Failed cooking attempt illustrates fact that growing up is hard to do

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Do you remember what it felt like to be a young child and fantasize about becoming an adult? You had so many naive expectations about how glorious life would be. And then as you got older, reality started to sink in and you realized that growing up is hard to do.

I had to learn at a young age what it felt like to grow up fast. I had my first child at the age of 18, and, after a failed relationship with my son’s father, I met my now-fiance and we had a daughter.

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The bacon chicken ring as it’s supposed to look.

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How the recipe actually turned out, prior to baking.

I’m now 26 years old with a son who is about to turn 8 and a daughter who is about to turn 5. I work full time as a special education para-educator and I’m also struggling to finish college to become a teacher. Needless to say, my life is pretty busy!

My fiance is sweet. He understands that life is hectic, and he does his best to help me with household chores. A couple of months ago he came home from work and said that he had heard about this meal-planning website called emeals.com, and that we should try it out. I looked it up and saw that for a small fee they will send you a weekly menu plan complete with a shopping list. I was hesitant at first, but after some coaxing from my fiance I decided to give it a try.

I am not much of a cook, so I was excited to broaden my horizon with these new recipes. It was great to come home and already have your meals planned out for you. After the first couple of dinners were a hit, I started to feel more confident about my cooking skills.

On the third night, I was scheduled to make a bacon chicken ring. It sounded delicious. The recipe called for a round pizza pan to help form the chicken ring crust. I didn’t have one in my kitchen, but I didn’t let that stop me. Success with the first two meals had left me with a false sense of confidence, so I figured I would just improvise.

I found the next best thing to a round pizza pan: a rectangle cookie sheet. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to form a ring, and to be completely honest with you, I didn’t actually understand the instructions on how to form the ring in the first place.

By the time I mixed the ingredients I was starting to doubt my cooking abilities, but I knew I was too far into it to stop. I rolled out some dough on the greased cookie sheet and plopped a heaping pile of chicken crap in the middle, then covered it with the remaining dough. I cut a couple of steam vents into it so it wouldn’t blow up, then sent it to its death in the oven.

After I set the timer I took a deep breath and decided to pour myself a drink. I sat down at the kitchen table in defeat and thought of so many other things I could have made, like little bacon chicken balls. That would have worked ... but nope! My scumbag brain thought it was a good idea to make one really big ball of crap.

I warned my fiance of his dinnertime fate and just waited.

When the timer beeped I opened the oven and took out my monster of a creation. It looked like a cross between a football and Freddy Krueger’s face. I didn’t even bother to make it look pretty. I mean, what was I supposed to do? Serve it with some fresh parsley on a silver platter and call it good? The deed had been done. The kids had already given me the look of disgust, and my poor fiance had already tilted his head to the side and looked at me with the look of pity.

But after dinner he actually complimented me and stated that despite its foul appearance it tasted pretty good, and that was all that mattered. He’s sweet. I like him.

The next day he offered to make dinner for the rest of the week. I gladly accepted his offer and folded clothes instead.

All in all, the meal-planning method was pretty great. I actually have three months’ worth of recipes and shopping lists. I’ll gladly email them to anyone who wants them for free — just shoot me a message. And if you have any stories of cooking disasters, I’d be happy to hear about them as well.

Heather Usko is a Prescott-based writer whose columns are about her perfectly imperfect life as a young working mother. She can be reached at heather.m.usko@gmail.com.

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