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…Three Strikes: You’re Out.


I just couldn’t do it. I looked into the pleading, puppy-like eyes of my adored husband and son, and then back to the open page in the cook book that had tormented them for two dinners in a row.  “What are you making this time?” Sam asked, reaching for a box of crackers. “I’d love to buy dinner tonight so you don’t have to cook” added Rob. I looked down at the book, at the recipe for “Pork Chops in Tomato Gravy” which had sounded so promising the week before when I planned menus. I had pictured tender chops in a rich, spicy tomato sauce, served with baked cheese grits and a green salad. After the disastrous Chicken Fricassee and the White Beans and Rice that had seriously undermined my reputation, I just. couldn’t. do it. I sent Rob to buy food from the Taco truck, knowing that the food would not go to waste. Tonight I will make “regular” pork chops browned and then baked until tender, baked sweet potatoes, and a nice, green salad. Not fancy, not authentically anything other than “Midwest Mom,” but resoundingly edible.

I am trying not to feel bad about abandoning the cookbook after trying only two recipes. To keep the baseball metaphor going, it’s kind of like coming up to bat with people on bases, striking out twice, and then…deciding to play basketball instead. On the other hand, the Home Team had no stake in one more try for a hit. They wanted to go play basketball as much as I did. So maybe it’s okay to abandon a cookbook that doesn’t work, doesn’t suit, doesn’t deserve a place in the kitchen. Perhaps now that I am (gasp) nearly 50 years old, I can say to myself some things that need to be said, like “you may be a better cook than the person who wrote this book” or “just because something is hard-backed and kind of expensive doesn’t mean that you have to use it if it means making your family miserable. And hungry.” It’s kind of like my 50 Page Rule – these days, if I start a book and I am not in any way engaged after reading 50 pages, I am free to stop. No guilt, no trying to figure out if it’s my fault or the author’s; I can just quit.

My beef cheek tacos last night were fresh and delicious. Maybe the Pork Chops with Tomato Gravy would have been equally nifty. Maybe, after cooking many, many meals that make me happy, I’ll try them. Maybe not. The world is too full of wonderful recipes to waste time on bad ones.

P.S. The cookbook in question was In a Cajun Kitchen by Terri Pschoff Wuerthner. Love the stories, love the pictures, let me know if you have had better luck with the recipes.



About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

6 responses »

  1. I take umbrage at your “nearly 50 years old” comment. We’re the same age and I am not nearly 50–you’re only “nearly 50” when you’re counting toward that birthday in hours, or better yet, minutes. You’re in your 40’s–savor it.

  2. I still haven’t tried the taco truck! why not? It’s my favorite food! gah, it’s on my list. I also commend you on being able to stop reading a book after 50 pages. I, am not able to do so and have wasted countless hours of my life finishing books that I HATE. sigh. Did this happen after 45 or something? Do I have hope to be able to do this?

  3. Yes! I, too have reached that age where my time is important! I salute you! I am definitely older than you but I am going through a second childhood so I tend to forget numbers as they pertain to years and age and that sort of thing….

    Thanks for the warning on the cookbook. I haven’t purchased a new cookbook since I closed my kitchenware shop a few years ago but I can be tempted. Luckily, it didn’t happen to me on that one!

  4. Ann,

    Did you think the “suck the heads” thing was just to make you squeam alittle? OOHHHNNNOOOO!!
    When a place is as wonderful as Louisiana (or Florida), the natives have subtle little ways to make sure the masses dont relocate.

    Its working, see, you wax nostolgic about visiting but would never move there. Subconcious fear of crunchy beans………

  5. LOL. We have one cookbook in particular that my partner is very fond of but I think produces the most tasteless recipes ever. Every time it’s his turn to make dinner he reaches for it! I have tried to gently suggest he try something new but I’m always afraid I’ll hurt his feelings! Maybe I should take a more direct approach…

  6. Eric, (or should I call you Cleopatra?) you are right.Maybe 47 is “mid 40s,” if 45 is dead-middle, maybe 43, 44, 46 and 47 and “mid?” i am enjoying it, whatever it is. 🙂

    Michelle – try the Taco Truck. Just do it. I want her to have lots and lots of business because there was an article about her in the LSJ a month or so ago, and at least one Lansing bricks and mortar establishment owner was really rude about how it’s a “fly by night” operation taking business from legitimate restaurants. She was also criticized for serving Mexican Coke (with real sugar instead of corn syrup) which lots of people vastly prefer. She’s a hard working immigrant without much English, it’s her dream to have a “real” restaurant, and we should all patronize her so she can get there. Whew! Off soapbox. As for the 50 Page Rule, I am only recently able to do it. I can say that it has changed my life for the better, though.

    Trisha, a second childhood sounds wonderful: I think I’m having one because I acted like i was 47 when i was actually a child. As for the cookbook, there are literally hundreds that I would love to have…starting with any of the River Cafe cookbooks.

    Robert, you, of all people should know if what you say is true. The wretched cookbook has undermined my belief that Southern Cooks are Good Cooks a little, but it’ll take a lot. Besides, in MY part of the South, i still have great faith.

    Hilary, I wonder why he likes it? Before you “disappear” the book in question, maybe a little inquiry would help you figure out a better book that offers him whatever it is that he finds desirable…great stories, great pictures, easy prep, regional cuisine…worth the therapy time if it means you don’t have to eat another tasteless meal.


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