Monday, February 6, 2012

Cooking 101: Read the instructions . . . aka "The time I screwed up and embarrassed my daughter"

I take great pride in my cooking skills, as well as my presentation of said cooked foods. My internal wiring prevents me from sending something off to a party (or even our own dinner table) looking anything less than its very best. If I bring muffins, they're in a nice basket with a cloth napkin. Cookies? Arranged neatly on a platter. Buy something pre-made from the store? No way.

Over the weekend, Olivia attended a Valentine's party, thrown by a friend from church. She was asked to bring Jello Jigglers, cut into the shape of a heart. Sounds simple, right? That's what I thought too, though truth be told, I've never in my life made Jigglers. But how hard could it be?

Early Saturday morning, I grabbed the box of Jello from the pantry, quickly glanced over the instructions, and threw it together before heading out the door to Jack's basketball game. Hours later, the Jello seemed to have set up, and it was time to cut out the hearts and head to the party.

I dipped the pan in the hot water for the designated 10-15 seconds, then proceeded to press the little heart cutter into the smooth red surface. Nothing seemed to be happening. I cut a whole row, then tried to lift them out of the pan using a spatula. Each one turned to a squishy, red blob. When I saw that the plan wasn't working, I started just trying to lift them out in squares . . . Forget the heart-shape! That wasn't working either. Blob after blob melded together on the platter, until nearly half the pan was destroyed.

In the meantime, Olivia started getting more and more distraught—after all, her reputation as "the girl with the mom who can do anything and make awesome treats" was at stake. And then, I got the giggles. I still had no idea what I'd done wrong, or why when I thought I'd followed the directions to a tee, things had gone so drastically awry. But I couldn't stop laughing!

So, we did the only thing we could do at that point. I scooped all the blobs back into the pan, and did my best to smooth them out. If you've ever worked with jello, you know it doesn't "smooth" too well.

Then, thinking quickly on my feet, I pulled a can of whipping cream out of the fridge and proceeded to draw two huge hearts, accented with a couple big dots of cream.

We covered it in foil, and headed out the door. I laughed the whole way to the party, while Olivia yelled at me to stop "It's NOT FUNNY!!!"

I promised her that if the girls were really her friends, they wouldn't care what the jello looked like, they'd just be glad she was there. But deep down, I felt her shame . . . it feels good to have someone "ooh" and "aah" over what you bring to a party, and there would be no "oohing" over this one.

Sure enough, the girls all gobbled up the jello almost immediately, and told Olivia how yummy it was. They didn't care that it wasn't cut into cute little heart shapes.

When I got home, I pulled the box out of the trash and re-read the instructions, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. And then I saw it.

I was to have mixed FOUR boxes of jello into the 2 1/2 cups of boiling water. When I read it that morning, I skipped right over that part, and just saw the (4-serving size) and assumed that meant a single box. Had I thought more about it, I would have realized that basic jello calls for only 2 cups of water, and by adding 2 1/2 cups, I was certainly not going to get Jello that would allow for cutting into shapes. Honestly, this made me laugh even more!

Lesson #1 learned from this experience: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!!! It really does help.

Lesson #2: Whipped cream can cover up almost any mistake!

Lesson #3: True friends don't care as much about appearances as we think they do.

And that is perhaps the most important lesson of all.