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Smooth(ie) Operator

By Jennifer Whitcomb

smoothiesI’ve entered the meal prep funk phase of my life. There are periods of time when I feel unmotivated to plan, shop or prepare for meals. These, like the seasons, eventually pass and I find myself inspired by others’ fresh ideas and motivated by the excitement my family generates when they realize good food is in the cards again. Lately, though, I’m completely uninterested in domestic duties. I have no urge to shop. The next season is dangerously far away for continuing to procrastinate the meal thing. As a result, food storage is dwindling. The pantry has gone neglected. Every meal is a foraging expedition; a quest to balance the food groups. Take breakfast, for example; six sleepy faces emerge from their beds each morning, with one common goal: something to eat that tastes good. It seems a reasonable expectation. When I point my finger at the cereal shelf, somehow I feel caught off guard as I see we’re fresh out. Toast? No bread.

Yesterday morning I thought of something good. There was frozen fruit in the freezer. We still had enough yogurt in the fridge. Fruit smoothies! I had visions of children falling at my feet. The nutrition pyramid police would applaud the calcium and protein that would soon be nourishing six young and developing bodies. I dumped a baggie of frozen strawberries into the blender. Spoonfuls of yogurt followed, and then I grabbed a frozen banana from the freezer. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a banana that was darker than the one I had selected. Better to use that one first, I thought, so I put the lighter one back and threw the darker banana in the blender. Minutes later, six beautiful rosy pink smoothies were in cups, and I called the crew to the table. One by one, they eagerly popped in their straws and started to sip the sweet concoction. Anticipating the gushingly glowing reviews, I started to hear comments like “This tastes funny” and “Why are there big chunky things in it?”

I put on my stern mother face and countered with “It’s what’s for breakfast, now eat it.” Another child said “Have you had this yet?” and then “It kind of tastes like the dentist.”

I wanted to laugh. But breakfast was in jeopardy. I offered to blend it a second time, and then said “Drink up, kids, so you won’t be hungry before lunch!” I said it in my most convincing tone of voice. At once, the oldest child thrust his cup into my hand and refused to drink it. The youngest said “This tastes bad” and lost interest. I put one cup into the freezer, thinking surely someone would want it later, and the other one I let sit on the table. I did try a sip. Something was just not quite right about it. Maybe the banana had freezer burn. It had looked quite shrunken, and it was definitely browner than the first one I selected.

My thoughts turned to my mother. What would Priscilla do? She is the reigning queen of “waste not, want not.” I decided she wouldn’t throw it away. I didn’t think much about it for the rest of the day, even though lunch and dinner were a continuation of the creative combinations of food items remaining in the pantry and refrigerator. At dinner time one of our children complained of a sore tooth. It was wiggly, and any pressure on the tooth to chew was painful. “I know just the thing!” I said, as I pulled out the leftover smoothie and handed her a spoon. She gladly dipped her spoon into the frozen confection and took a single bite. Her face revealed her words before they could spill out from her lips. She handed the smoothie to me. I acted uninterested and put it on the table. My husband was not around for the morning fun. I watched as he picked it up. He took a couple of bites before he picked something suspicious from his mouth and set it on the table in front of me. “What’s in this thing?” He asked.

I looked at the mystery lump and touched it with my fingernail. Strangely, it looked like a piece of gristle; a tiny lump of fat. Gristle?!?… Suddenly, and as clear as the water in the beckoning pool outside, the correct thought came to my mind. Instead of a banana, I had tossed a frozen sausage link into the controversial breakfast drink. Mystery solved; and protein, indeed. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. It’s an amazing rush of pleasure to own the kitchen disaster as my own. I realize that I could enjoy the many blunders of motherhood in this same way. Tears from laughter feel so good.

About Jennifer Whitcomb

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36 thoughts on “Smooth(ie) Operator”

  1. Hilarious!
    "It kind of tastes like the dentist" made me laugh out loud (apparently the dentist tastes like sausage!).

    I completely understand the food prep funk and anti-food-shopping feelings. I'm right there with you these days.

    I love your concluding thought:that enjoying and laughing at blunders (our own and others', I think) could save the day.

