I had a shocking secret. I was a 40 year old woman who couldn’t cook. A “homemaker” no less. I dreaded the recipe exchange e-mails and dinner idea discussions with other moms. I had an arsenal of canned answers to “What are you making for dinner tonight?” The deception went deep – I decided I just couldn’t live a lie anymore.
I set about the process of learning to cook. At least some basics so when there was a hunk of meat lying in front of me I had some idea of how to handle it, or at least identify the animal it came from. I wanted my son to learn to eat more than chicken nuggets so I started a 30 day blog where I would cook a new dish each day and report it to the world. A digital mother to wag her pixelish finger at me so I wouldn’t blow off dinner.
I used cookbooks to guide my journey. Turns out I was pretty good at following directions so most of the dishes I attempted came somewhat close to what I had set out to do. The cooking wasn’t too shabby from someone who lived on mixed nuts and cereal for years. But one night, about halfway through my adventure, my family won’t soon forget the night of the Sour Cream Turkey Patties or as it was later named, Zombie Sauce.
My favorite grocery store was small and calm. I could find things, there weren’t 14,000 people standing in front of the milk refrigerator deciding on skim or 1%. They bagged my groceries. No menacing conveyor belt of doom smashing the next customer’s can of Hawaiian Punch into my bread. It was lovely. But it had some limitations, like no fresh ground turkey, only frozen.
In the recipe it clearly states: frozen turkey that has been defrosted may not hold together as well as fresh. If you use it, add the milk one tablespoon at a time so that the mixture doesn’t become too loose. It is not written in a foreign pen. It is not in small print. It says it right at the top of the recipe. I even read that statement before I left for the grocery store but thought I was going to bring home fresh turkey, so it wafted out of my mind. I would be reminded of it right after I added the entire 1/3 cup of milk the recipe asked for.
I immediately made my son go in another room so he wouldn’t see the horror I had created. He would undoubtedly be turned off from turkey forever. He couldn’t however escape my moans of disgust as I tried desperately to knead the slush together like an ER doc trying to massage the heart of a doomed patient. Come on damn it! You can pull through.
The slice of bread the recipe called for was pathetically under staffed to do its job of thickening up the soup so I added about 9 more for back up. Now the sauce had lumps thank you very much. (This is the point where the concoction acquired its infamous name.)
I had started to think maybe I had gotten the hang of this cooking thing. But my next move will tell you all how far I was from having a handle on any of this.
I tried to strain the turkey.
Yup. I knew it was wrong immediately but I still tried to stir it around and sort of mush it through the mesh. I had no idea ground turkey was so pink. My son walked in and said “Oh, mom no” Even the seven year old knew this was a sin.
So the same page of the cookbook has a recipe for Tarragon Turkey Loaf. Loaf! I can make it into a turkey loaf! I poured the mess into a bread pan and baked it for about 3 years when it finally started to harden up. When it came out there was little splash marks on the side of the pan like a wayward muffin. We finally ate at quarter to seven. My husband who had been very supportive and complimentary of this whole cooking project dutifully ate every bit of his turkey. No comment one way or the other. I’ll take it.
The boy however had witnessed the crime first hand and had simply seen too much. He politely asked for chicken nuggets to which I empathetically said “Of course.”