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.