My grandmother (my mom’s mom) is an excellent host. She’s funny and friendly, plans ahead to make sure everyone feels welcome, and cooks great food. Her weak point is how she handles food that doesn’t turn out to her expectations.
“Next time, I’m going to make something good,” she will say, even while everyone enjoys way more calories than they should. She will call her daughter ten times after an event, declaring that NEXT time she has company she is going to make something good. She’ll forget about the flawless coconut cream pie she made, and only remember what she thinks were dry meatballs, runny potatoes, or chewy green beans.
Apparently, a few of those genes have trickled down into my bloodstream, because I’m still a little gloomy about the bread and the ice cream.
Remember how I was making strawberry pie the other weekend? We had Marnell’s family over for the first time, about 20 people.
Well, despite my struggles to find berries, the pie itself turned out. The homemade ice cream we made was decent too, although a little soft. We told ourselves that the next time we made it, we would let it run a little longer in the machine.
Because we divide the food among the families, I didn’t have to make much. The pie was okay, and the hamburgers I mixed and shaped were okay too, thanks to Marnell’s grilling.
It was the homemade hamburger buns that I couldn’t decide what to do about.
I made a bigger batch of bread dough than normal in my Bosch, and when it got done kneading, I thought it looked a little sticky. I added more flour. It still looked a little too sticky, and had never really formed a ball in the bowl, so I added more. By the time I rolled the dough out for the buns, it might have held its own at a rubber factory.
They tasted good coming out of the oven, but what doesn’t taste good fresh and warm?
By the meal the next day, the buns were similar to hockey pucks, differing mostly in color and composition. They were hard, small, and unshapely. Thankfully, I had bought buns at Aldi as a back-up. But I didn’t quite see just pitching all the ones I had made. The flavor wasn’t terrible. I discussed them with my sister-in-law Doris who also uses a Bosch.
“These are kind of hard,” I explained to her before the meal.
“Oh I’m sure they’re fine,” she said.
I took her over to the basket.
“Oh, they are kind of hard,” she conceded. “Maybe they got too much flour? With the Bosch, you just need enough to get the dough to pull away from the bowl.”
I set them out dismally, but as far as I know, no one broke a tooth. Marnell’s family isn’t given to talking about food much, and no one commented on them. Max, however, a charming young man of about 18 months with delightful brown eyes, was wandering around looking for a snack in the afternoon. He took one bite of one of the homemade buns, and spit it out in horror. (In all fairness to myself, he did the same with the purchased ones a bit later.)
I had barely recovered from that event when we had our community garden night. With our new homemade ice cream machine, I had dreams of churning up a lovely tub of ice cream and scooping it into paper bowls as the warm sunlight fell over the sweaty laborers. We knew that it had been a little soft at the family gathering, and that we should churn it as long as possible. We debated starting it before the work night started, but there was no sure way to tell how long the work would last. We both thought Marnell would have time to get it going once we had a good idea of how long the work would take.
Because our tiller was not working properly, we asked to borrow our neighbor’s. The neighbor wasn’t home, but he thought it would work. So what actually happened about the time Marnell might have been working on the ice cream, is that the neighbor’s tiller was full of muddy-looking gasoline and wouldn’t run, and Marnell was over on the other neighbor’s step turning it upside down with the second neighbor, and clearly out of the game to start the ice cream. Although the garden was teeming with people who needed my direction or help, I pulled out the ice cream maker, poured in ice and salt and ice cream mix in the wrong order, and gave the keeping of the machine over to Jeremias, a young man of about 10, overconfident in his skills at everything, and returned to the garden.
So it was that about half an hour later, when everyone was ready for ice cream and the weeding was done, that the ice cream was about the consistency of a shake. A mist was descending over the garden creating a fine mud on the earth’s surface, and making the cement eating area behind our house even uglier.
I decided to scoop the ice cream out into plastic cups, because it would have puddled into the bottom of the paper bowls I had purchased. Our friend Carmen had brought ice cream toppings and she bailed me out by adding sprinkles and passing cups to the children.
“The ice cream is really good!” said my neighbor whose dad had helped turn the tiller upside down.
Well, at least the taste was okay. Still, the ice cream felt like a flop. One elegant lady who was at the garden for the first time was a little astonished, I think, at the general state of our snack time.
Perhaps, the key is in expectations. (I think I’m paraphrasing some things my husband has told me here.) If I wouldn’t have been hoping for perfection, it would have been easier to handle. My grandma is an expert at knowing how something should be, so I think it makes it harder for her when things go wrong.
Mostly, I suppose, it’s that unpleasant thing called pride. It doesn’t have to be perfect, does it? Perhaps I learned more from messing up than I would have from everything turning out.
Also, why not just remember that the taste was good? (Although, when I ran this story through our family writer’s meeting, my older brother Scott thought the ice cream story was so bad, maybe I should be embarrassed. I had the word “warm” in initially, and he thought I meant the ice cream was warm, which thankfully, it was not.)
I would really like to hear your stories and tips, though, especially since I’m new in the business of hosting people more regularly. Perhaps you can give me a strategy on how to handle my perfectionist genes!
Exciting news: the conductor on our wedding train photo has been found! Stay tuned, for the whole story, which I think I can share next weekend, even though we plan to be 22 hours away in Pickle Lake, Ontario.