Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sisterhood of the Frying Pan

It was one of those church affairs that I got my comeuppance. The leader of the young moms' group handed out recipes. We were all supposed to follow the recipe and bring this specific all-in-one egg casserole dish for the church-wide Sunday brunch.

Understand that I've never claimed to be a great cook, but I know how to read. And I'd been cooking for my family for a few years without poisoning anyone. Plus, I followed step-wise procedures all the time in the world of science. I could do this.

I followed the recipe to the letter, and it wasn't easy with an infant and a toddler attached to me like rogue octopi, let me tell you, but I wanted to do my part.

Come Sunday morning, the 9x12 casserole dishes were laid out on the counter like a holy jack o'lantern smile. I took some of mine and a few unsuspecting others did as well, but most of the other dishes emptied out.

Come to find out, "follow the recipe" doesn't mean that. Folks substituted lots of things, added more flavors, threw in a little extra this and that. My plain-jane casserole didn't measure up.

That's when I knew.

There was a secret society, one of which I was not a member.

The Sisterhood of the Frying Pan met in out of the way places, they swapped recipes, they watched cooking shows, they even experimented with foods. Ye gads. I was a cooking failure before I even lifted a spatula.

At one cookie-making event I attended, one of the sisters noticed me struggling as I carved the Crisco out of the measuring cup for my gingerbread men. "Don't you know nothing, girl?" she said. "Always crack your egg in the measuring cup to coat it before you measure out the shortening."

Dumbfounded, I watched her execute this move and not a trace of Crisco remained in her measuring cup afterward.

But the sisterhood was wise to the leak. No more tips came my way because I didn't know the secret handshake. But I didn't mind, I'd learned the true secret. Find out who the best cooks were, then only eat their dishes at pot luck functions. I'm more than happy to eat food the sisterhood makes.

Recently, another "sister" let slip a tip that made me realize I'm an amateur on a professional playing field. After spending the night at her place, she pulled out what she called her egg dish and proceeded to crack her eggs on the bottom of the pan. For more than 30 years, I've been cracking eggs on the side of this or that, and there's always that telltale dribble of white everywhere. Cracking eggs in the bottom of the dish. Imagine that.

Since I'm not a member of the sisterhood, I can't be sanctioned for sharing this leaked  tip. From now on, I will always crack my eggs in the bottom of a bowl. No more egg white cast-offs for me!

If you'd like to share a kitchen tip, and aren't afraid of being drummed out of the sisterhood, please leave a comment. You can only dine so many years on perfectly Criscoed gingerbread men....

Maggie Toussaint
www.maggietoussaint.com

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51 comments:

  1. OMG This is hilarious. Maggie, I can hold your hand. True sisters here. I follow my recipes to the letter. I can't innovate and I can't change a dose or substitute any ingredient. I only ask for the recipes I already tasted and liked. I'm an A student, but that's it. No creativity in cooking. Don't count on me for any tips, except, try not to burn what you cook. I do that often.

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    1. Hi Mona. Yep, us gals with science backgrounds are taught not to improvise in the lab. It's just the opposite in the kitchen. Go figure. Thanks for the comment!

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  2. LOL! I'm missing the secret handshake as well. I will admit that I love to bake, and to me a recipe is suggested guidance. *G* I never follow them, nor do I measure. I'll give you a few of my favorite tips:

    -Always beat items in the sink. If any spills out, it's in the sink and easy to clean.

    -Whenever I make anything that requires it to be kneaded on a floured board, I don't. I put flour on a kitchen towel, then knead it using the floured towel. Once the item is kneaded, I put it in the respective pan or bowl, then fold up the towel and take it outside to shake. After, I toss it in the washer. My hands are clean, and the work area is clean.
    -If you are working with anything with a strong smell, for example garlic, once you're finished, rub your hands with coffee grounds, then rinse. All of the smell is gone.

    :) Hope this helps you to get invited to the club. *G* Wishing you continued success!
    *Hugs*

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    1. That's a great tip with the towel, Diana. And beating something in the sink makes a lot of sense. I can't tell you how many times I've had to wipe down my canisters and cabinets after "whipping" something up.

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    2. I'm an innovator with recipes, but I'm not up on all the tricks. After, um, mumble, mumble years, it finally occured to me to crack the eggs beside the in-sink garbage disposal instead of across the room, so I don't have that trail of egg white on the floor.

