Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Food Assignments

It's not a secret that in my family I am not trusted with bringing even remotely complicated food assignments to family functions. It's also no secret that I'm very sensitive about this.

Usually, Cathie will send out some email about a big family gathering. She'll inappropriately use an excessive number of emoticons. The font and color of text will change mid-sentence multiple times. She'll tell us how much she loves us all. And then she'll include some assignments for my sisters and me to bring things. It often looks like this:

Krishelle: Creme brulee and the heart of a unicorn baked inside of a hand-crafted pygmy sculpture.

Krisanda: Home-aged cheese and nine-layer wedding cake in the shape of a dove.

Micalyne: Gold-laced duck and forty handmade sushi rolls.

Eli: Chips.

I hate this. I find it offensive and impractical. Two of my sisters have like 1,000 children and besides that WAY more going on in their lives than I do. Unlike them, I have the luxury of cooking in my own home without also having to comply with all the laws about not neglecting my children.

I mean, I have Rebecca. But if I give her a ball of yarn tied into thousands of knots and ask her to work it out, that usually keeps her occupied for a while.

I don't really understand why I get assigned "chips" or "drinks" or "just yourself!" as has happened on a number of occasions. I'm relatively competent. I can cook. Maybe not as well as my sisters, but I'm not that far behind them.

So when the cursed assignment-email goes out, I usually protest. I demand that I be treated like an adult. I explain that if Krishelle has been assigned to bring ice from the Himalayas, I can bring a damn quiche. Or something.

I don't actually know how to make a quiche. Bad example.

Then my family reluctantly agrees. And we go into this absurd negotiation. I'll offer to bring the wedding cake. They'll counter with "how about Kool-Aid? And you can mix it when you get here!" I'll counter again with potato salad. They'll respond with, "then you could freeze the Kool-Aid in an ice-cube tray with little toothpicks so we can have popsicles! And we'll help."  Eventually we settle on something that takes minimal effort but at least requires the use of an oven or microwave. Like corn.

Well last Thanksgiving I had had enough. I told the family that I was bringing a number of items (all of which were replicated by my untrusting mother). This, unfortunately, included a cherry pie, which I made from scratch.

The pie was an absolute disaster. It looked like a preschool art project. It tasted like Robitussin. Except, no high. NOT THAT I KNOW WHAT THAT IS, CATHIE.

My family was condescending. Mostly because we're all a little competitive about our cooking abilities. In case that didn't come across in the first several paragraphs of this post.

They told me they were sure I tried my best and that they were just proud of me for attempting.

I was humiliated.

So this year, I attempted it again. I made a pumpkin pie from scratch. I found the most popular recipe available on the Internets. I followed it as carefully as possible. And when the time came, I nervously took it to Bob and Cathie's house.

It was placed next to Bob and Cathie's award-winning apple pie and Krishelle's magazine-worthy coconut cream. It was viewed skeptically.

Then, after a long and wonderful Thanksgiving meal, it was apprehensively tasted.

Small bites were taken. The room was silent. Then Cathie looked at me. A small smile forming on her face. I was prepared to finally be invited into the circle of responsible family adults. My days of being assigned to bring "candy" were done.

Cathie put her fork down, patted me on the shoulder, and sweetly said, "son. Some people will just never be good at making pies. AND THAT'S OK."

Worst motherly pep-talk ever.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I love receiving emails that change fonts and colors multiple times. :) And, haha, I love the freedom some people feel when choosing emoticons that I never knew existed.

    I am the worst cook in my family as well. Well, I like to think of myself as the least experienced cook, rather than the worst. Some day, I'll have more time to devote to it . . . and then I will surely exceed. I can't accept that I am actually bad at it; they've just made it more of a priority than I have. And honestly, who are these people who don't need to measure ingredients? Or who know what to do when a recipe says "season to taste"?? I hate those words.

  2. Pies are ambitious if you aren't used to baking. Try cookies from scratch next time. I also like the site allrecipes.com because they include reviews and suggestions for modifications other people tried. Or I'll just bake you a cheesecake for Christmas and you can tell them all you made it.

