Learning to cook is an ongoing process of discovery. You learn flavor combinations and cooking techniques that work and some that don’t. Unfortunately, sometimes you learn the hard way.
One of my early discoveries came about simply because I don’t like going to the grocery store for one or two items. It’s especially true if I’ve committed to cooking something right now and discover I’m out of, or short on a particular ingredient. The idea of stopping to go to the store just isn’t acceptable if there are any other options.
So I’ve been known to substitute ingredients, or find a recipe for the lacking store bought item and make it from scratch. (This tells you it isn’t just the time factor I object to; it’s the interruption. I’d rather cook than run to the store.)
Most of the time, my substitutions are right out of the book: yogurt for sour cream, diluted canned milk for 2%, white sugar and molasses for brown sugar. But sometimes, circumstances demand creative thinking.
I was up to the challenge that muggy summer day in Oregon when I decided not to heat up the kitchen for dinner. I reached for my trusty Jello cookbook and sure enough, I found a great recipe for a salad made with lime Jello, celery, onion, mayo and diced chicken. It sounded wonderful and exactly what I was looking for.
I went to the pantry – oops, no lime Jello. No lemon, either. Only Strawberry. Well, why wouldn’t that work?
Then to the freezer for the cooked chicken. Oops, out of that, too. I couldn’t skip the meat because I was feeding my husband, teenage son Brett and his buddy Ben. As luck would have it, I found a pound of cooked ground beef. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was better than going to the store. So I forged on.
The results were less than spectacular. Brown meat in red Jello doesn’t make the grade. They wouldn’t eat it. They didn’t want to taste it. Shoot, they didn’t even want to look at it! I think they settled for grilled cheese and something.
In my own defense, I will say the flavor wasn’t as bad as they anticipated, but there were consequences. They’ve never forgotten it. None of them. When invited to dinner after that, Ben always asked, “What’s your mom fixing?” before he said yes. Jello salads became less of a desired food item in our house. I gave away my Jello cookbook. And the worst thing about it was I’d made a double batch!