Cooking With Leslie

For nearly 30 years, my attempts to prepare succulent, harmless meals for my family has been a crap shoot. In fact, there have been many shooting craps as a result of my cooking.

I’ve seen the look of terror on the faces of my husband and kids after I’ve informed them I’ve made dinner. When I send a group text to let everyone know dinner will be waiting for them when they come home, the responses are always positive and full of smiley-face emojis. Liars.

No matter how many smiley faces I receive, each member of my family comes home with a bag from a local eatery, such as Chipotle, Real Urban Barbecue, or even McDonald’s, just to be on the safe side. Their standards are low; right where they should be.

I now have a short repertoire of fool-proof dinners I can make that my family likes, but I still hear, “Did you really make this? It’s so good!” Gee, thanks.

I lamented about my culinary ineptitude to my very dear friend, and the extraordinarily talented Cartoonist, Sharon Rosenzweig, who created the cartoon of my family for my website.

Sharon’s talent extends into many facets of her life, especially her cooking. She’s one of the best cooks around. I’m sure she’s never made caca in her kitchen. Well, you know what I mean.

I told Sharon that my first attempt to cook a brisket resulted in a slab of meat so tough, it smote the motor of my brand-new electric knife without leaving so much as a flesh-wound.

The only person who could play the part of “The Brisket” in the movie adaptation of “The Brisket” is Mr. T. “I pity the fool who tries to eat this brisket. He’ll lose more teeth than a hockey player during playoffs.”

I showed Sharon a picture I took which demonstrated the way I recently “cut” a watermelon.

The next picture I presented as evidence of my misadventures in the kitchen was of my “Lunar Cornbread.” I admitted I had used a mix from a box, as if that would magically ensure perfection.

It didn’t. The cornbread came out of the oven looking as though it had been clobbered by an asteroid. I added the green beans before taking a picture of it to illustrate the depth of the crater. (Green beans not included.) Sorry. Old Sears Catalog copywriting habits die hard.

The one thing I can bake that everyone loves is my Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Brûlée. After the cheesecake has cooled in the fridge, I spread a thin layer of sugar on top, and then use a kitchen torch to melt the sugar. Then, I put it back in the fridge for several hours to set, making slicing a breeze! I even purchased a cake-tote so I can bring a cheesecake to a friend’s house, when requested. Yes, it does get requested.

On one such occasion, I hadn’t properly calculated my time (Shocking!) and had to bring the cheesecake, in tote, knowing it wasn’t cold enough to have set. There was no room in the hostess’s refrigerator to let it cool a little longer, so I prayed for some luck at the pot-luck, and set it out amongst the other offerings.

We all chatted for an hour, and then sampled the buffet. I glanced at the plate of the woman standing next to me who was known for her loud voice, and even louder lipstick. What was that clump of slippery custard with shards of what looked like brown glass sticking out of it, encroaching upon her Caesar salad, and broccoli Étouffée?


I slowly backed away from the pack, shoved the last bite of a lemon square in my mouth, and placed my plate in the garbage. As I quickly gathered my coat and purse, I found the hostess, properly thanked her, and told her I needed to go home to feed my dogs. I had to get out of there! I didn’t want to have to claim responsibility for The Pastry Formerly Known as my Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Brûlée! (Sorry. I don’t have a picture of that.)

Just as the screen door began to close behind me, I heard Big Old Lipstick Lips ask, “Who made the flan?”

I lost my last pinch of kitchen confidence after “The Great Exploding Potato Incident of 2013.”

I had forgotten to poke holes in a gaggle of potatoes before setting them in the oven to bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

When the timer rang, I opened the door expecting to find perfect, evenly browned potatoes. Instead, I found potato shrapnel glued to every surface inside the oven.

Oh, the tuberosity!

After admitting every walk of shame I’ve taken from my kitchen, Sharon seemed particularly fascinated by the story of “The Great Exploding Potato Incident of 2013.” As she looked off into the distance, I could almost see the chickens scratching at her brain as she began concocting the cartoon she would draw that’s debuting on my website at the top of this blog post, and beneath the next paragraph, in case you don’t feel like scrolling back up.

Without even laying an eye on a picture of the exploded potatoes, Sharon perfectly captured my bewilderment after “TGEPI of 2013.” She just nailed it.

You would think I didn’t have a good cooking role model growing up, but that’s not the case. My mother has always been a great cook. She made dinners every night we all ate with relish; occasionally ketchup.*

Because my mother’s mother was not a very good cook at all, I could try to make the case that cooking, and other sports, skips a generation.

But, I can’t, because both of my kids are very good cooks.

I guess I’ll keep trying. Dignity is so overrated.

*An homage to my father.

24 Replies to “Cooking With Leslie”

  1. Leslie dearest,
    You didn’t mention your absolutely fabulous chili!!!! It’s to die for!!!! BTW- that cornbread still looked good to me !! At least no one told you that you could use the cooked chicken breasts I made as hockey pucks ( while Joey was preparing for body building competitions). The same went for the ground beef patties- I better stop there. Sharon, your talent never ceases to amaze me. I thought you only had to poke holes in potatoes if you cooked them in a microwave oven. Shows what I know. Well, we’re sisters, so we have yet another thing in common. Great blog 😊😊😊

  2. Hey, I tried to make a frozen pizza for my sons one evening, and just try to imagine the scene when they discovered I had out it in the oven UPSIDE DOWN! It reminded me of a work by Salvador Dali! I think there might still be some cheese left in my oven….

    1. That’s hilarious! I can just imagine what a work of art you ended up with, and are still trying to scrape out of your oven. It’s good to know I’m not alone! Thanks for your comment. By Diane, do you mean Diane Ganden?

  3. Wow I learned something new. But.. I personally think you bake the best tuna melts in the world. I have been trying to replicate them for like 40 years, of course with a side of canned green beans!

    1. It’s Lee-Lee! Yay! Because the story was running long, I left out, “I’ve never cooked a green bean that didn’t announce itself with a squeak at 1st bite. My childhood friend, Leora Sapir, can vouch for that.” AND, I was going to add a story about how as newlyweds, I made dinner, and watched my husband politely poke at his Tuna Surprise. When I asked if everything was ok, he said, “I don’t like my tuna salad hot, but it’s chock full of vegetables!” I decided to save that for the book I’m writing called I Married Him Anyway. How funny that you brought up those two things! I’m so happy you read this and left a great comment! 😎❤️

    1. Eugene! I’m so happy you left a comment. I just got my mojo back; it was on holiday, somewhere. I appreciate your comment more than I can say, and will get back in the good, healthy habit of writing, reading the blogs I like (guess who writes my fave?) and leaving comments. I can’t wait until Richard reads your comment. You made my year!

    2. BTW, your comment, as always, made me laugh out loud. “As Socrates told his home economics class…” Now, I’m imagining a new prof in town, teaching home economics at HPHS wearing a toga.

  4. So relatable! My hubby has also been the chef in the family, while I’m the one who calls out to him–“Honeeeee? Can you tell me if this water is at ‘full boil’or not?” I always joke, “I love my family too much to cook for them.” But like you, I occasionally try. So far, no poisonings. Yay!

    1. “I love my family too much to cook for them!” Classic Steph! We should make t-shirts with your quote on the front. And, maybe on the back, too. No food poisoning is good! Thanks for liking my post and commenting!

  5. ‘succulent and harmless’ – i always try to shoot for at least one of these qualities, though even one doesn’t always happen. i see it as an ongoing trial and error process.

    1. I’m so glad I’m not alone! I had no idea how many of us there were. You’re right! It’s definitely a “trial and error process.” Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of errors.

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