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  3. Maggie--one thing you have not learned is that with age comes forgetfulness. Thankfully, I got to resign from all cooking endeavors for the church. Poor Celia, she can't even make decent cheese grits. Honestly, I have lost my ability to cook well or very much at one time. That's why I'm not worrying too much about cooking for five beginning on Thursday--our son is the cook at home, and some time back he took over my kitchen when they fly down. Providing enough food for three teen/preteen boys is a monumental task, one of which I am not up to. He told me long ago--Mom, just let me do the cooking. You don't know how to make the amount of food we need. Whew! That was easy.
    But I do understand the group recipe thing. It's a phenomenum that always intrigues me--give the same recipe to six cooks and you will get six very different dishes.
    Thanks for the laugh, today...except I don't think you were just trying to be funny...I think you're dead serious. What kind of Southerner are you, anyway???

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    1. Hey Celia, I am dead serious about my lack of cooking skills. We eat, but its not the high on the hog stuff, and its not the creamy, dreamy stuff. The basics. That's what we have at my house. Often ala mode. Can't forget the ice cream.

      I don't know what kind of southerner I am. I guess I'm a re-placed one. With that nearly 30 year exile in the BIG NORTH, I have somewhat skewed perspectives on each lifestyle. Hopefully, I'm entertaining as I poke fun at myself!

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  4. Great post! And I'm with you. I did learn a crisco trick from mom, though. If it calls for 1 cup shortening, use a 2 or more cup measuring cup and start with 1 (or 2) cups water. Add shortening until the water hits the next cup level and just pull it out of the water and drop it in the mixing bowl! No sticking, nearly no mess.

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    1. That's a great tip, LK. I'm putting that one in the idea bank. Thanks!

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    2. Really? I'm going to use that tip.

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  5. Maggie -- funny post! No one ever gave me tips except my grandmother, so I can't consider myself part of the Sisterhood, just taught. She told me to cream butter until it was white, set aside some flour to coat nuts and fruit if you're adding them to baked goods so they don't sink to the bottom, and that a tablespoon of rum improves almost everything -- sometimes the recipe, sometimes just your mood while cooking. She made some awesome chocolate chip cookies! I am passing these tips to my kids, especially my son! Is there a Brotherhood?

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    1. Hi Glenda, I'm sure there's a brotherhood too. Most of them aren't as snarky but they hang onto their secrets as well. I love your tips, especially the one about rum.

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  6. Loved this, Maggie. And you taught me a thing or two cause clearly I'm not in the club. :)

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    1. Hi Beth, I'm so glad you enjoyed my post today. I'm still trying to be more creative in the kitchen, except my idea of stepping outside the box is to try a different color of Dawn dishwashing detergent. Maybe I should start a list of things that make folks eligible to join the Barely Scraping by Cooking Club. I think I'll start with no flames or scalded taste. Sometimes I ruin my mac and cheese recipe by heating the milk too fast (why does it have to cook slow? Doesn't it know I'm in a hurry?)...

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  7. My kids wonder why I don't replace my stove with counter space and I admit it makes sense. I used to cook all the time - everything. My son had a load of allergies and everything had to be made from scratch. And I mean everything. On top of that I was married to a man who needed to eat all day long or he didn't feel well. Worse, he was thin as a stick. I divorced him shortly after the kid moved out and now I don't care if I ever cook again. yahoo for freedom. I resigned from the sisterhood and I'm proud of it. hold your head up high. it's good

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    1. Louise, What a wonderful idea to get rid of the stove and put counter space there. I seem to use the top of the stove (I have one of those smooth-topped ones) as if it were countertop anyway, especially if I'm hauling in bags of stuff from the car. I ended up being a shortorder cook in my household for years to accomodate all the different schedules. Once the kids moved on, we went on a one meal fits all plan. I'm happy about that, even happier that the quality of "TV" dinners has improved tremendously in the last 20 years. Hoorah for cooking freedom!

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  8. Maggie, thia made me laugh. My eldest half-sister was a wonderful cook and a truly fine person. Her weakness was sharing recipes. She always got a cagey look when asked for a recipe. Usually, she omitted one tiny ingredient. I was staying with her one Christmas when she mixed up her famous punch. She protected this recipe because she was a teetotaler and this was the best punch on earth. She actually took a container into the garage to mix part of it so I wouldn't know her "secret" ingredient. Years later, my other half-sister let it slip. My younger half-sister prepared fresh pomegranate juice and froze it for the other sister's punch. I prefer golden or white punch myself so it doesn't stain when spilled, but still I AM FAMILY! So I'm not a member of the Sisterhood of the Frying Pan OR the punchbowl.

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    1. I feel your pain, Caroline. Seems like family would share recipes with family. I always wanted the recipe for the homemade caramels that my husband's grandparents made for all the grandkids for Christmas, but Grandmother Mae wouldn't part with her recipe for anything, not even to her daughter, and took it to the grave. What a waste. I could be getting fat on her caramels instead of pecan waffles.

