I beg you: do what I say, not what I did

This week it’s a warts column.

I’ve always loved to write, but until I got a newspaper-writing gig, my scribblings consisted solely of to-do lists, notes for The Kid’s lunch, and emails.

At the time I was asked to contribute, I hadn’t written for a paper since junior high.  So, I really didn’t know the game.  Would I be given a topic each week?  Was there anything I couldn’t say?  Did they want reviews?  Recipes?  My head was spinning with questions, doubts and anxieties.

Carte Blanche is a French term, meaning “blank check”.

And that is pretty much what I got.  I was given three guidelines.  It had to be G or (this is a family newspaper after all).  No problem Boss.

It had to be connected to food.  I’m on it.

It had to be honest.  While I often use exaggeration and hyperbole, and give my friends and family pseudonyms (You didn’t really think the name on the birth certificate was “The Kid”, did you?), all the columns had to be true; warts and all. Good or bad, what I write should be, and always has been, authentic.

And bad is what I whipped up the other day.  But not just bad, it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dinner.  It was at least six different shades of wrong.  And bad.  So, so bad.  Did I mention it was bad?

I recently visited Trader Joe’s in Capel Hill.  They have a produce section, with variety and value.  They carry meat and dairy, also with varied selection and fair prices.  But that isn’t really what keeps the parking lot full and the lines long.

The company has the best store brand merchandise I’ve ever seen.  They carry crazy yet delicious stuff like Thai lime and chili cashews, vanilla wafers flecked with real vanilla beans, and Baconesque white cheddar popcorn.  Baconesque; what a lovely, evocative word.But the freezer’s where they shine.  There are meals for every appetite.  They have enough pastas to eat a different kind every day for a month without repeating.

I picked up a cod dinner for Petey, a decadent brie and asparagus pasta for me and arugula-filled ravioli for The Kid.

Next to the arugula ravioli was a type I’ve never seen before.  It was stuffed with chicken pot pie.  I didn’t even hesitate; into my basket it went. Trader Joe’s recommended dressing it simply, with just a little olive oil.  But I decided I had bigger and better ideas for this ravioli.

I would toss it with a rosemary-scented brown butter.  But I wanted something green on the plate.  So when the butter melted, but before it browned, I added three big handfuls of baby spinach.  The toasted, golden butter would impart wonderful flavor to the spinach and vice versa.

Yeah…no.

The butter never browned, but turned the bilious green of antifreeze.  And the spinach adsorbed so much butter it was inedible.  Think oil-soaked rag from a bucket in the shed.

Although I hate waste, the occasional food failure is good for me.  Sometimes I get a big head and food fiascos remind me I’m more Ellie May and less Martha Stewart.  These recurring debacles work like a charm to demolish any creeping complacency.  A flop, while unwelcome, does have its merits.

And, boy howdy was it ever one huge disaster.  But my sweet Petey ate around the tragic spinach and bravely finished his ravioli.  Not me—I dined on peanut butter and jelly.

Thanks for your time.

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