No one puts Martha in the corner ...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm pretty sure I reached my caloric intake for the day well before it was even 10:00 am.. In honor of my co-worker's birthday this weekend, our department threw him a "birthday breakfast" and set up a giant skillet in the middle of the room so we could fry up bacon and eggs. One of our designers made a cinnamon swirl bread that is TO DIE for (and I'm not even exaggerating a little bit. If someone said, "Courtney, you can have a piece of this cinnamon swirl bread, but you will drop dead 3 seconds after eating it", I'd be like "Whatever, I had a good run. *NOM NOM NOM*"... And then I would pray that snacks in heaven are equally as tasty). And my boss chipped in her own piece of culinary excellence with her homemade scones that can only be described as "WINNING". I had three. I ate three scones in like twenty minutes. Then I picked up each and every crumb on my desk and inserted them into my mouth without any regard for the millions of icky germs that are lurking around after all of the coffee and Diet Coke I've spilled on it.

My only contribution to the project was orange juice that I asked Clayton pick up for me on the way home from work yesterday. Had I known that an episode of Top Chef was being filmed in my office, I would have put in a little more effort and at least brought, I dunno, two cartons of juice.

I've worked in three different offices since I paid out the nose for my college degree and every single one of those offices was filled with employees who probably should have been in culinary school instead of in a cubicle. When I worked in the marketing department at my old publishing house, pitch-in lunches were cut-throat. The entire week leading up to the potluck would consist of emails flying about the office with threats of "my cheesecake is better than yours!" or "my chili is going to kick your chili's a$$!" or "my strudel won a blue ribbon at the Lawrence County Fair!". Office potluck lunches were where employees brought their A-game and mooches like me would reap the benefits of their rivalry by inhaling an ungodly amount of delicious, blue ribbon-winning food, citing the 6 plastic sporks I brought in as my "contribution" to the meal.

I was always afraid to bring something homemade because I'm terrified of everything and worried people would spit my appetizer back into their napkins and politely throw it away in the garbage. I'd make plans to make my buffalo wing dip or cheesy potato skins, but bow out at the last minute and opt to bring a bag of Doritos instead. I never participated in the "my food is better than your food!" jest because I didn't want to look like a liar when my strudel ended up sucking.

I love cooking and I honestly think I am darn good at it. However, I'm worry about what people think and I feel like nothing would be a swifter kick to the crotch than someone not liking something I prepared. I could bake a meatloaf that had $50 dollar bills and diamonds sticking out of it and would still freak out that someone would hate it.

My senior year of high school a bunch of us were hanging out at a friend's house, totally ravenous, when I got the bright idea to raid her parents' refrigerator and make everyone dinner. I made barbecue chicken, roasted veggies, and mashed potatoes while everyone else sat in the next room and watched a movie. My dinner was a big hit with everyone, especially the boys. However, Clayton (who was up visiting that weekend) ended up puking in the bathroom all night. He was sick with some stomach thing, but I took it to mean his body completely rejected my cooking and his stomach hated me and everything I stood for. It still bothers me to this day no matter how many times he tries to tell me he was legitimately ill and that my chicken feast was just a poorly timed coincidence.

But no matter how well I think I can cook, I can't bake worth beans. Sure, I can dole out some puppy chow and bake a cake if the instructions on the back of the Betty Crocker box are clear enough, but I couldn't make my chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven without being burnt on the bottom even if someone was holding a gun to my head. Baking takes a lot of precision and a lot of "oven using know-how". I lack a lot of patience in addition to basic math skills, so my adventures in baking usually include lots of "ingredient substitutions because I forgot to go to the store" and "I don't care anymore, let's just mix all this crap together and slap it on a baking sheet."

But I am trying to be a better baker. Really, I am. My hubby was spoiled by a mother who could bake Martha Stewart under the table and there's never been a time that I've gone to her house and not found a tin of cookies on the counter or brownies cooling on the stove.

I was raised by a mother who could cook like nobody's business. Thanksgiving dinner is epic in our household. My mom never uses a recipe book and turns out the most amazing dishes like it was no biggie:  "Oh this pot roast? Yeah, whatever. I had a few extra minutes to kill today, so why not?" My mom can whip up a delicious pumpkin pie like the rent is due, but she just doesn't do a lot of baking in general because she's so awesome at making dinner, we never need dessert.

So I'm kind of lacking in that area. I can season a pork chop like it's going out of style, but if you ask me to bake you a pie, it's probably going to be coming from the store ... or I'm just going to make you a pork chop and call it a meat pie.

Last night my mother-in-law invited me over to bake cookies with her. I eagerly agreed because I've been asking her for awhile to show me how to make my favorite cookies—chocolate no-bakes. She gave me the recipe a long time ago, but I never use it because the one time I attempted to make them myself, Clayton and I ended up eating them with a spoon directly off of a piece of wax paper that I shoved into the refrigerator because the cookies wouldn't stop "oozing". When she asked me to come over, she said this, and I quote:


"I thought you'd like to come over and bake cookies.  I've already been in the kitchen all day canning apples I picked from the orchard and making applesauce for the winter ... so come on over!"

The woman jars her own applesauce. With apples she picked from an orchard. Clayton better start googling divorce lawyers now because I will never be able to measure up to that level of awesome. (P.S. Her applesauce tastes like it was blessed by Jesus. I know because I devoured an entire bowl of it when I got to her house.)

So Teresa's Cookie-Baking Boot Camp was a huge success. We determined that my previous attempt at making chocolate no-bakes was an epic failure because I boiled the ingredients for too long and that I measure dry ingredients with the finesse of someone with cataracts and a glass eye. The batch of cookies we made were delicious and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't eat a few for breakfast ... right before I went to work and ate my weight in scones.


Speaking of scones, I asked my boss for her scone recipe and almost couldn't keep a straight face while doing so. She isn't aware of my misguided forays into baking, so she didn't get how asinine it was that I of all people was asking for her scones recipe. I know for a fact that I don't possess the physical or mental fortitude to pull off baking a batch of scones, but it was cute that I asked.

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