Thursday, July 24, 2008

Not My Gift

There are certain domestic genes that were left out of my DNA makeup. These are areas where I just don't have much of a knack for doing it right. One is decorating. I don't come up with ideas on my own. I can copy other people's ideas and I've done that in some areas of my home. But the thing is, when I see something nice and apply it to my home one of two things happen. Either it works and then I feel really stupid for not having thought of that myself, or it doesn't quite come off like the original and the I feel stupid for not being able to make it look the same.
Another area where I fell off the domestic wagon is cleaning. Now, I do clean. I like a clean house. I just never feel like it's as clean as it should be. There's always something else that isn't quite up to par. And then this week--well, I've been sick for almost a week so some things are just falling down around my ears. My boys and husband have done pretty well at keeping generally picked up. Most of the dishes are washed every day, and some of the wash is done every day. But there's dirt there. I can see it. I just haven't done anything about it yet.
One of the areas where my domestic lack bugs me the most is in the kitchen. I'm not a great cook, in spite of twenty-two years of practice. I'm better than I was twenty-two years ago, but I still have more flops than I think I should. I'm not bad with everything. I can make potato soup and broccoli soup that are the ultimate in comfort food. I have a pretty awesome chili (thanks, Rachel Ray!) and an assortment of other meals that I can produce well on a pretty regular basis. I've got several great cookie recipes that turn out right almost every time. (HINT: they tend turn out the best when you include all the ingredients.)
But the worst problem I think I have is with some desserts. Certain things in cookbooks sound absolutely mouth-watering. But then when I make them ... not so much. Now a small amount of blame can go toward the cookbook. I have several different cookbooks that are compilations of recipes from ladies in different churches. I think I have four different church cookbooks. Every once in a while you find a recipe where the creator forgot to include a step. Like what temperature to use or how long to bake it. But most of the time it's just me. We had company last week and I decided to make a dessert that I'd made once before. It's kind of like an easy no-bake cheesecake. (No, I did NOT use Jello's convenient boxed products! Although I can mess those up too.) The dessert has a crushed graham cracker crust, so I crushed up graham crackers, mixed them with butter and patted them into the bottom of the serving dish. Part of my problem was that I was in a hurry, so I didn't crush the crackers as fine as I should have. Then the recipe calls for evaporated milk whipped until stiff, according to the recipe. The last time I made this, I used my mixer for over 20 minutes. The milk was not stiff. It worked anyway. So you put the "stiff" evaporated milk with a mixture of cream cheese and sugar and add lemon Jello dissolved in boiling water. Mix all that together and pour over the crust, then refrigerate until set. My mom used to make something like this when I was little, and I was thrilled to find this recipe that's so close to what she used to make. You sprinkle a few crushed graham crackers on the top and it looks very nice and elegant. The problem? Some of the large crushed graham cracker pieces started floating in the cream cheese mixture instead of staying on the bottom, where they belong. We had two families over and both ladies were helping me in the kitchen. All three of us had contributed to the work in making the dessert, so I think we felt a joint sense of accomplishment/guilt over the finished product. We laughingly called it floating graham crackers and hoped it "set" while we were eating dinner.
After dinner I was thrilled to discover that the dessert had set. However, the floating cracker pieces had gotten soggy and expanded slightly. They looked exactly like wet dog food. I jokingly told the ladies it was called Dogfood Delight, and we dished it up. I didn't know one of the men overheard me until he said, "Well, it does look like dogfood, but it tastes pretty good!" His wife buried her face in her hands, but we just laughed until we cried. Then I told him that wasn't really the name of the dessert, and the look of horror on his face at what he'd said made us laugh and cry all over again.
We have a fellowship coming up at church this Sunday and I'm supposed to bring a dessert. I'm thinking a box cake--Betty Crocker or Pillsbury do those very well. And nobody can mess those up. Can they?

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