Mary Bilyeu: A kitchen chaos conundrum

·3 min read

Jul. 4—There are times when everything in the kitchen flows smoothly.

And then .... Well, then there are the fiascoes like those I dealt with two weeks ago.

To start this saga, let me tell you that I made three trips to the grocery store in four days.

Now, I tend to joke that I practically live at the grocery store, given that I shop for the food pages and also, of course, for my family. But near-daily trips are excessive even for me.

The first trip was to get ingredients for the week's two photo shoots: July's Dinner for One and an upcoming feature on the fun food that is Jell-O.

I bought ground beef that Saturday, intending to test today's recipe for Red, White, and Blue Sliders on Monday afternoon after coming back from the office (now that I've returned to my desk for two days each week).

I left work two hours later than I'd intended, not having had lunch. The sliders could be a sort of linner (lunch plus dinner), though, right?

Except that the beef I'd only recently bought and had kept refrigerated had turned a gross shade of gray. In two days.

So, back to the store I went to exchange it. And then — only then — I was able to make the mini burgers which, thankfully, were everything I'd hoped they'd be.

So that was two trips in three days. Then day four happened.

I pride myself on an odd skill: being able to discern a good recipe. I search through countless options for stories and have a knack for picking the ones that just need a bit of tweaking (poorly written instructions being the greatest and most frequent offense).

So imagine my disappointment and frustration and irritation and annoyance — there must be some good polysyllabic German word that combines all of the negativity — upon trying to make a cute idea for a fish bowl full of blue Jell-O.

The original version I planned to try called for sprinkling cookie crumbs and mini marshmallows on the bottom of serving glasses, topping this layer with liquid gelatin, and then adding some candy fish once it had all set.

Well, when buying the fish bowl I saw colorful gravel for fish tanks and thought it'd be great to use Fruity Pebbles as the base for the presentation instead of boring brown crumbs.

I followed the original recipe's directions, only substituting the cereal for the cookies. And then I watched as all the vividly colored tidbits floated to the top of the Jell-O as I poured it in. There was no way to push them down, no chance that they'd absorb liquid and sink, any more than crumbs would have.

There was nothing resembling the intended dish, which could not possibly have been made as the recipe indicated.

And so ... yup, my next trip to the grocery store.

I bought more Jell-O and proceeded to try, try again.

I made a thin base layer of Jell-O mixed with cereal, then let that set completely before pouring in the rest of the gelatin after letting it cool to room temperature.

Whew! Thankfully, it was a success. Unfortunately, the rest of it didn't work out as I'd hoped, but some lessons were learned for future ventures.

I enjoy seeing my friends at the grocery store. I ask after their moms, catch up on the week's news, chat about my cats.

But I certainly don't need the kind of kitchen chaos that leads me to run out there nearly every day of the week.

None of us does.