• Carmen Marie Fabio

Freezer burn


While recently cleaning out the great big chest freezer, affectionately dubbed 'The Sopranos Model' for its large storage capacity, I happened upon two cups of frozen buttermilk left over from some previous cooking experiment. I hate to shoot anything out and knowing nobody in the house would drink buttermilk, I froze it for future use. This container was sitting conspiratorially adjacent to two plastic tubs of frozen cooked pumpkin, leftover from the Halloween purchase that never got carved into a jack-'o-lantern.

The equation led to a poorly judged decision to somehow combine the two in trying to make pumpkin cheese bread last Saturday evening. Like most bad decisions, especially those made with judgement clouded by white wine, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The freezer holds a number of ingredients sitting in limbo as I try and determine their eventual fate. I don't think of it as being cheap, but a necessity when it comes to feeding boys. Stale bread heels can be made into amazing croutons with the addition of a little olive oil, garlic, black pepper and grated Parmesan. Barbecue chicken carcasses get tossed into a large pot with leftover veggies for soup. Even leftover dips and salad dressings can be used in quiches. But of course, like most things in life, there are limits.

I remember a doctor friend once lamenting how some of her patients were taking advantage of the 'full body scans' offered in the United States. “If you go looking for stuff, you'll find it,” she warned, describing how the human body is filled with perfectly normal cysts and bumps that can cause the owner unfounded worry once discovered. Apparently, the medical term for these patients is VOMITs, or victims of medical information technology.

The same can be said of the internet. If you go looking for a recipe of virtually any ingredient combination, you'll likely find it and googling buttermilk pumpkin herbed cheese-bread on a white wine infused Saturday night resulted in a hit that looked perfectly legit. “I'm sure it'll work,” I reasoned. “It's on the internet.”

Though I always tell my kids it's okay to question things if something doesn't seem right, I ignored my own advice and blithely followed the recipe to a T, even doubling it to use up all the ingredients I'd pulled from their frozen purgatory. I didn't even blink at the enormous amount of oregano the recipe called for and in my judgementally compromised state, upped the cheese quotient.

A number of mistakes were made that evening but probably the biggest one was starting the project just before midnight and falling asleep on the couch while the loaves was baking.

They didn't burn but they certainly weren't a success either. The crust rose leaving a densely packed inedible layer beneath an air-bubble that had materialized within the loaf.

“Looks like a geode,” my husband commented the next morning.

My attempt at saving about $1.50 worth of buttermilk had cost me four eggs, six cups of flour, a chunk of good cheese and a large portion of my dignity.

“Pumpkin and cheese?” asked my middle son. “What were you thinking?”

The whole non-salvageable mess ended up in the garbage as I refused to even inflict it on the neighbourhood birds.

Good judgement comes from experience.

Experience comes from bad judgement.

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