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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Guest blogger, Karen Cantwell:
“I’m No Julia Child”

Today's guest blogger is Karen Cantwell, author of Take the Monkeys and Run: A Barbara Marr Murder Mystery. In this post, Karen writes about a topic that I have no trouble relating to. I share with her an ineptitude for homemaking, along with a mother's love strong enough to give it a go anyway.


“I’m No Julia Child”
By Karen Cantwell

I love mothering — nurturing my children, loving them, guiding them, protecting them. Hopefully I do those things well. Sometimes I lament, however, that I am not the June Cleaver of mothers. I don’t wear dresses and pearls during the day; I don’t sew, knit, crochet, darn socks, clean the oven weekly, or scrapbook every minor and major moment in my children’s lives. Sadly, I don’t cook very well either.

It’s true. I burn toast. Regularly.

My culinary deficits are no secret. I admit with a smile that I have never cooked a turkey and gladly reveal that our luscious Thanksgiving dinners are purchased from Boston Market (they make WONDERFUL mashed potatoes). And after all — who wants to spend hours cooking over a hot stove on a holiday? Not me.

I assumed my kids were fine with the food arrangements in our home. They never complained (much). Not until recently anyway.

The day: Thanksgiving. We had just lapped up the last of the savory gravy from our plates, when my oldest son whipped out a shocker on me: “Someday, I’d love to have a real, home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner like other people.”

Ach! How long was the knife that just pierced my maternal heart?

I resolved then that I would, despite my general dislike for the activity of cooking, rise above it all, and learn to fix one Thanksgiving-type dish each month, until the following Thanksgiving, at which point I would serve up a delicious (or at least edible) meal for my neglected family.

The next day I decided I must have had too much to drink when I made that resolution. Me cook? Who was I kidding?

Fast forward to last week. It all started rather innocently. My son made a comment about the frozen, pre-made pasta dish I was throwing into the skillet. In 7 quick and wonderful minutes, we would have ravioli with marinara sauce. Pretty good stuff. I thought I was a genius for finding it in the frozen food aisle. My son didn’t agree. “Geez,” he grumbled, “now you can’t even cook pasta and open up a jar to add red sauce?”

I had to admit, I was getting pretty lazy. Truth be told, my favorite part of Star Trek The Next Generation is that voice-activated, microwave oven-looking gadget. Give it a simple voice command and voila, they’ve got food. If that's the future of cooking – I'm on board.

Now don’t get me wrong, my son and I were joking around. All in good fun. He’s not a spoiled brat. He’s evidently just undernourished.

So anyway, to make a long story longer, that was the first comment. It was the second that hit home. The same son asked me why I didn’t get meals from Dinner Out anymore. Dinner Out is this great place for people like me who can’t follow recipes very well. They provide the fixings and the directions for preparing. You pay, prepare and go home with five fabulous meals that you freeze and heat at your convenience. It’s very cool.

“Why don’t you do that anymore?” he asked me yesterday.

“Gee,” I answered. “I don’t know.  It got a little expensive I guess.”

He was quiet for a minute, then continued. It was the quiet moment where I should have braced myself for what was about to come.

“My friend’s sister works there,” he said. “They have Dinner Out meals all of the time. His mother is a bad cook just like you.”

So there you have it. I must learn to cook.

Will I?

It sure would be a lot easier if I could just channel Julia Child.


Karen Cantwell is the author of the humorous mystery, Take the Monkeys and Run: A Barbara Marr Murder Mystery.  When she's not writing, Karen loves gardening, watching movies, and spending time with her husband and kids.  While she loves writing, her passion is her family.  You can learn more about Karen, her books and short stories at www.karencantwell.com. You may also find Karen at Fiction for Dessert or hanging out with author friends L.C. Evans and Barbara Silkstone at A Moose Walked Into a Bar.




Worry no more. Tomorrow the most delicious, easy to follow recipe, will be posted right here on Cookie's mom blog by humbly yours. In my opinion, the good part about cooking is that it allows you to really transcend those ...well...irrational urges. What I mean by this is: you will get the opportunity to slice, cut, pierce, smash, boil and blend beyond recognition.

And that experience, in my opinion,trumps even the miracle of a voice-activated microwave.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I loved ‘Take the Monkeys and Run’!
Okay I cook, I don’t enjoy it; food goes in one end and out the other, so it is a waste of money as far as I am concerned. I also have a lot of trouble following a recipe; I don’t like people telling me what to do. LOL Both of my brothers enjoy cooking, go figure, so when they find a recipe that is simple and good they will share it with me. Here is one that I just received and really enjoyed.

Braised Sirloin Tips

2 tsp Vegetable oil
2 pounds sirloin tip, all visible fat removed, cubed (I sliced)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or 1 tbsp bottled minced garlic (yeah, I add more)
1 can beef broth
1 cup red wine (Pinot Noir is mild, Sangiovese is more robust)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Place vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet, heat over medium high heat.

Sprinkle meat with pepper. Cook meat until well browned on all sides. 8-10 minutes turning often.

Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add broth, wine and soy sauce and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender.

Put cornstarch in a cup or small bowl. Add water, stirring to dissolve. Slowly pour mixture into skillet, stirring constantly. Increase heat to medium high. Cook until gravy thickens, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

We serve this over rice, but egg noodles are great also. Potatoes mashed or baked are also good with this. I also double the beef broth and wine because I like a lot of sauce, when you do this you will also have to increase the amount of cornstarch.

Linda Mc
Aka ?wazithinkin

Andre Jute said...

Karen, thanks for the giggle.

You want to start a bit less ambitiously than a Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings. I can cook more complicated stuff, but my family demands these basic one-pot dishes again and again. http://coolmainpress.com/andrejutefoodindex.html The recipe is, generally speaking, on the packet, or "whatever I find in the kitchen". Good luck.

Cookie’s Mom said...

Karen, I wouldn't be my mother's daughter if I didn't know how to cook, but knowing how and having the energy and ambition to create something tasty are two very different things. I am grateful for those wonderful places that make healthy meals for people like me to pick up on the way home... and for takeout pizza.

Karen Cantwell said...

thanks for the recipes everyone! :-) And Anonymous - I'm so glad you enjoyed TAKE THE MONKEYS AND RUN! I think at heart, I'm not a very patient person (I have no idea how I manage to write an entire book!) and a good cook can't be impatient!
Thank you so much for hosting me, Cookie's Mom!

Cookie’s Mom said...

It was my pleasure, Karen!

Christopher Bunn said...

Karen, I'm tempted to send you a rather complicated recipe for ollalieberry pie, just to see if I can hear you scream from several states away. Okay, I won't. My conscience just subdued me.

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