Let’s Give Up Frustration for Lent

So it’s Friday. And it’s Lent. I completely missed Mardi Gras this year. You would think that being at home, having “all the time in the world” to myself, I could enjoy whatever I wanted. But I didn’t. Fat Tuesday wasn’t even a particularly good day for me: it was one of those days when just about everything seemed to go wrong.

our crockpot — note the cookbooks I could have but did not use

Since we had cooked an entire turkey almost two weeks ago and had saved the leftover meat, Janet had used the drippings and the bones to create turkey broth, which on Tuesday I was supposed to turn into soup. Cutting up a dozen carrots and a whole head of celery wasn’t too bad. However, when I had brought the broth from the outdoor “refrigerator”—meaning sitting in the below-freezing garage—on Monday, it was frozen solid. I let it thaw until late in the evening, at which time Janet suggested it should go into the refrigerator downstairs. Then on Tuesday I hauled the container out, only to find the soup was still completely frozen. So I put the large container in the microwave and set it at 30% for a half an hour, but at the end of that time it was still a cold, icy but also gelatinous mass. I tried to put it into the crockpot* anyway. Unfortunately only about three-fourths of it made it into the pot. The rest was wet cold jelly on the counter and floor. This unhappy camper got to clean the mess up. It was probably a good thing I was alone for that: Janet thinks my language at such moments is inappropriate for even the most sophisticated adults. She’s right, of course.

I was also having trouble getting the computer to do anything correctly. It seemed no matter what I typed or said, the words on the screen were far from what I had at first indicated. In an e-mail to Janet the word “Timmerman’s” somehow turned into “chairman’s”—I don’t really know how. And that was typical for everything I tried to do. Not a productive day.

About 4:45 I decided it was time to make supper. Every evening through the week about supper time, I prepare breakfast and Janet’s lunch. Breakfast is pretty simple: during the winter, just halve a grapefruit and cut the sections loose, wrap the two halves in plastic wrap for storage in the refrigerator overnight, and make coffee. I have screwed up by forgetting to put water in the coffee pot; once I even forgot to load the coffee and so we perked water. I’ve also forgotten to set the timer so the coffee would start in the morning. None of those things happened yesterday, but it was the kind of day when any of those options easily could have occurred.

Making Janet’s lunch is even simpler. I tear up a head of Romaine lettuce into one of her bowls, then I add (and it must be in the proper order, as I got instructed severely several years ago) walnuts, dried cranberries, a bit of feta cheese and last three ounces of shredded chicken. Nowadays, worrying about our weight, it has to be a measured three ounces. None of that’s a problem, usually, either. Then, with two meals for the next day taken care of, it’s time to actually make supper for that day.

On Tuesday it was supper that was the problem. I had decided to make a dish for which Janet had a recipe since before we started living together—Crunchy Beef Bake. I had never made it myself before. Here’s the recipe:

Crunchy Beef Bake Casserole

  • 2 cups uncooked corkscrew macaroni (preferably whole wheat)
  • 1 pound hamburger (or ground turkey; or meat substitute—i.e. Boca burger)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 14-1/2 ounce can tomato
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup green pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 3 ounce can onion rings

Put in 2-quart casserole and bake covered at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and topped with onions. Bake five minutes more.

What else? …ground turkey in a tube (there’s the scale to measure food by weight, too)

I got all the ingredients—I thought—together. I found a two-quart casserole dish. I measured out cups of uncooked corkscrew macaroni and put that into the casserole. I removed our well thawed tube of ground turkey from the refrigerator and even browned it a bit. With some difficulty and a little mess (it just wasn’t my day with soups, I guess), I dumped the can of cream of mushroom soup into a bowl and then added the ground turkey, the green pepper and some seasoned salt (which hadn’t been disturbed from its place in the spice cabinet for at least a decade, I believe).

So far so good. I wasn’t sure if all the onion rings went on top, as the recipe suggests, or if some were to go into the mixture. It seemed to me that usually most of the rings were in the mix.

It was still only about five o’clock, so I decided I could just sit my creation in the refrigerator, and when Janet called to tell me she was on her way home, ask her.

On reconsideration, however, realizing I was using the whole wheat macaroni, I decided I’d better let it cook longer than it suggested. I could still add the onion rings when she called.  So I preheated the oven to 350° and went back to work on the computer.

At about 6:15 I placed the casserole in the oven, deciding as I did so to put some onion rings in already. And it cooked.

Janet called at about 6:40 and agreed that most of the onion rings should go into the mix. I obediently added them and let the mixture continue to cook.  She arrived home about 7:10, and all seemed well.  It wasn’t.

Have you figured out the problem?  I hadn’t.

I had no clue that anything was amiss until we removed the casserole from the oven and Janet took a look at it.  She immediately questioned its appearance and wondered what I had done wrong this time. I insisted I done nothing wrong; I was most careful.

But the casserole did look funny. She kept asking questions, however, and in about five minutes we realized what I had forgotten: the tomatoes. We were both unhappy. I offered to add the tomatoes, but she grumpily refused. I tried the creation, however, and it didn’t taste bad, so I took some downstairs to eat, figuring she could make soup or have some of the leftovers in our refrigerator.

When she came down to “enjoy” the Olympic competition (the only sports I ever watch, interestingly), she excitedly offered me some tomatoes she had warmed in the microwave (what a novel notion, I thought—add the tomatoes to the casserole). They did improve the flavor. But nothing was going to improve Janet’s evening: I had screwed up royally and Fat Tuesday was spoiled for her. For me, the evening was still better than dealing with the computer during the day.

And so my Lent began: with frustration for all concerned at our house. Not much of an adventure, but it is what happened. And I still don’t have much accomplished to finish “Mantorville”—even though there is more for you tomorrow.

I tried to do better finishing the turkey soup on Wednesday and adding the noodles. But I am writing this on Ash Wednesday afternoon, so I don’t really know how that’s going to go yet. Right now, I have had enough dealing with the computer for today, so I am going to close. If anything is worth reporting between now and Thursday evening, I’ll add some more. You will know if this is it.

* Nothing in the Wikipedia description of a crockpot’s design matches our ancient model.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.