For Christmas last year Alex’s Mom gave me a recipe box filled with handwritten cards of Alex’s favorite dishes. As one might expect, its sat untouched on a pantry shelf for the last 9 months. It wasn’t until they made plans to visit over the weekend that I decided I should be an impressive and ambitious daughter-in-law. I would cook something! I would achieve mastery over one of her dessert recipes!
There are so many reasons why this was a terrible idea:
2. Our kitchen is the size of a box you could fill with books and still be able to carry up a flight of stairs.
3. The recipe was written on a small white card from 1999 and involved zero pictures and zero hand holding to get me through every step of the process.
Panic set in with Step One:
Combine 1 ½ cups of crushed oreos with ¼ stick of softened butter.
Let’s move beyond your correct assumption that I completely melted the butter and focus on how unhelpful it is to refer to the quantity of oreos in a post-crushed state. How many oreos does it take to create 1 ½ cups of crushed oreo? Seven? Seventeen? Seventeen packages?
This would be so much easier if I had at least four photos—taken from different angles by a camera that cost at least $2400—of the oreo-crushing process. But no.
Seeking to contain the mess as much as possible, I put a stack of Oreos in a zip lock bag and unceremoniously beat it with a rolling pin. Turns out this is a really great way to coat the inside of a ziplock bag with a thick crusty layer of oreo goo that refuses to evacuate– no matter how much you shake it like a polaroid picture.
Alex was trying to watch The Sports while I held the bag with my fingertips, haphazardly swiping at it with a pair of scissors while screaming at the top of my lungs.
“Pinterest would never do this to me!”
Forty-five recipe steps later– when every dish in my kitchen was dirty and the countertops were sprinkled with droplets of sweetened condensed milk, Oreo dust, and torn bits of plastic– I realized I didn’t even have the right dish to pour everything in.
I squinted at the cursive writing on the card.
“What’s a Spring Pan?”
I googled it and quickly realized that of all the various cookware I received at my wedding—and have thus far not touched—this was not one of them.
“No big deal,” Alex said, already sensing a meltdown, “You can just use a pie pan.”
For the rest of our lives “You can just use a pie pan” will be used in place of “oh dear lord all hope is lost.”
Nineteen hours later the kitchen timer went off and I went to inspect the fruits of my labor.
Whatever noise I made was enough to bring Alex to the kitchen.
“Maybe the pie pan was a bad idea.”
I hobbled away like a creature that knows it’s about to die and just needs to find a big enough hole to crawl into. Just then, Quirky Chrissy, a week shy of her nuptials, sent me a photo of her beautiful wedding dress. Unable to communicate on a basic human level, I responded with a photo of the abomination I had just removed from the oven.
“Looks like lightning cake,” she said.
This was supposed to be some sort of cheesecake. Instead, it looked like Tyrian Lannister’ face after The Battle of Blackwater.
Alex’s tiresome optimism was oppressive.
“It’ll still taste good, it doesn’t matter what it looks like.”
“It looks like a miniature replica of the San Andreas fault!”
Alex thought we should study it for educational purposes, to see what we could learn from the experience so as to avoid future heartache and calamity. I wanted to throw it away. In the pan. Then set the kitchen on fire. And develop a drug habit.
Instead, I lay in bed making wounded animal noises for the next two hours.
Alex tried to reassure me that it’s gravity-defying poofiness was falling as it cooled, but I was inconsolable.
In an effort to salvage an evening I could never get back, I came up with alternate uses for the failed cheesecake:
1. Bear Grylls could use it to demonstrate survival skills by rappelling deep into its treacherous crevasses.
2. We could put it on the front step to scare away trick-or-treaters: “We don’t carve pumpkins in the house, we carve cheesecakes. And children.”
3. A warning of what you do to the environment when you engage in fracking.
4. A model of what dry rot looks like when you don’t take care of your gums after having your wisdom teeth removed.
In the end, we did what any reasonable human would do when faced with such dire circumstances. We ate the center of it out with a spoon.
What’s your greatest cooking disaster? Have you ever failed to impress your in-laws? How else could we have re-purposed the doomed cheesecake?
Want to keep in touch? Drop your email below and I'll send you FULL POSTS anytime I write something new. Only want to know book news? Get on the list here.