  3. I was in full giggles during this. For me, I wish I'd get assigned something simple. I hate it when people say, "Just bring a side dish" What's a side dish? And then I start getting all nervous and reassessing whether we actually need to attend the function.

  4. I can bake fairly well, as long as it doesn't have to look pretty, but I hate cooking. I wish I would get assigned chips!

  5. I'm wishing for the Kool-aid assignment next year. We have Thanksgiving (and most holidays) at my house because my house works for size and location. When I mentioned Thanksgiving to someone, they looked at me wide-eyed and gasped "You cooked Thanksgiving dinner?!?!?!" Uh...no. My family has this weird thing about not dying on the holidays, so they don't let me cook. But they are chock full of instructions "do this, do that, DON'T DO THAT!!"

  6. Haha, that was awesome. I used to get the same thing when I was younger. This is why you get married...so the responsibility falls on your wife!


    Kidding...but she is a good cook...parents are from Italy so it's kind of inherited. I used to be really good at baking (I still am whenever I actually get my butt in gear and attempt to make anything), I get that from my mom. She makes awesome pumpkin pie...actually any pie or dessert like product. But I agree with Jaclyn above. Try something like cookies or granola bars (also found on allrecipes.com). Super easy and a yummy snack. If you want to make something for Christmas, shortbread cookies are a fairly easy thing to make.

    Oh...I almost spit out my breakfast at the Rebecca comment. Too funny. I don't know how she hasn't socked you in the head yet. LOL

  7. Hahaha, I used to be offended when the family told me to "just bring yourself", then they figured out I could cook and bake and I got sick of the requests so I avoid talking to people in the lead up to family parties and they stopped asking. Now I enjoy them not asking. No stress, no competition, just show up, enjoy amazing food, go home and nap. It's perfect.

  8. We just attended my sister-in-law's home for Thanksgiving. The sister-in-law that was the actual Betty Crocker of Oregon when they were growing up. Seriously, it is a thing! I was complaining to my good friend, Amie, the weekend before, saying, "yeah, she's a good cook and all that, but I think we (meaning my husband and me) are pretty darn good cooks as well." I had to eat my words, literally. Every single thing on the table was succulent, superb, melt in your mouth delicious! - except the green beans, of which I was in charge. Sigh.

  9. I make AMAZING pies. Seriously amazing. Like - people fight over the last two pieces - two people fight over the last two pieces. I'm asked to make pies for EVERY event I go to with work or friends. And when I unexpectedly make one those same friends and co-workers shriek with glee at the prospect of eating one of my creations. Seriously - I'm the pie girl for everything . . . . .except my family . . . . .

    We don't usually do holidays with my family. Like - in 15 years of marriage - we've done ONE Thanksgiving with them. This was 6 years ago. It was at my sister's house, across the state. I volunteered to make pies - I made my upside down apple pie, a cherry pie, a caramel apple crumb pie, a classic pumpkin pie, and a hazelnut pumpkin pie. I was excited to share my pies with my family who never tasted my baking . . . . but evidently my family didn't trust me. One sister had bought (BOUGHT!!!!!) two pumpkin pies and another brought a mincemeat pie (she's also the WORST cook in anyone's family - the pie made my dad sick). So - yeah - I get the "family doesn't trust you to cook" thing - it happened even when it shouldn't.

    1. Sorry, where did you say you live? Do you ever happen to leave your pies on the window sill to cool down per chance? I'm not saying I would steal your pies...but...you know...I would.


      Is there such a thing as a pie stalker? Cause I would be one.

  10. This post had me laughing all the way through. Your mother must just want to strangle you sometimes! Your family sounds really fun.

  11. Eli, a few weeks ago you asked us for recipes claiming you were a not-so-good chef? :/

    Okay, so, I'm trying really hard to get serious about cooking, and so far it's so good. My family loves most of what I make, but I'm only 17, so I've yet to cook with alcohol (well, mum gets me red wines and vodkas for shepherd's pie and making my own extracts, but... I don't *like* those because ew. I do think other forms that smell okay might be better... but then again, I've never *smelled* any other so I'm just basing my opinion on adult chefs who seem to know what they're doing.). Anyway, I made a pumpkin pie from scratch, and reallly loved it. I'm having a really hard time going back.

