Tuesday, May 25, 2010

History repeats itself (or, Buying that crock pot probably wasn't the best idea for me)

My dad did all the grocery shopping and cooking when I was growing up. I remember two carts and weekly receipts in the $100 range, when I got to the age where I paid attention to this stuff. He was the kind of shopper that would buy maple pecan ice cream (which nobody would eat) and then say, "Don't say I never buy ice cream". Or buy cookies and then hide them. Not for himself. I think he liked the power of saying he bought cookies that no one could find to eat.

Since he got home from work earlier than my mother, he was the cook. He did well, when you consider how much fun it has to be cooking for so many flipping people (I don't ever recall being made to eat vegetables, but I do remember having to finish my meat, and I've never been a big fan). I remember one time he tried to make stew in the crock pot. I'm not really sure what went wrong, but it did, and no one ever forgot it.

Whatever the hell it was just never thickened, and dinner that night was sort of a beef and vegetable soup more than anything else. Frozen mixed vegetables, some stew meat, and the sauce part that never thickened. It wasn't bad the first night, I don't think. But the second night I think he added water to the broth to make more of it. He didn't add anything else to it, so the potatoes that had originally been in it were growing scarce. By night three (more water), it became a challenge to actually find a potato. There might have been a carrot or two and some really overly cooked celery in there, and meat of course, but there were plenty of pearl onions (another unpopular vegetable in our house). We started calling it "Floating Onion Surprise" - the surprise was finding out the hard way that what you thought was a potato was actually a pearl onion. Bad surprise.

We didn't have a garbage disposal so after dinner that night my mom put the leftovers in a plastic baggie and had Tom try to sneak it down to the trash. He got caught. Dad made him bring it back upstairs and put it in the fridge. By night four all that water turned it into some kind of watery grey gruel with a tough sliver of meat occasionally floating by and innumerable pearl onions, but by then we were just filling up on bread and butter to survive. I think it lasted one more night and then even he wouldn't eat it.

So the other day I'm thumbing through the crock pot cookbook Jodi loaned me, and since it's May and has been raining since December, I was thinking something stew-like sounded good. I had a little bit of roast beef and a package of frozen stew vegetables, so I threw it together without actually consulting the cookbook. Put it on low and did my errands.

Eight hours later I took the lid off the crock pot and was stunned to see that history had repeated itself: thirty-five years later and I had unwittingly recreated Floating Onion Surprise.

Of course it tasted okay, there were a few potatoes and carrots in there and the broth was tasty. But when I'd finished my bowl and poked around to see what was left I discovered that all the potatoes ended up in my one bowl and all that was left were pearl onions.

I'm not eight years old anymore. I threw it away.

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