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.