Screw Ups Are OK: Translate It into French (or Lie Like a Politician)

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 7.02.50 AMI made Thanksgiving dinner. Some of it, anyway. My mom made the desserts, except for the awesome gluten-free cookies contributed by my cousin, who dies if she eats certain ingredients. We try not to kill people on Thanksgiving. Then they can’t overshop for Christmas and the economy will be ruined.

I was skeptical of the cookies, which had an unnatural roundness to them as if they were pulling toward the center avoiding gluten with every core of their being. They were amazing, though. I apologized and ate two. I’m getting the recipe.

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 7.20.26 AMI was responsible for creating all the side dishes. Rusty cooked the turkey on the beloved Big Green Egg. I mocked it at first but fell in love in the end. Taking on turkey duty meant he had one big thing to do and I had about fifty thousand little ones. Turkey duty carries more weight than side dishes, because dead bird, not turnips, is always the central focus of Thanksgiving. That gives him more pressure, being the headline act and all. I was supporting actress, running around having restaurant flashbacks. I never cooked in a restaurant, just brought the plates to the right people and smiled. I watched a lot of cooking and learned. Close enough.

It’s always good to save the screwups for a big holiday meal. First I overcooked the yams. No problem. When I mess things up, I translate them into French and tell everyone I meant it. “Yams Trop Cuit.” (trop cuit: overcooked). Sounds pretty fancy to me. I’d have put toasted blanched almond crumbles on top to finish off the ruse, but my sister’s allergic to almonds. If my cousin gets to live till the end of the meal, my sister should too. It’s only fair.

Next, I neglected to put water in the green bean steamer while I was talking on the phone to my rabbit-serving brother. Since one of the main ingredients in steaming is, in fact, steam, which requires water, that’s an omission. I made a just-in-time save, as was happening in so many football games I wasn’t watching because I was in the kitchen. I decided to let the beans retain their natural state after picking out the few ones black ones from the bottom that sacrificed themselves so that others could live. Taking a left turn from the casserole route, I served “Smoked Green Beans.” Delicious.

I usually roast Brussels sprouts on my grandmother’s antique, perfectly-seasoned cast iron–the kind generations feud over in the South when the matriarch dies. I live in the North. When my grandmother passed, everyone thought they were junk. Not me. My cousin took them and shared. In return, I burned the Brussels sprouts, then finished them off by leaving them in an oven I forgot to turn down. Taste, great. Eyeball appeal, zero. We named them “Cajun Blackened Sprouts.”  I had three servings. Sounded like the makings of a $20/plate appetizer to me.

Screwups happen. They’re okay as long as I cover them up like a politician, bouncing back with confidence and feeling, indicting my diners as if it is they who don’t understand the true depths of my culinary genius. I practiced that stare studying staff in high-end establishments who give me The Look when I try to order vegetarian.

Confidence is the name of the game in the kitchen. And the more I think about it, not a bad strategy for life, either.

[images: Atomic Housewife and SarahSteenland.com. Sarah is a great friend and genius whose art always makes me laugh. Sometimes I have to be careful what I say around her because comics will appear in short order. I love that the best. Check out her blog here, and have her make something for you. She does that. Affordably, I might add.]

 

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