Reader's Exchange

When it's OK to cook the books

This week's insightful Online Recipe Finders post from Betsey reminded me that generations can be bridged by shared inadequacies.   Years of culinary advice directed my way have failed to cultivate a cookery style inspired by anything more than luck and necessity.

Oh, I can successfully replicate most recipes.  However, any grocery shopping experience still borders on overwhelming, and I dare not attempt anything spontaneous like flinging together a tasty omelet or pasta dish derived solely from random contents of my refrigerator and a lavishly priced bottle of olive oil.  My family will attest to the frequently monochromatic repasts I've offered them, the most notable being beige (fish, cauliflower, rolls, ...).   You don't even want to know what, in desperation, I've tried to pass off as a last-minute "garnish".

The one element of meal planning in which I demonstrate any real confidence is dessert (my Yummly login is "iheartpie").  Last weekend's book group discussion/dinner at our house proved to be the perfect showcase for my selective kitchen skills.  Who could a resist a menu consisting of pie and cake?

piesThis month's title, Diane Mott Davidson's Sweet Revenge, was chosen from her popular culinary mystery series.  The story's disappointing level of character development (group consensus) elevated the meal to Highlight of the Evening status before it was even served.  And, because the murder in question occurred in a library, I exploited the setting, picking the entrĂ©e recipe from Sweet Revenge and the salad and dessert recipes from library staff cookbooks.

Evidently, Davidson's "Unorthodox Shepherd's Pie" recipe was precisely what everyone felt like eating that day.  The two Scottish terriers roaming the living room finally gave up any expectation of remnants on guests' dishes.  And, after the salad and comfort food, the Chocolate Zucchini Cake from the Round Rock Public Library's Recipes to Check Out fueled us for an evening of conversation--though not, sadly, about Sweet Revenge.    

For witty and learned observations from an expert "foodie", I'd recommend the charming Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser.  She can explain why tapas are socially relevant and how personal relationships can evolve, one menu at a time.  My expertise is more practical: you know that dinner went well if nothing remains to scrape or rinse before the plates go into the dishwasher.

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