Monday, October 22, 2007

Homework & Tuna Casserole

I'm currently taking a class at UCLA Extension on Food Writing. It's been interesting, disheartening and frustrating all at the same time. We've had visits from some accomplished and well-known food writers and editors and the question always arises, "So, does your (insert publication name here) accept freelance?" and the invariable answer is a solid NO. Or, in some cases, NO - unless you're really well-known.

See what I mean about disheartening? Frustrating? But its not every day that you get to listen to Russ Parsons of the LA Times talk about how he develops recipes and conducts interviews, so it is interesting. And if it forces me to post more often, then it can't be all bad. Here it is - my first homework assignment: Describe a food memory in 250 words.

I’ve always loved to eat, though not necessarily to cook. There were times during my childhood in which I considered changing my last name to Stouffer’s, if only to make me closer to my then-favorite frozen lasagna. As a child, I didn’t realize there was cooking involved because I was more concerned with the end product. There wasn’t a meatloaf I didn’t like or a dinner I wouldn’t eat except for one: Tuna Casserole.

I curse the individual who first ruined a perfectly good noodle with the addition of canned fish, cheese and condensed cream of mushroom soup. How my mother found the inspiration to combine this foul concoction from the contents of our well-stocked, walk-in pantry eludes me, and how any of us survived the fishy stench emanating from the oven boggles the mind. It looked like a baking dish of gray baby spittle, the texture and color of freshly-mixed wet cement. Spooned out onto my plate, it lost its shape and oozed into my iceberg wedge and dared to mix with the Ranch dressing. The first bite -my only bite- revealed a dozen slimy mushroom pellets that slipped between my teeth when I tried to bite down. The potato chip topping sliced the roof of my delicate 7 year old mouth and as I swallowed, I remembered where I had tasted this once before. Tuna casserole tastes like Kindergarten paste. There would be no second bite. Not today, not ever - because I would learn to cook.


bri said...

God I love your writing. I think you should throw tradition to the wind and just make this your bio.

christianne said...

well, that makes one of you. this piece got reamed at my class! yikes.

Wen-D said...

Maybe it wasn't your prose that was bad (I didn't think so at least, it was kinda funny) maybe your teacher just really likes tuna casserole and has fond memories of it and was just pissed at you for slamming it so much. Or maybe, like you, hates tuna casserole and could pretty much sum it up as "Tastes like shit" and didn't think it was worth describing it with so many words. At least your mother made it like it was supposed to be made. My mother took the semi-homemade shortcut and would just dump a can of tuna, and not the good white tuna, no, the real stinky kind that has the brown stuff in it, into a pot of already made Kraft macaroni & cheese and then add a can of peas. How gross is that!