and then I called Joe away from whatever he was doing (probably peeling those ten pounds of potatoes!) and told him that he had to take care of it. Egads! He would never admit it, but I think he’s afraid of rodents. His attempt to help ended up chasing the creature under our television cabinet, where it stayed until we went to bed. I woke up on Thanksgiving morning knowing that there was a rodent in my living room, and that one of our guests might to see it.
Splenda experiment – Remember what I said above about experiments? I have a tendency to be a slow learner. One Thanksgiving, I was on a diet. I decided to put all of my guests on a diet, too, and I substituted Splenda for sugar in all of my recipes. I might have gotten away with this one, except that none of my pies set up. Have you ever eaten soupy pecan pie? It’s just not the same. Fail.
Oven mitts – I set my nice, thick, heavy Pampered Chef oven mits on the stove after pulling a dish out of the oven, and I turned a pan on to boil water for something else. A few minutes later, I noticed that my oven mitts were on fire. I’d turned on the wrong burner and filled my house with smoke right before my guests arrived to eat.
The air freshner – I got a fancy, expensive, cranberry-scented air freshner for my living room one Thanksgiving after my dad complained about smelling the cat box. It was the kind with scented oil in a dish, suspended over a candle. I followed the instructions on the package, lit the candle, and returned to the kitchen. An hour later, when my guests started to arrive, we had to open all of the doors and windows because the scent of faux cranberries was so strong that it made everyones’ eyes burn.
Double sugar in pie – Self explanatory, right? I’ve done this more than once because I try to accomplish too many tasks at a time.
Turkey still frozen – We left the turkey in the fridge for four days, but it was a big one, and it didn’t thaw completely. When Joe attempted to remove the giblets and neck, he discovered that the inside of the bird was still a solid block of ice. This led to some hasty 5 a.m. cold water bathing for that turkey, and then we cooked it still partially frozen. I hope that’s not a huge no no, because we did it. Fortunately, no one got food poisoning (and told us about it).
Turkey done too soon – This year, our turkey was done two hours too early. That was a trauma because we thought the whole thing was going to dry out and become shoe leather. Fortunately, a Twitter friend came to our rescue and told me to baste the turkey with its own juices every fifteen minutes until it was time to serve. We did. It was wonderful and juicy. But then, my mom carved the turkey and discovered that, while the breast was perfectly cooked, the bottom half of the turkey was not. It turns out that our oven’s temperature varies wildly, from 300 to 450, all while the dial is still at 325. At least this one was not a total failure.
So, while I was dealing with today’s blooper – trying to reform the partially cooked puddle of pie crust back into a recognizable pie shape – I laughed to myself about all of the things I’ve done wrong in the kitchen. Sometimes, it’s a miracle that the food gets on the table, but my faux pas inspire me, and I know (because you’ve told me) that they inspire you. Keep those stories coming. I never get tired of them!
By the way, Joe’s car is back in working condition. He might be a little handy after all.
© 2008 – 2012, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.