Dear Friends and Family, I Apologize For My Crap Cooking

1795567_724115684753_1794814265_nYou guys remember last week I was whining and bitching about how hardly anyone ate my appetizers, which I stated on more than one occasion I would be making and bringing to put in my homemade football stadium appetizer tray that all the kiddies (and my husband) had requested? And after Christmas I was heartbroken because I baked cupcakes and only two of them were eaten, the rest sent with the grandparents to BINGO later in the week to give away to strangers?

…and you remember that time we had everyone over to our house to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and no one touched any of my pasta dishes I had spent about nine hours preparing by hand?

Or what about the time that my mom’s family had me prepare this big Mother’s Day meal for everyone, only for my cousins to bring in their own fucking food? Of course I use the phrase “their own fucking food” pretty loosely. They brought in Spaghetti-O’s and donuts.

Well, we’ve had another incident. I didn’t think there was going to be one, I mean I didn’t realize – after all of that – that the people hated my cooking so much. I mean to say that I didn’t accept it. Anyone else would have caught on a long time ago, but you know I’m a Stay At Home Mom. We don’t have much intelligence to work with (or so these people that don’t eat my cooking often tell me, or imply).

To the incident. In just about a month we’re going on a mandatory three-week vacation to Texas (mandatory because it’s to take my daughter to visit her biological father), so I’m trying to start weeding out some of the food items in the house. It’s also getting close to spring cleaning time, so when I saw I had a couple boxes of lasagna noodles, a gaggle of miscellaneous cheese, and a shit-ton of vegetables, I figured: why not, I’ll ask my mother-in-law to make some sauce and I’ll make everyone a nice, vegetarian lasagna.

Seemed nice enough, right?

We got there yesterday and I prepared the lasagna. It took about two hours to get together. Chopping, mixing, layering… Then I put it in the refrigerator and watched the rest of the Bulls game with my husband, while everyone took the dogs for a walk.

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Flash forward quite a few hours – pass over the dinner, which I thought was tasty; and the watching of figure skating on the Olympics – and we were getting in the car to head home. The minute the car door shut, my ten year old blurted out: “oh my gosh, Mommy… I want to tell you something, but I know it’s going to hurt your feelings. But I am supposed to not keep secrets, so here goes: while we were walking the dogs, Nick’s dad” [… that is my husband’s father she is referring to, my father-in-law …] “asked if you were using their sauce, then he said ‘well, at least that part will be good.'”

My husband looked like a deer in the headlights. I felt like I had been socked in the gut. That was a pretty mean thing to say, especially in front of little ears. Especially after I stood in their kitchen for two hours putting that crap lasagna together. And to say that the timing is bad is an understatement: this food-related insecurity, and “I can never do anything right by anyone,” has been building and building for some time, now. Remember the examples I started off with? That’s a microcosm of the incidences in which it seems as though everyone in our lives disapproves or dislikes literally everything that I do.

As I felt extremely hurt through the evening, and this morning; and realized how much I try to do these kinds of things so that people will like me, I decided that it’s time to issue everyone a formal letter of apology. And a promise.

Oh, I’m issuing a promise.

Here goes…

Dear Friends and Family,

I apologize for my crap cooking.

That appetizer you asked me to bring, only for it to be thrown in the trash. That time you came over to my house for dinner and drinks, only later admitted that you ate before you came. The fact that you flagrantly say – in front of us, regularly – that Chicagoans can’t cook, that I make certain things wrong, that you just prefer me to bring nothing…

I get it. My cooking sucks. My baking is probably awful, I wouldn’t know – I rarely eat it, for fear I’ll gain too much weight and that’ll give you all another thing to judge me for.

Obviously the people I live with have been having to choke down their three, square meals a day with a smile; all-the-while lamenting their unfortunate positions of having to swallow such tripe in the first place.

Quite clearly I don’t have taste buds either, because of the things I make that I do eat, I’ve always thought it tasted perfectly fine.

But, like I said: I get it. Just as I cannot get the majority of you to read my writing, I can’t get you to eat my deviled eggs or my caprese salads. When I suggested starting a cottage bakery, under the California Cottage Goods law, I saw you all cringe. Every, single one of you. I heard the pause as you said “…yeeah…” like you did when I asked if you read my blog. Or the surprised look on your faces when you hear I’ve written and published three books.

I get it so much that from now on, when you ask me to bring something I just won’t. Nope, I won’t be bringing an appetizer, or even a bag of potato chips. Nor a dessert. None of you will be invited into my home for meals anymore, either. You may be invited, but meals will not be served.