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  2. Oh, Jenny! I can only imagine. This reminds me of the time I made my first New England corned beef dish. I only had purple cabbage, so in the oven it went in a clay pot with the corned beef, potatoes and carrots. FYI, purple cabbage leaks purple coloring to the food around it. We ended up with purplish-black potatoes, etc. I told the kids to just eat everything with ketchup; that the color didn't matter. They didn't buy it. No one ate, but we sure did laugh.
    Loved your story and insight…thanks for sharing!

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  3. I loved it…memories…Kelly Martin used to love to look in our freezer and call most things "freezer surprise." NOt much was identifible.

    I taught you well.

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  4. Ah, your delightful, comic honesty! I love a good freezer surprise- I hate cleaning mine out-and will readily admit my mom does it when she visits…

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  5. ohh, that's good! Sounds like something my mother in law would do. She's famous for working with whatever she has. But sausage in a smoothy, YUMMY! 🙂
    YOU MAKE ME LAUGH!!!

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  6. I was speed reading through the article to find out what the real ingredient was and then laughed for a long long time! Had to reread to because I skipped over so fast, but it was still totally worth it the second time. A great story for future family reunions. Will they ever eat another smoothie again with out being suspicious? As a mom, I've been oh so guilty of giving my chidren food items without sampling them first myself, such as old orange juice, or moldy bread (not noticed on one side), then, asfter they BALK, my first reaction is yours, "just eat it, it's what you get today", finally I will give in and try myself. Kids are never so smug when proving their mom was wrong! I bow down to their practical natures, of this just doesn't taste good and let it go! Nice read!

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  7. What a waste of strawberries and yogurt! A great laugh at your kids' expense!! Now I've done my ab work for today!

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  8. LOL–that is so awesome. I made a lemon cake mix, but wanted to make it lemonier, so I added some lemon extract. When it was baking it smelled so weird–but I hadn't cleaned my oven in over a year so I figured that was it. Luckily I decided to taste it before I served the thing–turns out I added Pepermint instead of Lemon extract. Tasted JUST like Crest toothpaste.

    Makes one wonder why so many kitchen mishaps are reminiscent of the dreaded dentist appointments.

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  9. Although I haven't tossed any sausages in my children's smoothies, I can totally relate to the food preparation funk. I'm in one right now; I can hardly bear to drag myself to the grocery store. Having to prepare dinner every night is torture, especially when we've been at the pool all afternoon and all of a sudden it's 6:00 and panic sets in as the kids ask, "What's for dinner?" and I realize I have no idea.
    Really, it's unbearable.

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  10. Reminds me of a story from our wedding. For the luncheon after the ceremony, we had served lunch and were planning ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. The "chocolate sauce" came from the freezer in gallon unlabeled zip-loc bags, and turned out to be barbecue sauce instead. It was served to several people before the servers figured out there was a problem and whisked it all away. Except for my bishop's wife, who said it tasted "interesting" and wouldn't give it back.

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  11. That's a hilarious story. Once when I was in college I accidentally dumped a bunch of cinnamon in the taco meat instead of cumin. My roommates all ate it but kept commenting about the weird taste. Oops.

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  12. I can so relate. I have had so many cooking disasters, it all blends together in my memory in some sort of unsavory concoction perhaps similar to your sausage smoothie, except mine are also burnt. Seriously I don't know what my family ate for the first seven years my husband and I were married. I really didn't learn to cook before that.

    One particularly difficult night my DH said to me (not in response to my cooking mind you but my attitude) "You know I think you are having such a hard time with the whole dinner thing because it is a skill that needs to be learned. You will need to work at it to get better at it. I think that at some point you just got it into your head that it is something that you should just know how to do automatically, being a wife and mom and all. I think cooking is like any other skill. You don't need to hate it, it doesn't need to make you miserable, if you work at it you can get better at it, and it will get easier and at some point you might actually enjoy it." It was like a lightning bolt (after I was done rolling my eyes at him for being such a solve-it-all).

    I have learned to do it better and I don't hate it (most of the time). Some might even say that I'm good at it now (excluding the seven year old whose favorite phrase is "I hate this dinner!"). I do have a few show stoppers that I have invented but mostly I glean from the great cookers that surround me.

    Some of my most fervent prayers take place in the pantry. Earnest prayers are always answered, for me especially those offered up in the pantry.

