Shinn column: A sure recipe for disaster

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

Someone asked me a very interesting question this week: “What’s the worst thing you ever did?”
Boy, that got me thinking.
Well, I answered, I never stole anything, and I’ve never been to jail.
That seemed to satisfy him.
When I relayed the conversation to my mother that evening, she said, “Did you tell him about the turkey tetrazzini?”
Oh, the humanity!
Folks, the pressure of preparing the perfect Thanksgiving meal finally got to me.
Usually, we go to my aunt’s house in Durham. Although my mother is a 77-year-old dynamo who runs 10 miles a week at the YMCA, her sister puts her to shame. My aunt has been putting on a Thanksgiving spread for years.
This year, my son was spending the holiday with his dad’s family. So I decided I’d cook Thanksgiving dinner for just the three of us, Mom, Daddy and me ó just like the good ol’ days.
The meal did turn out well, I must admit. I cooked the turkey breast the night before ó Dad evidently has something against hot meat and insisted I do it then.
I cooked enough of my ex-mother-in-law’s sausage and mushroom dressing to share with my best friend, who’s recently had surgery and wasn’t really up to cooking. At least that’s what she said.
Lisa was thrilled.
On Thursday morning, before we went to church, I put together the mac and cheese. Homemade, not from the box.
Mom made my ex-high-school-boyfriend’s-mother’s cranberry sauce salad and my grandmother’s chess pie.
(With a few more exes, I can get together a 14-course meal.)
It was a wonderful meal. The turkey was cold! We remembered to put all the side dishes on the table! We drank wine!
I felt so good about it all that I told Mother I would fix turkey tetrazzini for Sunday dinner. It was cold, nasty and rainy when I got up Sunday morning, but I still managed to get the dish together before we went to church.
I rushed home, popped the tetrazzini in the oven, and 30 minutes later ran some over to Mother and Daddy ó in the rain.
I took the rest over to my Invisible Boyfriend’s house and we had lunch together. He raved over it. Well, OK, maybe not raved, but he said it was good. He ate every bit of it.
Later in the afternoon, I called Mother.
“How’d you like the tetrazzini?” I asked.
“Well, it was a little dry,” she said.
“Dry?!” I said. “I went RIGHT by the recipe.”
“Well, OK,” Mother said.
I knew the conversation was not over. I called her back when I got home that night.
“OK, I told you, I went right by the recipe,” I said, recipe card in hand, and started to read it. Out loud.
“White wine.”
“Fresh parmesan.”
“One cup of turkey broth…”
It seems I neglected to add the turkey broth on Sunday morning.
To her credit, Mother did not do the superior dance.
For long.
She just said, “Just bring over the leftover tetrazzini and I’ll doctor on it.”
She did.
It was much better. You could taste the wine a lot more in the sauce.
The sauce that was nonexistent when I made it.
I called up my Aunt Louise the next day and told her. She laughed longer than I’d heard her laugh in a long time.
“She didn’t say a thing to me about it,” my aunt said, probably wiping the tears from her eyes on the other ed of the line. “I’m going to call her up and say, ‘Cora, how was the tetrazzini? Was it a little dry?’ ”
I told her to go ahead. I told her I had tried my very best. The pressure finally got to me.
On the other hand, we were together for Thanksgiving and that was the most important thing, right?
And the turkey was cold!
And we remembered all the side dishes!
And the wine was good!
But next time, I should probably not drink the wine while I am adding it to the tetrazzini on a cold, nasty and rainy Sunday morning.
– – –
Contact Susan Shinn at or 704-797-4289.