I have written before about my husband’s lack of exaggerated compliments. Sometimes it works out well for me. For example, the first time I made the plum pie he was very impressed. Sometimes however, it does not work out so well.
Case in point: Spaghetti. I make spaghetti fairly often. I make a big batch and I stick it in the freezer so that we can have easy meals when I don’t want to cook. A couple of years ago I made a batch and Doug got a weird look on his face. I couldn’t taste anything wrong, so I asked him what he was thinking (I should know better!). He said, “Oh, it’s fine, but do you think you could get your father’s recipe?”
Now, I’m not pretending to be a better cook than my dad, but I know for a fact that, in my family, we all use the same recipe. “No,” Doug assures me, “your dad’s is better.” At this point I am new wife, and am easily taken to being insulted, but whatever, I just keep on making my sauce. When my dad was here last week though, he offered to make spaghetti one day. So, I pull out all of my ingredients and I take notes. What is it that he does differently? He uses everything I give him, and does it the way I do it, so what is going on? And then he leaves! He heads off to the store for some extra ingredients. Aha … this is it! I will finally know the secret. I’m on my way to finally satisfying my husband’s spaghetti sauce needs. What, you ask, does my father bring home from the store? Some Italian seasoning, or maybe it was Oregano (clearly I should be taking better notes!), and some Ragu! Apparently my Wal-Mart brand seasoning wasn’t cutting it (I think my dad mentioned something about being frugal), and the Ragu was just for adding volume. So, for all intents and purposes I feel the sauce was the same, and yet when we sat down to dinner that night, Doug knew that the sauce wasn’t mine! Grrr!
Case in Point #2: Jam. I have, on a few occasions attempted to make freezer jam. For the most part I think it’s usually turned out well. I use it in a lot of cooking, plus for sandwiches. However, Doug is no fan of the freezer jam. I don’t know what experience in his youth made him bitter against the freezer but he has made very clear that he doesn’t like the jam.
So, after berry picking on Saturday I decide to make some actual cooked jam. I go over many recipes and finally settle on one that has many good reviews, and that requires no extra ingredients. I pull out my candy thermometer and my big pot and I get set to go. I put three plates in the freezer so that I can check the consistency. All is going well. The jam is boiling, and the thermometer is reading 210. I know that I have to go to 220, so I stand at the pot and I stir. I know from the comments with the recipe that it takes a long time to go from 210 to 220, so I’m not worried. I’m heating up my jars, and I wait. The mixture hits 220 and I start arranging my jars. Here is where I encountered my first problem. I should have just turned the stove off, because in the time it took to arrange the jars, the temperature of the jam sky-rocketed to 230!
I should have just left well enough alone. I should have cut my losses, but I decided to continue with the canning process. I bottled all of those slightly caramelized jars of jam. Everything sealed up nicely. Then I went upstairs.
Doug wasn’t home for any of this. I heard him come in and make his way over to the little bowl of extra that I set out. Then I hear him come up the stairs. What do you think his first words to me were? I’ll tell you, “Sarah, you let that jam get to soft ball.” That’s right, soft ball. He’s killing me with candy making terminology! Worst of all, he was right. I made strawberry candy that I couldn’t get out of the jar!
The next night Doug tried to fix the problem by re-doing all the jam. It turns out that my candy thermometer was way off, so I don’t feel too bad. Doug used three thermometers to properly calibrate! After a couple of hours, Doug got everything to the proper texture, but there was no getting rid of the slight burnt sugar taste of the first night.
Ah, what will I experiment with next. I have to find what I’m passionate about and good at soon!