tutorial for life

My parents were out of town for an old friend’s wedding and I was taking the day off from the things I usually deem “important” and focusing on what is probably always most important. Hanging out with my family, giving them my attention, making sure everyone is comfy and safe and happy. I decided to take the kids to a yard sale where they were selling lemonade and books and other interesting items and then we came home and ate lunch before heading to the park. We had such a good time at the park. Our completely unpredictable Texas weather (no, it is not always hot) was ideal for sitting on a rubbery bench and reading while Willin and Jubilee played on the jungle gym and roller bladed along the pathway.

The jungle gym was never my favorite piece of playground equipment. I was definitely more of swingset type of girl. I was never very strong or very fast, but I was both on the swingset. The jungle gym wasn’t very entertaining to me, unless we could pretend it was something else entirely, and when I see a jungle gym at a distance that’s just crawling with kids who have their tennis shoes in each other’s faces, making it look like a ball of ants, I feel a little claustrophobic.

IMG_0178Watching Willin and Jubilee play on the jungle gym by themselves, I realized why so many children enjoy them. Willin gave it a good shot, but soon tired of dangling aimlessly from his appendages and went back to rollerblading. Jubilee, however, played on that jungle gym. She hung from her feet, from one leg, from one hand. She jumped from one end to the other, climbed up the straight poles like a monkey and slid down like a fire chief. She did the monkey bars forward and backward, jumped onto the high hang bar and did pull-ups. Aha! I thought. The jungle gym would’ve been much more fun had I been built like Gabby Douglas, here. 

Three cheers for Willin, however, who, though he is like myself when it comes to jungle gyms (learned how to do the monkey bars just before getting too tall to hang from them) he is quite good at rollerblading, something I never even really attempted to learn. He rolled around and Jubilee dangled and I made them both wear their helmets the entire time. A little black girl asked me if I was their teacher. Birdie snapped photos and we headed home in time to make dinner.

As I mentioned a couple of rabbit trails ago, my parents were out of town this day, so I decided to try a new recipe that I didn’t think they would like. A recipe, however, that I was pretty sure my little snaggle-toothed minions would gobble up. Meatloaf.

I had bought the ingredients the day before, so I simply pulled up the recipe on my laptop and set to work. The recipe was fairly easy seeming, but there was one thing that troubled me. There was only one picture.

Now I know this is very upperclass, snobbish, modern whiny-baby of me, but I like pictures with my recipes. I mean, quality photography. I want to know, not only what this dish should look like when I’m done, but preferably what it should look like every step of the way. I don’t trust plain old words when it comes to cooking. If you expect me to try a recipe, you better show me what I’m trying to do. In color.

Meatloaf isn’t known for looking appealing, but raw meatloaf is even worse. After I mixed all the ingredients together, I snapped this picture. Perhaps IMG_0180I just impulsively wanted this recipe to have one in-process photo taken of it before it was eaten. Perhaps I wanted to remember that a delicious meal always starts off looking pretty awful. As I kneaded the cold meat and chopped the onions and mixed in the eggs and obsessively checked the measurements, I thought about how tutorial-driven I am.

I want a tutorial for everything. I don’t always follow the directions, but, in moments of panic, I want to be able to blame the author of the instructions for anything that goes wrong. When I checked the meatloaf and found that it was very runny, I commented on the blog post wherein I had found the recipe and asked her what I had done wrong??? I ended up draining it several times and cooking it extra and serving it to munchkins who never knew the difference. They didn’t know that I had never made meatloaf and didn’t know if I myself would like it. They didn’t know that I thought it looked kind of gross and had poured juice out of the pan just moments before. All they knew is that it was meat (yum, right?) and that I was the cook. They trusted me. They ate the meatloaf. They told me I was “the best.”

I thought the meatloaf was pretty good. I wouldn’t want it every day, but it was a fun change. I like making new things for the kids that’s not on our usual, less-meaty menu. Recently, my amazingly talented chef sister lent me a few of her cookbooks. One of them has no pictures. But I’ve put a lot of sticky bookmarks in it and I’m hoping to try some of those recipes soon. The sticky bookmarks are marks of trust. Maybe this author actually knows what he’s doing. Maybe I can make something and take my own pictures.

Maybe it’s good, not to know sometimes, you know? Maybe it’s best if we don’t know that, before I get to be “the best,” I’m going to have a bowl of runny meatloaf and a decision to make.


p.s. if you’re even thinking about making meatloaf, you need to watch this important video first.

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