Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Cautionary Kitchen Tale

The Story of Robbyn's (not-so) Magic Mushrooms
or "Robbyn's Deep Dark Culinary Secret, brought to you through flashbacks while preparing tonight's Chicken and Mushrooms with Cream Sauce."

I made a chicken dish with mushrooms tonight (see other entry for details.) It was delicious.

I don't think I've ever achieved "prowess" status, but there are some dishes I do well. And I'm still trying and learning.

However, tonight I had a flashback, of the gastronomic Post-Traumatic Stress variety. It's not for the faint of heart, but if you want to shake your head and content yourself with the reassurance that you've never sunk quite THIS low in the kitchen, read'll boost nearly anyone's confidence!

(key the wavering organ music now)

This tale (unfortunately true) is related to my ignorance of kitchen implements and food-handling practices. My mother never got me beyond the Survival Basics in the kitchen department. I had years of learning, and un-learning to do to create edible fare. Any "helps" along the way were utilized, if possible.

In those learning days, to me, the pre-washed bags of lettuce were a great invention, since I could pop open a bag and Presto! add veggies and have the salad portion of meals taken care of. I still will often get some Butter lettuce mix, hearts of romaine, or Spring mix for our salads. I hope to phase these out as I'm trying my hand at growing my own lettuces. But in those days, cooking was the survival of the fittest, and there were many good recipes that died in my amateur hands.

I served clean, edible food. Especially the pre-washed sort.

Only I'm afraid that was NOT the case when it came to my treatment of heads of iceberg lettuce and cabbage. (Though I thought it was) Somehow I had a genetic intelligence failure in respect to those veggies. I now know those should be carefully and thorougly hand-washed, inside and out. You don't just tear off the few outer soiled leaves of a cabbage and then assume the best regarding what's inside. At least MOST people don't. You wash the whole shebang, even if you have to disassemble it and blast it with running water.

You know this. Your children know this. Paramecia and amoeba and other single-celled life forms know this. The balance of the world population knows this.

Of course I did not know this...

You'd think an otherwise-intelligent woman might have figured this out earlier. After all, I DID diligently washed any berries and fruits that came my way, knowing that most of them had been sprayed at some point with insecticides before market. But the cabbage and iceberg were so tightly contained, after peeling back and discarding the first few soiled layers of leaves, I figured nothing COULD get down in there into those leaves if it wanted to. (Boy, was I ignorant!)

For years, and I do mean years, I served my family (and company) unwashed iceberg lettuce, and cabbage. That's pretty nauseating. But that's not the worst. This ignorance also extended to (ubboy, here goes...)


(yeah, you heard it right)

Some of you may KNOW what those little brown flecks around the supermarket mushrooms are, the ones nestled whole or sliced in their little cartons in the produce section. My assumption was that since they were pre-packaged and pre-sliced, they were pre-washed. And that those little brown flecks were "mushroom flecks."

It was only a couple years ago when I learned what those "flecks" really were...sanitized chicken poop.


Just to be sure, I checked the label. SURELY these things were pre-washed...after all, they were pre-sliced!! In the tiniest label print, the sort you usually see at the bottom of Same Day Car Loan contracts, it stated the mushrooms should be washed before use. You mean...I'd been serving....chicken poop mushrooms...???


I'm haunted by memories of company, at dinner, exclaiming "This has to be some of the BEST beef burgundy I've ever had."

(Ermm, the secret's in the sauce?)

So THAT, my friends, is probably my darkest Kitchen Confession.

Tonight's mushrooms were scrubbed to a standard of sanitization Mr. Clean himself couldn't hope to achieve.

And, to be sure, I'm off beef burgundy for a long, longgggggg time ;-)

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