My friend Linda and I are long-standing competitors for the title of Worst Cook. It started the day we met nearly 20 years ago when a room mom hosted a meet-and-greet. The invitation asked for a potluck dish, a simple request that would make spotting each other a piece of cake.
I contributed a loaf of store-bought bread and Linda brought a large container of deli-counter coleslaw.
Everyone else arrived with homemade gourmet items like shrimp salad, mini-spinach quiches, pinwheel sandwiches, and pies baked with farmer’s market berries that were later topped with dollops of freshly whipped cream. Until that day, I didn't know whipped cream could be summoned from anything other than an aerosol can or plastic tub.
I watched in wide-eyed wonder as pie-lady whisked a delicious, fluffy white concoction I compared to Cool Whip – a well-intentioned compliment that was met with stunned silence broken by Linda, who hummed in sing-song, mouth-full agreement.
So far, Linda has racked up more failed kitchen experiences, but that’s only because my husband prepares the meals in my home.
Note from husband: “That’s a matter of self preservation than any real culinary interest.” However, Linda tries to level the playing field by making only rare forays into the kitchen. As a matter of fact, she uses her oven so infrequently it was seven months before she noticed it was broken.
Linda and I share similar cooking challenges. For example, we have issues with baking cookies. At least that’s the opinion of family, friends, class parents, PTA members, firefighters and Little League snack coordinators throughout the Northern Virginia region. In time, we were urged to volunteer for paper products and boxed drinks.
At the whisper of a class party, she and I would fight for napkins and Juicy Juice. By the time my youngest was in elementary school, I was sending in Valentine’s paper plates the first day of school.
My best shot at closing in on Linda’s Worst Cook lead is when my husband goes out of town. It is unfortunate that my kids never welcomed the spirit of competition during those occasions. Instead, I was met with fear. “Oh no, Mom’s cooking! Instead of crying this time, let’s look on the bright side: we’ll be too sick to go to school tomorrow.”
Last month my husband went to Oregon. A few days after he left, I called Linda. This is our actual conversation:
Linda: “What did you make for dinner last night?”
Me: “Hot dogs in crescent rolls.”
Linda: “Wow! I tried that once. I was really confused about which way to roll the hot dog in the dough.”
Me: “Yeah, that took me a while to figure out. [It did.] They should make the directions more clear. [They should.]”
Linda’s most spectacular kitchen nightmares involve her crockpot. She uses it like a magician’s top hat, astounding her family (and herself) with the meals she pulls out of it.
In Linda’s defense, she starts it before leaving for work at 5 a.m. Most people can’t put together a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios at that hour. Her most recent fiasco occurred while adding ingredients: She accidentally alternated between her usual recipe and the one next to it in the cookbook. “My family is getting some horrible concoction tonight. Even when I try I’m horrible. I can't even cook your crescent roll hot dogs!”
Only Linda would be impressed with crescent roll hot dogs. Well, that’s what she gets for using a cookbook.
Next: Crockpots, Cookies and Casseroles -- Oh My!
Jean Sorensen dedicates this Odd Angles to Bob Twigg, who encouraged and named this column.
[December 9, 2009]
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