Aside

Could I Blame My Mother-in-Law?

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.  Here’s this week’s column:

It would’ve been so easy to blame all this on my mother-in-law.

It was, after all, her chocolate pie recipe that reduced me to tears this week.

Looking back, the true challenge was feeling worthy and getting caught up in trying to impress.  Maybe you can relate?

This started with our neighborhood’s upcoming first ever block party. Our house was to be the dessert stop.  I organized all this, so there was no one to blame but myself. For the party. For the idea. For the pressure of yes, trying to impress the neighbors. “She writes, she runs a household, she organizes parties, and boy, can she bake!” I imagined them saying.

I knew just what to make.

My mother-in-law’s chocolate pie.

This is no ordinary chocolate pie.

From the day I met my husband and daughter they have waxed poetic about “Gommie’s Chocolate Pie.” How it’s the chocolatiest, best ever pie ever.

With only a year of marriage under my belt, dare I ask for the recipe?

“I have a big ask,” I said as I phoned small town Texas. “Would you be willing to share your chocolate pie recipe?”

The chuckle in her voice told me she was thrilled I wasn’t calling with bad news and being the generous soul that she is, that she would love to share.

And so she started firing off the list of ingredients and instructions. “And this part is so easy,” she instructed. “You make the filling in microwave.  You don’t even bother with getting a pot dirty.”

“Perfect!” I said thanking her profusely. Easy and no mess. Exactly what I was looking for.

Until, that is, I started.

The chocolate filling should’ve thickened after a few minutes in the microwave..

It did not.

The less it thickened, the more I zapped.

The more I zapped, the less it thickened.

I launched into battle with this chocolate goo. My mother-in-law whips this pie out in her sleep. Surely, should be able to do the same.

I finally had to give up and poured what was left of this reduced lump of gummy brown glue into the pie shell.

It filled up about a third of the crust.

“This is terrible!” my family exclaimed. “What are these lumps?”

I think I made my husband homesick for his Mommy. My daughter looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

As my family laughed away at my chocolate pie disaster, I excused myself, went upstairs, and between you and me—I cried.

Not so much because of the pie. More because I’d been found out.

Have you ever had a dream come true, only to know deep down you probably don’t deserve it?

My new family now knew the truth about me. All because of this chocolate pie.

Even though I now make dinner every night, my dirty little secret is I don’t know how to cook.

Well, for most of my life I didn’t know. It was so bad my immediate family only let me do dishes on Thanksgiving.

But about 5 years ago, I started with small training wheel kind of steps like trying recipes for one in a crock pot. By time I met my future husband three years ago, I could pass as someone who could kind of cook.

But this disaster of a chocolate pie was bringing it all back. Like the fat person who lost 400 pounds, looks in the mirror and still sees fat.

Maybe this is the real me. Someone who can’t make a simple chocolate pie. Maybe I’m meant to be a lonely single girl after all.

Yes, from here, this all might sound dramatic. You, however, didn’t see the pile of chocolate goo.

I wiped my tears and got practical.

My friend, Lisa, says in a crisis we all revert to type. I went back to being the girl who can’t cook. I bought a cake from the supermarket bakery, ice cream, and fixin’s for sundaes. I was embarrassed to put it out.

Until, that is I saw what a hit my dessert offerings were.

“You’re brilliant!” my neighbors declared. “How did you know to keep things so simple?”

Lessons learned: Don’t get my self-worth by trying to impress others and always let my mother-in-law make the chocolate pie.

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