It was the third time I messed up instant mashed potatoes when I reflected on my horrific culinary skills. How does one mess up instant mashed potatoes? Well, it’s miscounting the cups of water or forgetting that the family-sized pack requires double the water.
Yes, it’s understandable for us all to be on autopilot when cooking. Especially, with 21 meals a week at home during the pandemic with my husband and toddler. This doesn’t include two snacks a day for my toddler and my 9-month-old daughter, who is now eating twice a day. It boils down (see the cooking metaphor I used there?) to these key issues for my bad cooking.
For one, hating or simply failing to read a recipe’s directions in their entirety or clearly is a major issue for me. There’s nothing like getting to the end of a recipe and reading, “now with the remaining grated cheese…” Remaining cheese? Oops.
Another challenge for me is undercooking or cooking food too long. It’s a real Goldilocks problem. Before you scream, “Salmonella!” please hear me out.
A classic Lauren’s Law example was when I made blueberry cobbler for back-to-back Thanksgivings. The first year, I actually followed the directions. It turned out great, but no one ate it.
The following year, I was in the middle of making sweet potato casserole when the timer went off for the cobbler. Clearly, I was incredibly distracted because I forgot the cobbler in the oven for an extra thirty minutes… Yet, the dessert turned out delicious and people were practically licking the dish to eat every last bite. This story is the epitome of why my philosophy is: “love to bake, hate to cook.” Besides the stakes being lower for dessert — meaning you won’t miss a meal or have to order takeout — it’s rare to ruin something that typically has sugar, icing or chocolate. The only real risk is burning or overcooking a dessert. Which brings me to my next story.
Years ago, I decided to bake my brother a cake for his birthday. I take baking very seriously and am extremely proud of my chocolate chip oreo cookies, which are especially delicious for my dedication to taking them out at the exact right time. I’ll admit, it’s sooner than the directions call for and this is to allow them to cook a little in the hot pan while outside of the oven. I thought I could apply the same philosophy to the cake. However, I took the cake out way too soon, and it was wobbly in the middle. Or as one might say, and my brother did, “soupy”. At first he thought I made him a “special cake,” but the only special thing about that cake was that we could only eat the corners.
I wish these were the only examples of poor cooking on my part, but sadly there are dozens more and too many to fit into this column. Takeout anyone?