By no means do I consider myself to have rarified taste buds. There’s a decent sized list of food I don’t like (most fish that is cooked – sushi is another story though), some I refuse to eat (veal, raw onions) and some tastes just plain weird to me (ummm hello soapy cilantro). I also don’t consider myself to be a culinary genius. I can roast a chicken with the best of them and I make a mean pesto. I also make, in my own humble opinion, the best caesar salad dressing ever (you may not agree and you’re welcome to your opinion) and I have discovered over the last year that I’m not completely hopeless as a baker. I get a lot of “help” from McCormick’s marinade packages and pretty much never go wrong with any President’s Choice product.
Sure there are things I don’t do nearly as well as my mom or grandmother (breaded chicken, beef stew, spaghetti sauce, cabbage rolls) and there are some things I should never make again (peach pie), but generally my cooking is edible and I don’t consider myself to have an overly inflated culinary ego. I like to cook, I like to try new things, I know what is worth making again and after a few bites I know what never to make again.
All of which makes me wonder about some of the women in DH’s family. Both DH and his sister talked up their mother’s cooking long before I met the MIL. She was rapturously described as a “wonderful cook” and “an excellent baker” who liked nothing better to cater her meals to her guests likes and dislikes. Needless to say I was intrigued. And very interested in tasting her cooking.
Which, for the most part sucks.
Now I grew up in a household where the food was heavily flavoured. There was no such thing as too much garlic in my mother’s world and I adhere to that maxim. And for someone who was reluctant to try BBQ flavoured chips until I was 11 for fear that they would “burn”, I certainly developed a strong liking for “hot” food as I got older. I try to make sure I serve my guests food they will eat and will ALWAYS modify a recipe for the hotness factor and remove any ingredients that could cause issue.
MIL serves her food cold (mostly because she starts cooking it at 2:30 of the day we are coming for dinner), dry (said food sits in a “warm” oven for hours after it’s cooked so any residual moisture is sucked right out of it), bland (DH was a salt freak as a young boy and FIL has health problems that preclude him from eating salt), oily (I would love to own shares in whatever olive oil company she uses as she goes through gallons a year!) and not to my taste (she cooks what I have discovered is traditional Greek food smothered in tomato sauce, oregano, lemon and cinnamon…sometimes all at the same time). And God forbid if I refuse to eat something, like, oh, raw onions that disagree with me despite the fact that the MIL knows I prefer not to eat them. The lecture just isn’t worth it.
Needless to say I find our twice-a-month dinners at her house a challenge as there is rarely anything served that I find a joy to eat. And I can’t eat beforehand either because not eating her dinner is a sign of disrespect and causes her to either a) pressure me into eating dinner on top of the dinner I just ate or b) put on her pouty face for the rest of our time at her house….total lose-lose situation any way you look at it.
But I digress. And you get the picture. MIL cooks food I don’t like to eat. I suck it up twice a month and everyone (except me) is happy.
DH has a cousin who is also reputed to be a good cook. DH likes to eat at her house (although in hindsight this isn’t indicative of anything as I often kid DH about not having taste buds), this cousin has often said that her food is well complimented by others outside her family, her mother is a fabulous cook (she learnt from her mother) and this cousin likes my cooking so I had no reason to think my tastebuds were in danger when I accepted a dinner invite to her house the other day.
Yeaaaaaaaah. Burnt, well done meat, microwaved risotto from a package, pasta salad that tasted on par with cardboard and no dessert. She did make an excellent sangria though. But it pains me that I didn’t enjoy dinner as I really, really like this cousin. In fact, she’s one of the few relatives DH has that I would willingly choose to be friends with if I met her outside of the family.
I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt though. Risotto is a pain to make from scratch (although it tastes sooo much better from scratch) and to be honest, I didn’t start making risotto from scratch until a few years ago. Plus not everyone is as weird about not using prepared food I am. And DH’s entire family likes their meat cooked to charcoal so I can’t expect her to be too different in that respect and to be honest most people’s pasta salad (including my mom’s and sometimes my own) often tastes like cardboard. But I did mention her excellent sangria right? As for dessert….well, I could skip dessert from now until 2025 and it wouldn’t do me any harm. God knows I have enough chocolate, frozen yogurt, cookies and other dessert-y goodness in my own house and there was nothing stopping me from indulging once I got back to Casa Cleverly Disguised.
But I find it interesting that these women all think they are great cooks when the truth is clearly in the eating. Or the not eating as I’d prefer to do. I sometimes wonder if it’s me, since I’m the one who balks at eating this food and everyone else digs in. Maybe I’m the picky eater? I don’t think so though as I rarely have issues when we eat at restaurants or other people’s houses (excepting DH’s family of course). And MIL’s baking has pretty much been declared by non-biased, impartial taste-testers, as something resembling baked sawdust.
So I’m going to go with the thought that none of them have taste buds and from here on in ask people to eat at my house instead. The higher grocery bills will more thanoffset the “interesting” dinners I have to endure. And who doesn’t like coming home to a home-cooked meal waiting on the table? Maybe I should look into cloning myself? Would that be delusional?