I don't have anybody trying to pass off my recipe as their own, but I do have a meddler.
Each year for his birthday and fathers' day, my dad asks me to cook Swedish Meatballs or Beef Stroganoff. Every year for her birthday and mothers' day, my mom asks me to make Maple-Ginger Salmon or Bacon-Wrapped Quail. Every Passover, I prepare everything for the Seder. Every Thanksgiving I do everything but make the yams (mom does it best!). I love cooking as much as my parents love eating my cooking (and having dinner at a reasonable hour) and while I was at home, this was my responsibility 5-6 nights a week. This does not
sit well with my 20 year old little sister.
When I left home, she took on the responsibility of making dinner most nights a week and somewhere along the line decided she was a good cook. She really isn't. Not that she couldn't be, as she is excellent at following recipes to the letter, but she likes to experiment without any regard for how food actually cooks or how spices work together. In the past 7 years, I have (at her request) tried to teach her, and my mother has tried to teach her, but she seems absolutely opposed to actually learning anything...like how to use a meat thermometer (or common sense) so you don't overcook. Chicken is not meant to be powdery, and there is no need to stick boneless, skinless breasts, uncovered, with no sauce, in a 450 F oven for an hour and 45 minutes. Everything gets done on high heat, until it's bone dry. Cumin goes places no cumin should ever be. Like in the Swedish Meatballs I made last night.
The past couple of years, every time I cook for my family, I have to be on guard against her "help". Usually I catch her and can repair the damage. Sometimes I can't. Sometimes I'm foolish enough to accept it. This past Thanksgiving, I asked for her help chopping onions for the stuffing. I always cut them into largish chunks because my other little sister doesn't like cooked onions and this makes it easy for her to pick out. I explained this. She minced them (cause she likes onions and our other sister doesn't have to have any if she doesn't want it
) I ended up dicing a different onion and setting the other aside for omlettes the next morning. Then, she offered to go baste the turkey for the final time while I took a load off (I'd been on my feet for 5 hours straight doing stuff around the house). While she was basting, she decided I was cooking it on too low a temp, so up she cranked it. I didn't catch it for 45 minutes and the white meat was pretty dry on the edges. When I started carving and saw what had happened to my lovingly roasted bird, I was a little put out, but she'd been trying to help, right? Then she says "VB, why is the turkey so dry this year?" She sounded so innocent, I couldn't tell if she was being deliberately dumb or not, but I still had to excuse myself for a couple of minutes so I wouldn't snap at her. She is so smart about most things, but somehow she can't wrap her head around the idea that this is my
rodeo, or that things are cooked a certain way for a reason and that she SHOULD NOT mess with it.
Last night, I'd finished browning the meatballs and had started my sauce. She offered to help and I asked her to stir while I got the potatoes on to boil (It's stirring, for crying out loud. Just keep the spoon moving!). My back was turned for a second and she asks to taste it. I hand her a fresh spoon. I hear her say "Hmmm". I hear the cupboard opening and turn around to find her stretching to reach the cumin on the top shelf. Cumin is awesome. It is not awesome in Swedish Meatballs.
New rule. When I cook, you stay out. I don't care if you want to help. Please set the table instead. No arguments.