Inchoate Vegetable Sludge

Basically what I served my family for dinner, minus the sodium.

Basically what I served my family for dinner, minus the sodium.

I’ve blogged about my fantastical failures in the cooking arena before. I’m not shy about the fact that, if anyone’s going to find a way to detonate a head of broccoli, it’ll be me. And probably when I’ve got a whole bunch of people coming over, because that’s HANDS DOWN the absolute best time for everything in the kitchen to go spectacularly awry.

Those of you who have come over for a meal and had to help me turn off my smoke detector know what I’m talking about, here.

In the latest episode of the Epic Cooking Fails reality TV show that is my life, I give you…Pot roast. Or, rather, Trader’s Joe’s pot roast. Here’s the story:

I was at Trader Joe’s, shopping for dinner supplies for the week when I noticed some Cabernet Pot Roast. I thought that sounded yummy, so I tossed it into my cart and began wondering what I’d serve with it.

A container of fresh Asian stir fry vegetables caught my eye. I took a look and saw mushrooms, broccoli, and carrots, all cut up, and thought I might be able to add those to the pot roast and baby, I’d have a stew going.

So I get all these things home and, come Tuesday, decide it’s now or never for the pot roast because I’m having dinner with a friend and if I don’t make the food now, it’ll spoil. I remove the pot roast from its package, add the vegetables, and discover there’s, you know, Asian-y stuff in the vegetable mix. Like baby corn, bok choy, bell peppers, and a couple other things I can’t identify.

This comes as a total shock to me despite the fact that the container clearly says ASIAN Stir Fry Vegetables.

Because I am an awesome chef (and because I don’t really care, let’s be honest) I pick out the weirdest stuff and dump the rest into the Crock Pot along with the pot roast. I turn on the Crock Pot, plunk down the lid, and congratulate myself on making dinner for Wes and the kids even though I’ll be gone.

Come dinner time, I give the pot roast a stir and discover that the Asian vegetables have radiation sickness or something because they’ve dissolved into inchoate vegetable sludge, the proverbial ooze from which my overcooked pot roast had to climb.

Wes, peering over my shoulder at this tiny slice of primordial culinary swampland, cocks an eyebrow at me to which I can only reply, “You’re not supposed to eat those. I added them for flavor.”

Now, we both know this is BS. Pure and simple. But the key to a happy marriage is letting your spouse keep what dignity she has left by pretending she didn’t just mercilessly simmer hapless vegetables to death.

And with that, I skipped out the door to go eat pizza with a friend.

I hear from reliable sources that Wes served the pot roast with pancakes (?) to critical acclaim from the tiny humans, and that the carrots were at least somewhat salvageable.


Broccoli is Complicated When You’re Me

I always hear people say, “Oh, I LOVE cooking” and it makes me feel slightly defective. Because I don’t like cooking. I’m really bad at it.

I can make the same meal three times and screw something different up every single time. To wit: If I’m making fish sticks (don’t judge, I think fish is icky and will usually only eat it if it’s breaded and covered in tartar sauce) with roasted potatoes and sauteed broccoli, it’ll go like this:

  • The first time I make it, the fish sticks and potatoes are great, but the broccoli is over-salted and nigh inedible.
  • The second time, the fish sticks are fine and the potatoes are amazing, but the broccoli is still cold inside even though I swear I checked it before serving it. What the heck?
  • The third time, the fish sticks are wilty even though I baked them the same amount of time as the first two times, the potatoes are almost flavorless, and the broccoli is great.
  • Then I order pizza.

When I think of people liking cooking, I usually picture some blissful, clean kitchen where fun music is playing and the person is calmly preparing delicious things. Every once in awhile, the person tastes the sauce and then adds something gourmet to the pan, like a handful of fresh parsley or something.

"I love cooking!"

“I think maybe I’ll just add some of these fresh white truffles I picked up at the Farmer’s Market this morning after yoga class…”

Somehow, when I cook it never looks like this. It’s less Peaceful Contemplation Of A Cookbook and more Frantic Scramble For Ingredients Before The Kids Realize I’m Being Productive And Oh Crap I Forgot A Crucial Ingredient Maybe Wes Won’t Notice If I Cover Everything With Ketchup.

I was trying to figure out why that might be last night when I realized there are two things working against me.

1. The kids. The kids do not care that it’s dinner time. They have NEEDS, gosh dang it, and those needs are no respecter of cooking times and cooking methods. It is very difficult to cook when someone is sneaking up the stairs because he wants to jump down them one by one even though you’ve told him not to and someone else wants nothing more than to be held even though you’ve held her the better part of the afternoon already and hey the phone is ringing and wait, was that the pasta timer or the chicken timer? Meanwhile, there are drinks to be obtained for the boy and toys to be picked up for the girl and hey, I don’t think the chicken is supposed to look like a charcoal briquette.

real cooking

2. My cooking ineptitude. Even if the tiny humans weren’t excellent at distracting me, I’d still make a non-tasty mess of things in the kitchen. Cooking is my Achilles heel. Absolutely hopeless.

The only solution I can see is to have Wes cook everything or to just have pastries for dinner because I am an excellent baker. I guess I could take a cooking class, but then we run into the kids problem again.

Ain’t nobody got time for Chicken Cordon Bleu when there are diaper changes, train tracks, and petty injuries to be addressed.

I think I’ll just keep mangling ostensibly simple dishes. Wes will eventually get the hint and take over. And there it is: Victory through complacent ineptitude.