Thursday, January 23, 2014

Questioning my sanity

I am not a cook, not really. I can acquire a recipe, purchase the necessary ingredients, follow the step-by-step instructions, and end up with food for my family to eat. (Unless I am talking or parenting while I am supposed to be following the instructions, then things get dicey.)

But I cannot create. There are many wonderful people in my life who enter kitchens without fear, scan pantries with confidence, and then practically effortlessly create food dishes that never would have occurred to me even though it was my kitchen and my pantry and ingredients that I had stared at for weeks.

I have had quite a few cooking fails. These are the more noteworthy: The attempt to replace condensed cream of chicken soup with chicken noodle soup in a casserole. The attempt to "negate" salt with pepper. The attempt to cover up too much crushed red pepper flakes by stirring vigorously. The attempt at chili that tasted more like bean dip. I could go on.

My poor, sweet husband has eaten everything I have made. Only once could he not make it past more than one bite. He's a brave man.

Along with my inability to create in the kitchen and my general dislike at cooking. (It takes up so much time, and then it just turns into poop. I know, I know, I should be proud that it fuels our bodies and helps us live and tastes good and allows dinner time to occur, but I'm pretty negative about it all usually. I would much rather be folding laundry or washing dishes or cleaning mirrors or organizing a drawer.)

So cooking in general is less than delightful.

But meat is the real bane of my existence.

I do not like to cook meat. If I am going to eat meat without forcing myself to look happy, the meat ideally is as dry as possible. Except for the occasional burnt hamburger, very well cooked chicken tender, or crispy (not chewy!) bacon, I wouldn't really miss meat at all.

Jeff likes meat.

I remember feeling so proud of myself when I was a newlywed and made a meatloaf. I actually put my hands—put my hands!—inside of a bowl full of ground beef and mixed ingredients and formed a loaf. I felt like a new woman.

Today though that "new woman" fled. I was a child again. Possibly an insane one.

I decided it was time to make chicken. We've been in Brazil for almost three weeks now, and I can only do so much with rice and pasta.

So chicken.

I had some in my freezer. I had no idea what to do with it. I completely didn't think about food when I was packing for Brazil and did not include a cookbook. (Thankfully, my mom mailed me one two weeks ago; it should be here in about another week.)

I read some websites and decided that I could conquer the chicken.

I got it out of the fridge where it had been thawing. I peeled back the package and wanted to die. That's an exaggeration. I wanted to order Chinese. I wanted to win a million dollars and hire a cook. I wanted to crawl into a corner and suck my thumb. I wanted to be a little kid again.

But I'm the mom, and I have to make dinner.

So I picked it up.

And more horrors continued.

It had a bone in it.


Possibly more than one bone.

I know this is a completely ridiculous problem to so many people, but to me it seemed insurmountable. (Just a month ago, my mom and dad cut my meat off of the bone while I was staying in Michigan, because seeing a bone renders me incapable of eating meat. Once a baby, always a baby?)

Then I looked at the breast underneath, and not only did it have a bone in it (possibly more than one) IT HAD SKIN ON IT.


I bravely continued. My mouth was completely dry, my hands were shaking a little, and I wanted to vomit. But I continued.

My knife cuts through the skin. I think to myself, is that what my skin would be like if I were dead? (My brain screams: SALMONELLA!) My knife cuts off fat. I think to myself, is this what my breast would look like? Or my thigh? (SALMONELLA!) I try to not look at the dark spots that can only mean blood and wonder if this is how a surgeon feels. (SALMONELLA!) I see the bones and imagine mine snapping and wonder how anyone can ever decide to be a butcher. As I rub oil into the breast, my brain goes into overdrive as I wonder if preparing this chicken is at all similar to being a cannibal.  (SALMONELLA!)

Jill enters the kitchen and says, "Why is there a bone? That looks gross. What is that stuff? Ew."

I, as calmly as I can, explain that this is what chicken looks like when it is dead without feathers and that it will look a lot better after it is cooked. I am not sure if she believes me.

She comes back in when I am putting salt and pepper on the chicken, and she says, "Oh wow. Now it looks really good."

Behold the power of salt and pepper.

I wish I worked that way for me.

I have now washed my hands approximately five times with water so hot that I felt like I was burning myself.

Can salmonella be in the air?

I honestly feel like we are all going to get salmonella because there is chicken in my house with skin and bones.

I feel really . . . inadequate. Incapable. Ridiculous. I'm 28 years old, and someone else has really done most of the work to make this chicken ready for cooking, and I am barely holding it together.

Does anyone ANYONE else ever think about how it would feel to cut through their own thighs as they prepare raw meat? Please tell me I'm not completely alone.

Or, at least, share some other task that to other people is completely mundane but to you is practically impossible. I did kill two spiders today, so I guess that's something. Although, I did have some trouble, because I wondered if the spider felt fear or pain before death finally came, and I felt pretty guilty. I only kill them when they are in my house and my kids find them.

But, please, make me feel better about my raw meat cooking handicap.


  1. I don't know if this will make it better or worse for you... but when I was a teaching assistant at Purdue for BIO, we had to do a lab where we dissected chicken wings, and we had to have the students do all kinds of things to the wing. The weirdest one was show them which tendon to pull to make the wing contract and flex. I had a really hard time with it when I was the student, but then when I was the teaching assistant suddenly it all became so clinical (and I couldn't have them see me going crazy, so... responsibility helps) So maybe having Jill watch and help more might help you get over it, over time. Just trying so hard to not pass on your own fears, or have your child think you are wacky might help. I know I am so much braver with needles when they are watching me, because I refuse to pass on that fear to them. They don't have to love having a shot, but I don't want them to be as bad as I was. Anyway, another note is that you could have cooked it with the skin and bone in, and then people could have taken that off when they were eating it. I know you said you had mom and dad take the bone out of the meat at the table, but maybe it isn't quite AS BAD as raw? Just be grateful you didn't get the kind of chicken mom did in Brasil, that still had a head and feet on it. Seriously.