    I do get cooking food fatigue just as much as my kidos get eating same food fatigue. Additionally this time of year because our house is equipped with only a swamp cooler (no central air) turning on the oven before 8:00 on days that approach or surpass 100 degrees is the bane of my existence. I tell my kids we are not dysfunctional eating so late, we are just continental and sophisticated.

    Something that has helped in the past when I was too weary and busy for the store is a bread machine that my mother in law gave to me. I didn't use it for a couple of years but then as an answer to prayer and a lot of desperation I decided to figure it out and use it. I set it up the night before for bread in the morning. My kids can broil a slice of the bread in the toaster oven with cheese, slather it with cream cheese and jam or make a PB&J, fry up an egg and toast a slice; any of those with a cup of milk is a uber easy and delicious breakfast. Bonus: who does not want to wake up to the smell of fresh bread in the morning.

    I've used it so much I've memorized the recipe so I can put it together in less than two minutes. The pan is non stick inside and so I never wash it. The bread falls out and it is as clean as it started.

    I used several times a day all one long winter. After the machine cooled down I would set it up again to make a little loaf for after school snack and then again for rolls for dinner or a pizza crust and if my kids were lucky maybe even doughnuts for dessert.

    Thanks for the laugh. It's nice to know that Those of us who sometimes struggle in the kitchen are not alone.

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  13. Well, that was an interesting blog and breakfast–time to get those pretty eyes checked. I can't even imagine substituting a frozen sausage link for a frozen banana. I suppose it depends how long it has been in there!! As others have asked, will the children really want another smoothie in the future? I'd be a little leary about it myself. What a funny blog to read down the road in a couple of years, especially for the younger ones. Reading replies from your other blogging friends made me laugh as well. Times have changed re: the food menu. What's for dinner?

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  14. So funny. I loved the commenters' stories about the barbecue ice cream sauce and the cinnamon instead of cumin too (and I guess the moral of that one, since they still ate it, is that college students are more starved than little kids?) Also, Rebecca's story about the purple New England dinner is vindicates me for strenuously insisting that my husband not add purple cabbage in a vegetable soup a while ago–I think I was drawing on a subconscious memory of a cooking adventure of my own, but now I have a second witness.

    I sure do relate to not feeling like cooking–I'm already dreading the "What's for dinner?" question this evening. Maybe they'd be willing to eat cold cereal.

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  15. i will never again eat anything strange tasting without thinking: frozen banana, dentist, gristle, sausage

    Thank you for the post, laughed out loud!

    i have been in food prep slump too!

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  16. I am still laughing! Actually, I laughed enough that I am sure I woke my sleeping husband in the next room! Ironically, I just finished scouting the internet for ideas to include in a handout for my Beehives tomorrow night. Seeing the word "smooth(ie) peaked my interest! Our class activity is Spendiferous Summertime Snacks and one of the things we are doing is making smoothies! Wait till I share that story tomorrow night!

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  17. With summer so hot, it is definitely hard to think of cooking — even pasta salad takes BOILING something in an already hot house — EEWWWW!
    Barbecueing is fun — but it's so hot out! 🙂
    Having everybody home for the summer makes the food fatigue run rampant — how many times/ways can you eat noodles anyway!?!
    Aaargh!

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  18. Reminds me, too, of the summer my mom made "spice bread," as she called it. We loved it until my sister saw "little green things" in it. Our first (and her last, for a while) zucchini encounter :-)!

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  19. Classic.

    My fave story like this is my dad's from his mission. Made homemade mac-n-cheese, but instead of using evaporated milk, he used sweetened condensed.

    He ate it to protect his pride. His comps and roommates? Not on your life.

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  20. Hilarious! I can SO relate.
    I dumped too much garlic powder into a stew once when we were first married–oops! And a cheese cake I made with whipped cream cheese rather that the square packages turned out disgusting–I spit it out just before my DH was going to take a bite and he said "Does that mean I don't have to eat it?"

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  21. Holy crapa-moly! I was going to comment early on in the piece when I saw myself in your shoes. The cereal-free cereal shelf, the bread-free breadbox! SOOOO me sometimes. Love finding out that even if I'm not "normal" I'm at least in good company.

    Then the banana-sausage shake portion of your piece– absolutely the frosting on the cake. Or more appropriately the whipped cream and cherry on top of the smoothie. I would have loved to see your face when "My banana was a freaking sausage" became your smoothie reallity. Segullah rocks!

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