Sunday, January 8, 2012

The thing about shepherd's pie

There are very few foods I don't like. Some, obviously, I like more than others. But there are very few that make me groan. It's no secret that I don't care for clam chowder. Now, it's true that a couple years ago at my sometimes-annual soup night, someone disregarded my plea of "NO CLAM CHOWDER" and brought some anyway, and since I had vowed to try all 16 soups, I scooped up a spoonful of the stuff, and I actually didn't die. In fact, it was quite good. Not good enough that I'll make it for myself, I don't think, but definitely good enough that if I'm ever in a place where she has brought it, I would probably eat it.

Also, sushi. This is something that totally vexes Joel, who loves it. I don't know if it's a texture thing, or an immature hang-up or what. What I do know is that much in the same way the taste of truffles from Thornton's in London (Viennese, please) are wasted on Joel, so too is sushi wasted on me. When I see how much it costs, and try to balance that with the (little) pleasure I get in eating it, I just can't see the point. Give me a California roll. Give me a plate of beef and broccoli. Give me a bowl of Heidi's clam chowder for crying out loud.

There is one meal that I haven't talked a lot about over the years because I have chosen to erase it from my memory. Sure, I've seen it listed in cookbooks or on the occasional menu. I've done a small inner-throat dry heave and moved on. It is, none other than, Shepherd's Pie. *dry heave* *eye roll* *shake fist at universe*

I worry that my mom will think I'm being disrespectful, so I should point out that my mom is a great cook. Growing up, we almost never ate out. She made everything and it was usually delicious. Sure, we had the occasional bag of frozen mixed vegetables with lima beans (which she hotly denies today, but whatever) and I would line up my lima beans under the rim of my plate, only to forget they were there and when I cleared my plate, be left with a giant lima-bean smile on my placemat. But I credit my confidence in cooking/baking and love of food to my mother. Thanks, Mom!

While a lot of her food was good, there are several meals of hers that are excellent - her easy Lasagna recipe always receives rave reviews; she has a minestrone soup recipe that I love; her teriyaki plum-glaze chicken is so delicious, the only reason you restrain yourself from shoving the whole thing in your mouth is fear of the sticky coating smearing your face as a testament to your lack of self control (and choking on bones); her beef stew is the coziest, happiest place on earth and Joel would eat it for the rest of his life if I made it that much. And, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that her chocolate chip cookies have won me more friends than I care to tally. You might be tempted to point out that cookies are not a meal, but to you I apologize, for clearly you have never had any. I'll get right on that.

So, back to my mom's food. One thing I absolutely did not like, besides clam chowder (which my dad loved and that's why she made it, so hooray for love. bleh.), was Shepherd's Pie. I'm sorry, Mom. It was awful. At least, it was from what I can recall from being a 7 year old. I think by the time I was 9 we begged her to stop making it and I don't think she was that thrilled with it anyway, because it never resurfaced. Something about the meat and the tomato sauce and the green beans - THE GREEN BEANS - which on their own I like, but in this instance became my mortal enemy, topped with too-dry mashed potatoes just sat like a dead weight on my plate. And in my mouth. And in my stomach.

I was a good sport when someone brought it after Ainsleigh was born, and thought I should just grow up. I had about three spoonfuls and then told Joel he would have to eat the rest because I was having ice cream for dinner.

Early on, I saw my mom working in the kitchen, so it wasn't a foreign concept to me. Also early on, when we'd go clothes shopping, EVERYTHING I expressed an interest in would be met with a, "I could make that," response. And she not only could, but often did. While that attitude hasn't translated to me in the fashion department (plus, the price of fabric hardly makes it worthwhile, right?!), it absolutely has in the food department. I no longer order Pad Thai, Red Curry, Calzone, or Feijoada in restaurants because why waste money on a sub-par experience (economics, AGAIN). So let's cheer again for a mom who gifted me a can-do attitude, because clearly the "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" mantra didn't sink in.

I've learned a few things, growing up. One is that mashed potatoes are one of the greatest foods on the planet. But they have to be REAL mashed potatoes. If you're buying potatoes in a box, they aren't real potatoes. Right after we moved into this house 5 years ago, I bought a box of potato flakes for a soup recipe that called for them as a thickener. It still sits in my pantry, full minus the 1/2 C flakes I used for that soup recipe. I should probably just toss it, right? Anyway, REAL POTATOES. The other thing I've learned (it's a subset of the potato thing), is that mashed potatoes can be delicious leftovers as long as you've added enough liquid when you're mashing them. I like mine on the wetter side - not so they're running on your plate (eew), but so that they can be eaten without gravy. But then add gravy. I have found great pleasure in eating one or two-day old mashed potatoes and gravy. It's delicious.

Ugh, I'm getting off topic. The point is: Shepherd's Pie. *grimace* *growl* Now that you know my feelings on the subject, you might understand my resentment when Joel casually informed me that we, going to the home of some college friends for dinner, didn't need to bring anything because of a child's gluten intolerance and, "She's making Shepherd's Pie."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I made a face and Joel, in all his sheepishness, shrugged. I felt like I was 6 again, thinking, "I don't wanna!"

But I'm an adult now. I can eat foods I don't love. And survive. And smile and be gracious. These are the things I told myself as we drove.

Let me just cut to the conclusion: I not only ate it, but I LIKED IT. I not only liked it, but I HAD SECONDS. I not only had seconds, I MADE IT MYSELF YESTERDAY.

And I can't wait to have leftovers for dinner tonight. The meat had a delicious gravy with some peas and carrots (NO LIMA BEANS)(NO GREEN BEANS) and the mashed potatoes were moist and had cheddar cheese in them. It was outstanding. I am a convert.

What's happening to me??!!

I'm telling you - 2012 is a new year. I'm a new person. I'm going to start trying all sorts of stuff I thought I didn't like.

But not sushi.


Christina said...

Your writing always makes me smile. And I think I need that recipe because I love shepherd's pie and Jared is definitely not a fan!

janine said...

my mom makes a really great shepherds pie - no lima beans or green beans - and it was always a favorite growing up. but we call it cottage pie. plus, it is an excellent freezer just freeze the filling and top with homemade mashed potatoes when i pull it out! yum!

Kirsten said...

You know... Sushi can be really tasty and also quite inexpensive when you make it yourself. There are even kinds that don't include fish. You can do it!

Kristen said...

Oh my goodness, you are really tempting me with these yummy-sounding foods and I would love the recipes, especially for the beef stew. I have yet to find the right recipe. Any chance you could post it?