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  9. "Find out who the best cooks were, then only eat their dishes at pot luck functions." LOL Amen, sister!

    Since I have to dust my oven before I toss in those frozen pizzas, I can totally relate. For years now my contribution to all pot lucks has been shrimp cocktail. 1 Frozen bag of cooked shrimp, some cool water for thawing, and a jar of cocktail sauce. Wham Bam, I'm a pot luck princess!

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    1. That sounds like a great idea, Mackenzie. Folks always go for shrimp. I turned to cut up fruit and sometimes I make salads. Down here, fruit is put on the dessert table at church potlucks and it doesn't hold a candle to all the sugary confections like Miss Alice's Co-Cola Cake. And to make matters worse, there's a gal with a hand-carved salad bowl the size of a washtub who has the salad niche corned. Once she brings in that big boat of salad there's no room for other salads. Sometimes I bring those Hawaiian rolls from the deli section of the supermarket. People seem to go for them because they have a sweet flavor. And, if you smush up ham slices and stuff them in the rolls with a little butter, you have great little finger sammiches. Gosh. Now I've shared truly all of my potluck tips and y'all truly know how much I suck at cooking.

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  10. Celia's comment made me laugh. An old story: Ask 100 French chefs to cook a traditional sauce and you get the same sauce 100 times. Ask 100 Italian chefs to cook a traditional sauce and you get 100 different sauces. As you can guess, I'm on the Italian side. I never met a recipe I followed exactly. My tip? Except for baking, consider a recipe as a suggestion. Hate cilantro? Leave it out. Really love black olives? Add them to the scrambled eggs. Be adventurous.

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    1. I'd love to have you cook me anything, Patricia! And I love black olives. I'll have to try them with my eggs, which I also like. Thanks for stopping in.

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  11. I don't follow recipes anymore. I'm always experimenting. When I was young, the oldest of my aunts who had learned to cook from my grandmother was a great baker. I wanted to write down her recipes. Turned out she had none. Neither did my mother. You just had to work with them in the kitchen.

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    1. Sounds like you learned at the knees of master, Jacqueline! I'm happy to follow recipes, most days. Its only when I have to produce something that will be inadvertently compared to a really great dish that I start quaking in my flip flops.

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  12. Lovely post, Maggie! I can give you another quick tip for removing garlic smell from your fingertips (assuming you used a real garlic at some point, lol). Rub your fingers on the back of a metal spoon. Works like a charm. You could try taking a corn casserole (you know the one with Sour Cream, lots of butter, and that little blue box for Jiffy cornbread?) I learned it up here in Ohio, but my sister-in-law thinks she discovered it in NW Florida, too, so I know it will go over well wherever you are if they're doing potlucks. It's almost a dump cake - dump this in, dump that in, stir. Bake. Remove, and then serve.

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    1. I'll have to try that, Di. I have a recipe for something like that called "corny cornbread" where you add sour cream and cream corn to the Jiffy corn bread mix. I wonder if its the same thing?

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  13. I'm the person people invite to the pot lucks, parties, whatever, just because they want my food. They usually invite me and then tell me what they're in the mood for me to make and bring. Sometimes, they invite me and ask me to bring dinner or just invite themselves to my house.

    As for a sisterhood? No, I'm not much of a joiner, I'm just Italian and I love to cook (usually). As for secrets... I spray pam in the measuring cup before I measure honey, molasses, ketchup, anything that will stick. It also works for measuring spoons. I use a lot of salt when I cook pasta--salt raises the water temperature to insure proper cooking. If something foams over, blow on it until you can turn off the heat.

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    1. Hi Robin. Hey, I'm having a party in a few weeks. Can you make it??? Kidding! But I love your tips. I've had trouble getting all the molasses out of the measuring cup before. Now, if only I could find a way to remember this tip! And I love the foaming tip too. Go-go-gadget-brain!

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    2. That Pam in the measuring cup is one trick I'll have to remember (that is if I do any baking-I've sort of slowed on that). My tip? Get cooking ideas from my daughter who grows her own garden and likes to stir-fry fresh veggies. (Not much of a tip, is it?

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  14. When I was a blushing bride (back in the dark ages), I cooked everything from scratch. No mixes or shortcuts for this girl, uh uh. If I remember correctly, I did pretty well. Beloved spouse and I put on a few pounds and people seemed happy to come for dinner. Then kids happened, and volunteering for kid activities happened, and meals became catch-as-catch-can affairs. I stopped cooking from scratch. Heck, I almost stopped cooking at all. Then I was saved by, of all people, Uncle Sam.