You may be thinking we could just order take-out when you grace us with your sophisticated palettes (what with all of your own cooking, most of which is akin to injecting myself with a syringe full of saturated fats and a hefty dose of Ex-Lax); but then I’d have to shell out more money that I’m still trying to recoup from all the thrown-away dishes of get-togethers-past. Nope, not a single cookie, cupcake, trifle, or apple pie will enter your doorway. No BLT bites will be offered, and certainly no BBQ with my homemade Chicago Steak and Chop sauce.

Consider this my whole-hearted apology. I can’t even imagine how insufferable this situation has been for all of you up until this point. Rest assured, you will all never have to tolerate such agony again.

This cook is hanging up her hat. The kitchen is closed.

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How Pinterest and Instragram Ruined My Life

Yesterday I had a lot of cooking and cleaning to do. I was behind on my usual schedule of cleaning the apartment; and my in-laws are coming over for dinner tonight. This is sort of a big deal because we haven’t seen them since late last year – and Hello Kitty Toaster is included in the bunch. They hate me something good, faithful blog followers. I’m not sure why, really – except that I operate much differently than the way they run their family. I don’t gossip. I don’t break the sanctity of my marriage to allow other family into our personal business. I don’t tell stories about my bowel movements and my dog’s bloody heat at the dinner table.

Call me crazy, that’s just me.

Somewhere between inviting them over for dinner and preparing the actual meal, though, I let Pinterest and Instagram ruin my life. Although if I were really being honest, this happened a long time ago.

Now that we have Pinterest and Instagram – with people posting picture after stupid picture of recipes, crafts, food, inspiration, you name it – the bar of how things look in real life has been set much higher. It’s not just about preparation, it’s about presentation. It’s not just about enjoying the meal, it’s about taking photos of it at every angle and posting them on Instagram. Your meal is perfection if you can take a photo of it and it looks unbelievable uploaded without a filter. And look! It’s so easy to do all these cutesy little DIY additions to make things look even more perfect. We call it “personalized touch.”

Pinterest and Instagram are just about making things even more perfect than we’ve already tried to make them.

So I planned the meal for tonight according to my own tastes. I figured that if I’m going to be cooking a meal for people whose most recent contact with us included the words “we know Heather won’t let you come see us and Heather won’t let you call us and Heather seems to think you aren’t our son” (in response to my husband not communicating with them for a while, being upset of his own accord – Heather didn’t do anything); I’m cooking whatever the hell I want. I also wanted to spite Hello Kitty Toaster – I know how much she hates carbs and thinks that vegetables are fatty, so I wanted to plan the meal to be as carb- and veggie-filled as possible. And under no circumstance was I going to be making California-Italian. No sir – they feed themselves enough of that slop every other day of the year. And I hate it.

In the end, I decided on: stuffed mushrooms, BLT bites, and zucchini rollups for appetizers; buffalo-style chicken legs, fresh baguette, Chicago-style thin crust pizza, garlic-sauteed mixed green veggies, and a caesar salad for dinner; and a stained glass cake and lemon pie for dessert. It’s just enough for the eight people that are going to be here, and all relatively easy for me.

Do you see what I did there, though, faithful blog followers? I already started in with the Pinterest junk.

Ten years ago, I would have said “pizza.” Now it’s got to be qualified as Chicago-style thin crust pizza. Ten years ago, I would have said “some appetizers.” Now it’s stuffed mushrooms, BLT bites, and zucchini roll-ups. If I were really going to go all out with the Pinterest crap, I’d say bleu cheese and bacon stuffed mushrooms, BLT bites with a hint of garlic and onion, and zucchini roll-ups filled with ricotta and spinach. And not only did I feel I needed to qualify it all, but it has to look amazing when it’s presented as well.

So I spent about twenty minutes standing at the box window in my kitchen – where I keep all of the serving platters – deciding what platters would be best for presentation. Will the stuffed mushrooms, BLT bites, and zucchini roll-ups fit on here uniformly? Can I layer the chicken on this platter so as to display the bleu cheese crumbles? Will the presentation of my stained glass cake show the stained glass pieces on this dessert stand?

Oh for Christ’s sakes – shut the fuck up!

There was a day when dinner was just dinner. People came over and unless it was professionally catered (and even sometimes then), the meal was just a meal. No one cared about the presentation. Serving platters (versus the cookware the food was cooked in) were things for pretentious people, and pretentious people only. You never saw little place card signs stuck into various pieces of fruit listing the entire gamut of ingredients in the dish. Hardly ever did you see things like personalization of wine bottles, napkin rings, and elaborate centerpieces. No one ever stood around worrying whether or not their chicken could be stacked to properly display the bleu cheese crumbles sprinkled on it. People didn’t waste their time on bull shit like that! And most importantly – more than anything – you didn’t have a bunch of saps all standing around and marveling at the food; most certainly never taking photographs of it.

Pinterest and Instagram have ruined my life. Has it ruined yours?

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