My friends, as much as it pains me to confess it, I have very, very unpredictable cooking skills. Sometimes I'm great, sometimes I'm... well, when it's bad, it's horrible. Really, really horrible.
I take some comfort in being consistently good at baking, but a massive failure at cooking is always a crushing blow to my self-esteem. It's not that I can't follow a recipe. It's not that I don't measure. It's not that I make crazy substitutions for things. It's just something in the alchemy-- every so often, I cook something that's an unmitigated disaster for no apparent reason.
Take the Stewpie (STEW-pee) incident, for instance. When I was first living with my husband, I was trying out all kinds of new recipes. He's got a stomach thing that won't let him eat dairy or red meat, and before he met me, he was living on minute rice and cooked carrots. It never occurred to him to order a pizza without cheese, or to check out soy and rice cheeses, or just find recipes that didn't contain dairy, or whatever. So I was having mucho fun trying out a bunch of vegan recipes (I was just beginning to seriously explore vegetarianism), many of which turned out amazingly. My cooking reputation in our relationship was solid. Until, that is, I decided to try and make Stewpie.
I have no recollection of where I found the original recipe. It wasn't called Stewpie (a combo of stew and pie, for reasons that will become obvious). It was just some kind of vegetable pot pie. Which I was envisioning as a kind of yummy comfort food: flaky crust, warm thick gravy, nummy vegetables. And I think that's what it was supposed to be. And although it's hazy in my memory, I seem to recall that I even made my own pie crust. Things seemed promising. And then...
I won't try to embellish it, it was disgusting. Not disgusting in a way that would immediately induce projectile vomiting or anything. But it was horrible. Mushy, pasty, awful glop. Depressing. And J, bless him, ate TWO helpings before admitting he hated it and could barely stand to look at it. He thought that he'd hurt my feelings if he didn't eat it. But instead I find myself wondering if he *really* likes my food, or if he's just humoring me. To which he immediately responds "It's not a Stewpie!"
Anyway. Fast forward to last night. One of my friends at work had made this butternut squash dish that smelled amazing. Like, I wanted to chew off my own fingers and pretend they were butternut squash amazing. So I asked for the recipe and set out to make it last night.
Things all fell apart with the balsamic reduction. I don't know what I did, but it ended up looking like dog food and tasting like vinegar. I was laughing so hard, I was crying, because it was so disgusting and ridiculous. I tried to force myself to eat some, as a kind of penance, but I just couldn't do it.
I did get right back on the horse and make the filling for some potstickers for tonight. Hopefully those turn out a little bit better.