Fail­ure’s salty burn

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

You win some, you lose some. It’s been a while since I re­ally wrecked a din­ner. We all have those tales of burned casseroles, de­flated cakes, taste­less roasts. Th­ese mishaps can hap­pen to any­one — whether you’re go­ing rogue (er, off-recipe) or fol­low­ing Betty Crocker to a T.

In my case, it was to­tally user er­ror.

Now that I’m back in the swing of healthy eat­ing and have swapped my choco­late-stud­ded muffins for Greek yo­gurt, I’ve re­turned to hunch­ing over low-calo­rie recipe books on the week­ends. I’m al­ways look­ing for a tasty meal to put in the ro­ta­tion.

And quick ones, prefer­ably. Though my 9-month-old is eas­ily en­ter­tained by “The Mup­pets,” danc­ing ro­bots and toy re­motes, I still lack time to prep, chop and sauté for too long. Plus, c’mon: I’m hun­gry. My hus­band has been pretty re­laxed about our re­turn to a no-junk-al­lowed lifestyle. He has, after all, danced this jig with me be­fore. After one last cook­ies the farewell they de­served (I stuffed them in my face), I sent the ex­tra sweets — pounds of candy once meant for hol­i­day goodie bags — to work with Spencer. Ap­par­ently he’s quite pop­u­lar th­ese days.

When I feel tempted to slip back into old habits (and dive head­first into a bag of ket­tle chips), I think about how much Oliver al­ready watches what we do. He wants to hold what I’m hold­ing, eat what I’m eat­ing, drink what I’m drink­ing. Choices do mat­ter.

I mean, you should see this kid near a coffee mug. His cu­rios­ity is in­tense. Ol­lie prac­ti­cally swats the thing out of my hand ev­ery morning, re­quir­ing me to per­fect the “Don’t Touch Mommy’s Life-Giv­ing Elixir” eva­sive ma­neu­ver (patent pend­ing) al­ready.

As I sat down to make a meal plan for the week, I orig­i­nally left off the fish. Fish is sort of . . . a nec­es­sary evil to me. I like it in small doses, but re­main fear­ful of any­one show­ing up at our door after we’ve pre­pared it. I’m not against smelly meals — I mean, last week was pork and sauer­kraut — but there’s some­thing . . . off-putting about the lin­ger­ing odor of ti­lapia, you know?

But fish is good for you. A ver­sa­tile lean pro­tein and blah, blah, blah. Plus, be­ing a Mary­lan­der, I know I can al­ways coat it in Old Bay.

And that’s where my trou­bles be­gan.

You know those “all-pur­pose sea­son­ings” that sup­pos­edly marry well with chicken, fish or pork? They come in a big shaker, taunt­ing you with their prom­ises to add fla­vor and dis­tinc­tion to an oth­er­wise drab cut of meat pur­chased on clear­ance?

I fell prey to the siren call months ago, fol­low­ing an­other recipe I’ve since for­got­ten. Though I’m no stranger to blood pres­sure con­cerns (hello, preeclamp­sia!), I made the, um, in­ter­est­ing de­ci­sion not to come home with a salt-free sea­son­ing.

As I was sim­mer­ing ti­lapia fil­lets last week, I tried to muster up some en­thu­si­asm for my bor­ing din­ner. White fish and Brus­sels sprouts: a meal that would send our par­ents, all meat-and-pota­toes sorts, scram­bling for a pizza num­ber.

For me, stay­ing on a healthy track de­pends on va­ri­ety. New recipes, new snacks, new bev­er­age op­tions: al­ways dif­fer­ent. So I grabbed the all-pur­pose sea­son­ing and sprin­kled it on both sides, think­ing I was try­ing some­thing zesty.

After one bite, Spencer be­gan to cough. Fe­ro­ciously.

I cringed, im­me­di­ately sens­ing what had hap­pened. Why I couldn’t have con­sid­ered that, oh, 10 min­utes ear­lier . . . “Is it . . . too salty?” He took a swig of wa­ter and cleared his throat. “Um, the sprouts are de­li­cious!”

I pow­ered through my din­ner, but it was painful. And I was thirsty.

Let this be a les­son, my Mary­lan­ders: when in doubt, just Old Bay it.

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