Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Food: Cauliflower Chaos

I probably own more recipe books than my mom, though she does more cooking than I do. Not all of her attempts at culinary artistry are successful, unfortunately. Take for example the recent Case of the Cauliflower Crisis.

It was another one of those lazy days at Mom's house. I visit now and then, and on this particular day, Mom had been busy going through her collection of cookbooks, looking for a good experiment to try out on the rest of us. Glancing over at her between my juggling of a book and the TV remote, I began to get nervous. She was taking notes! That meant only one thing, she was putting together a meal for later in the day.

As nutritional insurance, I got my lazy ass off the couch and made the announcement that I was going to the store for a few things. I figured a couple of frozen entrees would not be a bad idea, just in case Mom's dinner proved inedible.

As I hurriedly put my shoes on, Mom lifted her eyes from her stack of recipes long enough to make a request. "I'll need some cauliflower"

"Sure Mom, sure," I replied, not really hearing a word she'd said.

I returned a short time later.

"Okay." said Mom as I emptied my grocery bags onto the counter, "I'll need that cauliflower now."

Cauliflower? "Uh, what?" I asked.

"Don't tell me you didn't get it! Cause you know I can't start the food without it." Actually, I knew no such thing.

"Uh, it's okay, I'll go up to the closer place, Food Jungle, a little later and get it".

"Food Jungle? That place is a jungle and dirty inside. I don't like it."

I contemplated this for a moment, but couldn't think of anything that could go wrong if you were just buying cauliflower.

"Mom, how can they hurt a cauliflower? Besides, I don't want to drive all the way back to the other store. I'm tired."

After an hour or two of my watching the History Channel, Mom popped her head into the living room.

"Well, when are you going," she said. "I'm getting hungry and I can't cook dinner until I have cauliflower."

I never even thought to ask why we couldn't eat without the cauliflower, but I dragged myself to the car, only to have Mom follow me out to the driveway.

"And don't go to that dirty place, I'll know if you do. I can tell the difference, believe me."

I decided it wasn't worth the chaos that would result if I tried to sneak an unapproved vegetable past her, so I went all the way back to the other store on the other side of town. Once inside, I began to remember things I needed, such as antacid tablets ( I might very well need them that night, after all) and peanuts in the shell. At the checkout I was well satisfied that it hadn't been a wasted trip as I'd feared. Once I was in the car out in the parking lot, it struck me that one thing was missing from this otherwise successful mission. I'D FORGOTTEN THE CAULIFLOWER!!!

I turned the engine off, relocked the car, and headed back inside.

I knew I'd be greeted as the hero I was once I returned home. I burst into the kitchen triumphantly, held high the fresh and very clean giant head of cauliflower, and shouted "I got it!"

"I don't need it," said Mom, who by the look of things had been busy with the pots and pans while I was away. "I made the recipe without it, and I think it will be fine. I'll use the cauliflower for something else another day."

When it was time to finally eat, the side dish that had been so critically in need of cauliflower was placed on the counter.

"What is it?"

"Crispy vegetables!" Mom announced. "It took two whole sticks of real butter, plus bread crumbs and cheese, to make it."

They looked a little like deep fried, unidentifiable, irregularly shaped balls. Except when I looked close I could see some green showing through some of them, which I took to be broccoli. It turns out they weren't fried but baked.

Almost raw vegetables covered with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and who knew what else was not a recipe for getting anyone to eat their greens. More than half of mine went into the garbage when Mom wasn't looking.

Maybe these cauliflower recipes have more potential, but at this point I'd rather eat the vegetable as is. At least that way I'll know what I'm getting before I ever take a bite.

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