As a writer, I do a lot of crazy things in the name of research. I've told you about some of the things I've done--like learning how to process wool. The whole deal is a pain in the butt, and I'm so glad I can just buy my yarn from Walmart. I've also learned how to nalbind, which is a process similar to knitting or crocheting, and tablet weave (as the name suggests, a form of weaving).
But this past week, I had some friends do the research for me.
My sister loves to cook, and she's very good at it. We have a mutual friend whom we'll call Jane for the sake of privacy. Jane also likes to cook. And since I've been meaning to cook something in the name of research for a while, I decided to try some good old-fashioned delegation.
I challenged my sister and Jane to a cooking competition with a twist: whoever made the most disgusting dish won.
If you've read Where the Clouds Catch Fire (which you can purchase by clicking the "purchase" tab above), you'll know that Alynn McNeil is a terrible cook. She can make oatmeal without a hitch, usually, and she's mastered a few soup recipes. But when it comes to being creative and making do when supplies are low, our heroine falls short. And she doesn't just fall short, she falls flat on her face, because she's also clumsy. And the kitchen is a very bad place to be clumsy in.
In the book, when Alynn runs out of oats to make oatmeal with, she tries to substitute parsnips. Now parsnips are similar to carrots, but they're white, and they have the faintest hint of radish-y spice to them. Originally, Alynn was going to ruin the mixture by accidentally adding yarrow, which I've also referenced quite a bit in my blogs. Yarrow stops bleeding, so it's nice to have in the kitchen with all those knives around, especially if you're clumsy like Alynn. However, yarrow is also extremely bitter, and it can resemble parsley when you're in a hurry.
When Jane and my sister made parsnip porridge to see if yarrow would really ruin the mixture, I also gave them a list of other ingredients they could use. It was a short list--salt, pepper, parsley, onions, and garlic--but Alynn wouldn't have had much else on hand. Even pepper was pushing it, because it was only available via trade with India and the Middle East at the time.
I went upstairs and lost myself in a library book until I heard my sister's voice; "Lukas, breakfast is ready!" I smiled and headed downstairs to find two bowls filled with something that looked like lumpy mashed potatoes. There was also a glass of water and a trash can, just in case.
I took a bite from the first bowl and about died. I didn't think my kidneys would be able to process all the salt I'd just eaten. Have you ever drunk salt water? That's nothing compared to the saltiness of what that bowl contained.
We ended up giving a spoonful of it to my dog, but we didn't want to mess up her thyroid, so we chucked the rest of it into an empty field. Turns out my sister had made that first disgusting bowl. The second, the one Jane made, was a bit more palatable. The texture really wasn't all that bad, and I can see myself using unsalted parsnips in dishes sometime in the future.
Needless to say, I did a bit of editing that evening.
What's the most disgusting dish you've ever eaten? Have you ever eaten a parsnip? If not, will this blog post encourage or discourage you from doing so? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers. Have a wonderful day, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.