    But most people actually hate the taste of real pumpkin. UGH. It makes life SO. HARD.

    This recipe, though, is absolutely fantastic: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Bake-a-Pumpkin-Pie-from-Scratch/

    I try to go to Instructables as often as possible, and blogs I trust. Which is REALLY HARD because a lot of baking blogs have pressure to quickly throw something together without paying much heed to whether or not it actually tastes good. It happens?

    Anyway, my other suggestion would be to just buy a pie crust. Literally no one will be able to know, and no one should actually care. Pie crusts are difficult, and a lot of the good chefs I watch (which could also make them not good?) use bought crusts and dough. Pastries can take ages to get perfect, and there's honestly no sense going all out unless you're getting paid (or doing it for passion. But you'd probably have known by now).

    Wow I ramble. Anyway, good luck. Show them up sometime! ;)

  12. I always bring good dishes that I make from scratch (mashed garlic cauliflower, rosemary cornbread) and everyone asks around about who made them. I say that I did and they still spend the next half hour trying to figure out who made the mysterious food that appeared from nowhere. I DID! "Hmmm.. maybe Amy brought the cornbread." I MADE THE CORNBREAD! "Aw... no."

  13. Pinterest taught me how to cook. I started trying recipes for dinner, and sometimes they were awesome, and sometimes they weren't. And when they weren't, we still had to eat them because we were poor. So I tried to fix them, and eventually figured it out.
    Try pinterest. And being poor. It really helps. You could quit your lawyer job and then you'd have lots of time and motivation to become a great cook!

  14. My mother hates to cook; she's good at it, but she hates it. I like to cook, so any time we have a family party, I'm the one who does most of the cooking. Most of the time it works out well, and if it doesn't, my mom would never complain about it, because she didn't have to do the cooking. It's kind of a win/win.

    I'm dying to know, though: Cathie didn't love your pie, but did anyone in your family like it??

  15. I'm actually a pretty good cook, but can't make a pie to save my life (unless it's pre-made and you just throw it in the oven.) Did I send you the chocolate chip cheesecake dip (AKA crack dip...not that I know what that is)? I'm thinking if you just make it up, put it in a pie crust and keep it in the fridge that would be good. Hmmmm, now I have an idea for my next get together. Most of my family and friends just want to eat that by the spoonful anyway.

  16. Eli did make and does make the best yam soufflé ever in this world. :) :) There is hardly a bite left after HE makes it and brings it. It did take him a few years to hone and perfect the recipe to be his own but now we INSIST that he bring it. Pies....well, uummm, are another thing but we are holding out hope. :) He is a good cook and tries very, very hard. He just needs to find out which kind of pie will be his forte'....maybe a yam pie. ;) Cherry...definitely not! :( Pumpkin might be good without the cream cheese - he gets another try on this one. :-0 We love him just the same...after all he does have that fabulous hair. :) :)

    Cathie xoxoXoXoxoxo :) :)

  17. Try attempting a galette. It's the lazy person's pie. Or at least I tried making galette this Thanksgiving after years of cookies and cupcakes and bread and actively avoiding pastry, and it turned out okay! You don't have to prebake the crust or try to make the edges all pretty or anything!
    Or make a no-bake pie with a graham cracker or Oreo crust that you can just put in the fridge.
    Or make everything and just show up with an arsenal of pies and an expression that says "WHO'S THE BRING CHIPS GUY NOW?!"

  18. Rolls...I get to bring rolls. I think that says it all.

  19. Ha! One of my cousins recently posted on FB "Okay, I'm 40 today. So NOW can I bring something to Thanksgiving dinner besides the turnip?"

  20. You don't understand, Eli. You have to make the best of the best out of what they assign you. And then they'll see they can trust you and that you have impressed them. It's like that Friends episode where Phoebe was in charge of cups and ice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vHOrIUKkhs They want chips? Fine. You go and make the best homemade chips and dips and salsa, and anyway, you get the point.