a Family Recipe
As were getting ready for a dinner party, I become somewhat
apprehensive as Rebecca declares that she is going to be creative. I
look in the frying pan to find cranberries and tangerines bubbling.
Its salad dressing, she says. I consider that this is the
first time we have invited this couple over and that perhaps it will be
the last. I dont understand; I thought Rebecca liked these
people. Dont worry, she says, Ill tell them its an
old family recipe. I wonder if our new friends have heard this
My wife Rebecca has never followed a recipe to the letter in her life.
Her most amazing talent is the ability to create her best meals from what
I would swear is an empty refrigerator. She is such a good cook that
my ability to mix ingredients has atrophied. I struggle with
remembering how to use the microwave and if it wasnt for the occasional
barbecue session to stretch my cooking muscles, I know that I would starve
the next time she left me alone for more than two meals in a row.
I grew up with creative cooking. My mother never made a dish the
same way twice, which was frustrating when I was seven and wonderful when
I became an adult. Creative, however, is one of those descriptive
words that occasionally has a dark side. In rare instances, the
number of which I can count on one hand, my mother laid before us an
unfathomable and inedible disaster. My brother and I would stare bug-eyed
at each other, dreading the moment Mom would ask, So what do you
think? We could only let the awkward silence go on so long before
she would know the truth. But just how do you tell the person who
feeds you every day and who has the power of sending you to bed without
dinner hm, thats a thought that you dont want the meal she
spent the last hour of her life working hard to make just for you?
Its interesting, my brother said.
Yeah, I joined in, relieved that a way out had been discovered,
There was one extraordinary and shocking instance when Mom herself spit
out her food and declared, This is terrible! Since she knew it
was bad, there was no need for us to hide what we thought. What a
relief to be able to put our true feelings into words!
Unfortunately, what we didnt realize immediately was that we still had
to eat it. Dont get me wrong; Mom took her chances, as did we
all, and the amazing dishes far outweighed the ones that stuck in our
throats. The only bummer with the good ones is that she could never
remember how to make them again.
The biggest mistake I have ever made with Rebecca was telling her the
story about how my brother and I used to call Moms disasters
interesting. I realized the magnitude of this error the first time
one of her concoctions turned on her and I had to eat it. She
already knew, I could see it in her eyes, that even the dogs wouldnt
touch it. She sat poised with her fork, waiting for me to take the
first bite to see if I would drop dead instantly or only after painful
convulsions. I considered running, but she had had a rough day and
needed the strokes. There was no way out. She was cashing in
one of those for better or for worse chips.
I didnt eat much of that meal so there were plenty of leftovers, the
thought of which terrified me considering the potential that I might
have to eat this meal reheated several more times. Fortunately, the
next day Rebecca was more herself and, in a generous fit, gave the remains
to my friend Ben. Ben thinks cooking means eating out of the rice
maker for three straight days, so he was ecstatic to receive such a
windfall. Some friends are worth more than their weight in gold.
Our dinner guests have arrived and sit at the table waiting to sip their
wine. Rebecca brings in the salad with the cranberry/tangerine
dressing and starts the bowl around. The couple look at each other
What an interesting shade of red, he says.
Its an old family recipe, announces Rebecca.
I like it, she says. Can I get the recipe?
Yep, theyve heard it before.