Yesterday, a couple of my co-workers were discussing cooking and they mentioned “blanching” potatoes. My response: What is blanching?
They looked at me as if I’d asked, “What is a foot?” or “What is an apple?”
“Are you serious?” they asked. “You really don’t know?”
I really didn’t. And those two guys — two motor-building, animal-hunting guys — did.
Now, the vocab-dork in me was mortified that I didn’t at least know the definition of the word. In my defense, though, every time I’ve ever heard that word, my brain just waves an arm and says, “It’s a cooking thing. Don’t worry about it. Not your gig, girl.”
It gave me pause, though. Even if I’m not Julia Child in the kitchen, as a wife and mother, I should maybe know the basics. So I pulled out my mother’s old 1961 Betty Crocker cookbook.
In the front, there was a dictionary of food terms. Of course blanching was in there, and I swear the universe whispered "duh" when I read the definition. As I started skimming, though, it began to sound like a Seuss-y version of food play to me, or perhaps a long-lost song from "The Music Man" soundtrack.
"Blanching and basting, baking and boiling, braising and brushing and Lyonnaise – oh, yeah!" (Side note: That's not a misspelling. Apparently “Lyonnaise” is a thing. Does everyone else know that, too? For those who don't, it means "cooked with onions.")
How could I have sent my oldest daughter out into the world without a knowledge of blanching and Lyonnaise? I’m lucky she’s still alive, right? Total mom fail.
I mean, of course I passed down a few kitchen bits to her. She knows that if your spaghetti sauce is watery enough, you don’t have to pre-boil lasagna noodles before baking. Also, she knows that when making macaroni and cheese, the milk and butter are just suggestions. You can squirt in a couple tablespoons of water instead and it becomes a zesty meal that will delightfully fulfill your body’s intrinsic need for powdered cheese.
I was already feeling a little inadequate, and then I turned to the — insert “Jaws” music here — “Hints for the Homemaker” section. A few of the hints:
• Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply makeup and a dash of cologne. Does wonders for your morale and your family’s, too! Boom! I’ve actually got this one covered. More often than not, I fall asleep without removing my makeup, so I’ve already got on makeup and cologne before breakfast, right? Yes.
• Think pleasant thoughts while working and a chore will become a labor of love! Sometimes, while I’m making macaroni and cheese, I think about how much I like macaroni and cheese, which makes me excited that the macaroni and cheese is almost done. So boom — another item checked off.
• If you have a spare moment, sit down, close your eyes and just relax. Have I mentioned how smart Betty Crocker seems? I just like her so much. If I close my eyes, though, the 2-year-old climbs on top of the kitchen table or colors on the TV, which destroys my relaxation. I’m going to have to work harder on this one. #goals
• Be interested, and you’ll always be interesting! What, Betty? And why all the exclamation points?
• Write menus for a week’s meals at a time. Yeah, I’ve got this one for sure. See below. #winning
Monday: Macaroni and cheese
Tuesday: Hy-Vee pizza
Wednesday: Surprise me
Thursday: Chicken something
Friday: Restaurant night
Saturday: Dad likes grilling
Sunday: Repeat Saturday
Thanks for all the help, Mrs. Crocker!
Lynn Kirkle is a writer and lives in Omaha with her husband and five children. She writes weekly for momaha.com, and can be found on Twitter @LAPainter.