The preparation for my great Mother’s Day meal began on Saturday when I accidentally bought a $51 ham. I drove to the nearest Whole Foods Market as instructed. This happened to be in Palatine, about 20 miles from my house. I wandered around with my little green basket on my arm looking for tarragon and champagne vinegar and all sorts of other stuff I never looked for before. Unfortunately, the first thing I found were the two pineapples, and by the time I made it to the check-out counter the better part of an hour later, the basket was heavy and my arm was sore.
The one thing I couldn’t find was a Black Forest Ham. I wandered up and down the aisles, trying to ignore the stares of women who could somehow tell just by looking at me that I didn’t belong there. I finally located the ham behind the deli counter. I remembered that ,when I had my lesson, John had bought an entire ham, and that we had used a little more than half of it. I was feeding more people than we had that day, so I wanted to get one at least as big. I asked the guy for a whole one. He looked at me strangely, but he handed me an entire ham. It was quite a bit larger than the earlier one, but I didn’t think too much about it. Turns out it was a bit more than five pounds — and made my basket even heavier.
I was shocked when the cashier told me the total for my little basket of food was $94. That’s when I figured out the ham was $9.99/pound. I wasn’t about to go back and ask to have it cut in half. Evidently, my pride is worth at least $25 to me.
As I was fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way home and feeling stupid about the ham, I realized that English muffins weren’t on the list I was given. My wife bought those for me later in the day when she went shopping at a regular grocery store.
Before I get to the meal itself, I’d like to clear something up. This whole thing started when I wrote a post on my blog about how I don’t like to cook. Somehow that got blown up to mean that I only eat junk food and have never had fresh or good food in my life. That is not at all true. My wife is an excellent cook who frequently makes meals from scratch. I have several friends for whom cooking is a passion and who share their food with me. My problem is that I often make my own meals, mostly lunches. I frequently eat fresh fruit, good cheese, home made bread — I just don’t assemble them into meals. I eat the components separately because I don’t like to cook and don’t know how.
So now for Mother’s Day. My mom was here, as was my sister, my niece and her husband and three kids and my wife and younger daughter. They all showed up shortly after I began preparing the food.
John said the meal preparation would take about two hours. It took almost exactly two hours. I couldn’t find in the directions when to add the bourbon to the Bearnaise sauce, so I dumped it in near the end. I was also supposed to salt the sauce to taste, but that’s tricky to do when I don’t know how something is supposed to taste. The final product tasted a little different than I remember it tasting at the restaurant, but it wasn’t bad. The rest of the meal — the pineapple salad, the asparagus and the poached eggs — came out just as they were supposed to. I used maybe a pound of the ham.
I thank my wife and Kelli who gave me a hand whenever I needed a third one and offered encouragement throughout. I thank Steve for taking the photos. I thank Linda for bringing dessert. And I thank my daughter and her cousin for cleaning up the huge mess.
I am very glad I had the experience. Again, I thank Leela for setting everything up and John for his time and effort. I now know I can cook, and I know a little bit about how.
So, now that it’s over, what did I get out of this experience?
Guilt, mostly. I think I was expected to experience a eureka moment when I suddenly realized that cooking was an incredibly worthwhile endeavor that brought joy to myself and others and added new colors to my world. It didn’t happen.
I found it a chore. Trying to keep everything organized without forgetting any steps while remembering what I’d been taught three weeks before and ignoring the dirty dishes and utensils that were piled all over the place was stressful. And if cooking includes shopping, include me out.
I am happy that my family enjoyed the food. I will probably occasionally dig up a recipe for some simple dish and give it a try, but I don’t see any more two hour meals in my future.
Somehow I feel like I ought to be apologizing for that.