  2. Not only have I never even tried to prepare meat with bones in it, I can't even bring myself to eat it. I, too, would be okay with going without. We used to buy the big bag of boneless, skinless chicken from Costco. It's not the healthiest, in terms of freshness and processing, but it meant chicken was now in the diet. I couldn't do it otherwise. Not because of thinking of my own body, but thinking of tearing through bones and veins and ligaments, etc, of another living creature's body. Ew. I wouldn't have to try very hard to be vegetarian.
    Minus bacon.

  3. Honestly....your are amazing..nothing else needs to be are amazing...whether or not you like meat or not..I like to eat meat...but I totally understand how you feel about seeing in are not are possibly just sensitive toward animal...once again you are amazing..

  4. I like to cook...but don't love it....I'm no Karma but who else is...and by the way she is awesome too..

  5. Mindee now buys the rotisserie chicken, so it is already cooked and seasoned, and then just uses the meat for whatever she is making (casserole, soup, etc).

  6. Mimi, you are so funny. We all have our things. I am pretty good at not thinking too much about meat which helps me. I do get really grossed out when I see blood or veins. Bleh!! Milk sometimes freaks me out too. But only if I think about it too much. Haha

  7. Its ok Mimi, we all have one thing that just messes us up. You will figure it out. —Kelly Caudill

  8. Mimi, this sounds a lot like me. You are not alone. I love to cook, but I cannot make anything with chicken unless it is trimmed and diced by the butcher. I have forced my family into a vegetarian diet, and don't even get me started on beef. Gives me the heebie jeebies. —Kaiti Thorell

  9. You think too much sometimes. Just get the job done! LOL —Laurie

  10. I never buy chicken with bones. I either buy it frozen and stick it right into a crockpot (no slimy mess) or buy the fresh, boneless chicken that has almost no fat on it. If there is fried chicken served at church picnics, I do not eat it. Or if I do, I use the measly plastic forks to pull off all the skin (you can see where the feathers were, yuck!) and find the big chunks of white meat that are not too close to any bones and cartilage. And I am not above spitting out grisly pieces.

    I did, however, have to help kill and clean a chicken once at the first pioneer trek our stake did twelve years ago. Everyone else "chickened" out. It turned out to be the toughest meat I've never been able to chew, and I felt horribly guilty that we wasted it's life since we dumped most of the dinner out. —Sara Richins

  11. Oh Mimi. /facepalm Thankfully, you're love able and sweet enough and funny enough and awesome enough to make up for many, MANY imperfections. Even the ones that won't let you handle raw chicken. —Victoria Croxall

  12. Reading that while eating breakfast wasn't the best idea hahah. I remember when I first tried to make drumsticks and I opened the oven and there was blood all in the pan. Not sure if that was normal, but I stopped trying to cook chicken in the oven after that. I use the crockpot when I want to make chicken/meat and it makes life easier, and it's always super good. You should try it if you guys have one. You can make BBQ chicken, chicken alfredo & a ton of other stuff. You also don't have to worry about watching it cause the crock pot does basically all the work. —Cyanne

    1. I do love my crock pot, but I didn't pack it. I am without a lot of kitchen gadgets right now.

    2. Without a lot of ingredients right now, too, actually.

  13. One the one hand, that was hilarious. On the other hand —Peter

  14. Man, I feel your pain. —Rachel Zuniga

  15. Agree with Pete, made me LOL, but sorry you have that challenge. I made beef stew and it was good and I never touched the raw meat. but I can handle chicken if I need to. (wear gloves, scour / disinfect everything) Also try —Vicki Rich

  16. I'm the same way actually. I have to have someone cut meat off the bone for me to eat it... Grosses me out. I don't do meat with bone in it raw or cooked. I also struggle with any raw meat... It's just so weird. —Heidi

  17. I laughed out loud SO many times while reading this post!! HA! And I completely understand where you're coming from! I HATE dealing with raw meat! AND, when eating cooked meat, i can't allow myself to think much about it or I can't eat it. I used to be way worse than I am now, since I am finally brave enough to debone a rotisserie chicken, and choose to go this route often over dealing with raw meat. IF i do have to handle raw meat, you can bet I've got plastic bags on my hands! Tendons and such really freak me out too! Anyway, because I can relate to you SO well i this post, I could literally hear your voice and mine combining into one as I read each word. —Mindee

    1. OH, and the frozen bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Costco are usually the route I take when making slow cooker recipes. —Mindee

    2. AND, with you in mind, tonight I made my first ever black beans and rice! (Miss you guys!) —Mindee

  18. The first Thanksgiving after I got married, I decided to cook a turkey. I almost threw up. Never mind that I was pregnant at the time! We have ham now.

    And the best way I've found to cook chicken is to put a whole bunch of chicken breasts in a crockpot at once, then cut it up and put it in the freezer. Then I can get the raw-dealings out of the way when I'm feeling brave.

    Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, I feel your pain, at least a little bit. You know how I feel about kid germs, right? Well, I feel like that about salmonella, too. —Denise

  19. Heart you, meems. —Melissa Oviatt


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