    The Air Force sent beloved spouse overseas for 18 months. His quarters had a little kitchen and he got tired of eating at the Mess, so he taught himself to cook. And he liked it. And he was good at it. And then he came home.

    I haven't cooked a meal since. :-)

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    1. Hi LD. That's quite a story. I never cooked well but I cooked daily. The whole kids and the run-run-run years where I acted as a short order cook took a toll, so I get what you're saying. It's easy to get all cooked out.

      But how cool that your spouse took up the slack. Wonder if the Air Force would take my guy.

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  15. I had trouble with eggs sticking when I scrambled them in the microwave. I started coating the dish with butter then they didn't stick when I took them out.

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    1. That's a great tip, Ilona. I'll try that! Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Did you make those gingerbread men yourself?

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    1. I wish. Aren't they cute? I found them on a clipart page. I use red candies for my gingerbread men. Next time I make a batch, I'll post a picture for you. Thanks for stopping by.

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  17. LOL, Maggie. This had me laughing. Here's my cooking tip: don't taste what's cooking. Smell it. If you have a sensitive nose, you'll be able to scent out what it needs. Taste it just before you put in those last shakes of salt and pepper to make sure it's perfect.

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    1. Gosh, I wish I had a sensitive nose. What usually happens is I taste something and I don't know what its missing. I'm not fluent in spices, though I'd like to wake up and have that knowledge imparted. I wonder if they make one of those subliminal sleep tapes for that.

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  18. I'm, an okay cook, nothing great. I wish I had paid more attention to my mom when I was growing up. Unfortunately she died before I learned how to make her famous pie crust. I've often thought that if I could be with her one more day, I'd spend it in the kitchen with her doing what she loved best. Good luck!

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    1. Hi Mary Sue, My mom had such a way of presentation with the things she made. She always knew how to add this, this, and this and it looked like it came from a five star restaurant. She always had the cute little decorative spreader knifes and other stuff that I don't even know what to call it. I wish I'd paid better attention to that as well. Life goes so fast.

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  19. Maggie, me and you could take up space in the frying pan together. I'm not the world's greatest cook, but what I can do, I do well. LOL!! Thanks for the tip about the egg on the bottom. hehehe. The boys want to make cookies either today or tomorrow, too.

    Heck, who cares how you cook it as long as you cook it with love?
    Smiles
    Steph

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    1. Good point, Steph. I put a lot of love in what I cook, so it ought to be pretty darn good. Maybe the love will taste like oregano or basil or mustard when needed. Thanks for stopping in.

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  20. I don't even try any more to belong to that gang. So much easier to buy something if asked to bring dessert.

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  21. I loved this blog! Please don't overlook your revenge. The Frying pan crowd are probably all on cholesterol medicine cooking with crisco and whole eggs etc. Stand strong. You don't have to have the best caserol on the table, try for the healthiest. It's for the greater good!

    I worry about heart disease and pastors across the US due to all of the potlucks. :/

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    1. Lynne, You made me smile. I never thought about that kind of revenge. I don't wish ill health on anyone. Seems those troubles come along on their own anyway. But yeah, pastors have it rough with all the potlucks.

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  22. What fun. Brought back memories of all those "memorable" dishes I have taken to pot-luck dinners. I know take paper plates.

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    1. Hi Maryann,
      You are indeed a sister of mine. Paper plates, cups, napkins, plasticware. Sometimes I ever bring ice and trash bags. You rock!

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  23. I never use recipes, which is why I don't bake. I'm ashamed to say my kids thought Mrs. Keebler in the microwave was home baked. I'm with Patricia in the Italian mode. Lots of butter and olive oil, lots of herbs and spices, and everything tastes better. I'm a salt person, so that too. Fun post, Maggie.

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    1. I happen to think your cooking is delicious, Polly, so whatever you're doing, its working!

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  24. I'm a student of the old ways, Maggie. Never measure, don't turn on a timer. I have trouble following recipes and here's why: They give you step-by-step instructions. Apparently recipe followers can read between the lines but I can't because nothing ever looks or tastes like it 'should' when I make it. My gramma taught me the wonderful secret of "a pinch of" whatever and any recipe will turn out delish! Then someone got wise to us and created a measuring spoon for...you guessed it... "a pinch."

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    1. I've always admired the folks who add pinches of this or that. I never know what to pinch, though I never liked it when folks pinched my face - or me- when I was a kid. I bet your dishes taste great. Thanks for the visit, Calisa.

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