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The Glasser Family Chefs

The women in my family have never been great cooks. My maternal grandmother was a macrobiotic vegan. You know the type… a root-and-twig eater. She's the only person I've ever known to burn a green salad.

My mother is a vegetarian as well… and she can make a good pasta and great cornmeal pancakes, but every once in a while she decides to make meat. The first meat experience I can remember was from when I was ten or eleven years old. My parents were locked in the Divorced Parents Tango… trying to one-up each other in an attempt to make themselves look like the fun parent. My favorite food at that time was barbequed flank steak with canned asparagus and mashed potatoes… my father's specialty. So my mother decided that she was going to one up him and make the better meal. She went out and bought a great sirloin steak (maybe an inch and a half thick&#41, grabbed some fresh asparagus and some potatoes and decided to make the meal.

The problem is that my mother had not prepared any meat for about eight years. So, she opened up the old Fannie Farmer Cookbook and read about how to prepare a steak. It said: Broil the steak. She then looked at the toaster over, which had a broil setting. So, she wedged the steak into the toaster oven and set it to broil.

When she pulled the steak out about 30 minutes later, I was treated to an expensive, tasteless piece of shoe leather. A-1 steak sauce be damned, it was still horrible.

Fast forward to 1992 (ish&#41. My mother was in her "Jaques Pepin" phase, and she decided to make something special for our trip to Connecticut from college. She made pan-seared beef tenderloin with rosemary. The basic concept is that you take a nice beef tenderloin and rub it with fresh rosemary and olive oil. Then you sear it in a hot pan and after it gets crusty and brown. Once it is seared, throw it in the oven and bake it until medium rare.

If you have never worked with rosemary, raw rosemary is like a twig of pine needles… very sharp pine needles. Unfortunately, she decided to push the rosemary needles into the side of the meat instead of rubbing them onto the meat. When I bit into the meat, I immediately screamed in pain. A rosemary needle was impaled in my soft palate.

But as bad as these culinary experiences were, they can't compare with my Aunt Norma's Thanksgiving Debacle. About 12 years ago, my grandfather decided that Thanksgiving was going to be served at Norma's new house. All of the family let out a collective groan in anticipation of her turkey. Norma's turkey was the stuff that legends were made of. They were notoriously dry… I mean really really dry.

So, this year, my father volunteered to get the bird. We went to a local farm and got a freshly slaughtered turkey and made the hour and a half drive to her house. We got there and provided Norma with not only the turkey, but explicit directions from the farmer on how to prepare the bird. Norma followed the directions to the letter.

Unfortunately, she didn't realise that she placed the turkey in her new-fangled convection oven… not the standard conduction oven. Convection ovens cook food about 30% faster than conduction ovens… but we didn't know that she had used the wrong oven. So, when she pulled out the perfectly golden brown bird, it seemed like we were in for a great dinner. My grandfather stood up, said his words and then stuck the fork into the turkey. The turkey just sort of pulled apart, completely dessicated (dried out&#41. The gravy was gone in a minute… then we started on the chicken soup… then the water with a bullion cube… and finally, just water. Nothing helped. That was 1986 and the story is still told when the family gets together for a meal.

Thank God that I learned to cook on my own.

Posted in Smirks.

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