Who’s to Blame for This?!

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I love Lidia Bastianich. Her cookbook Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen is my go-to reference for Bolognese sauce. Or shrimp scampi. Tonight, I wanted to try something new. It was a rare night when my husband, son, and I would all be home for dinner. And I had time to cook. So, a few nights ago I carefully flipped through Lidia’s book and found what I would try. “Breast of Chicken in a Light Lemon-Herb Sauce.” Seemed to be in the sweet spot I was looking for: within my cooking abilities (which, let’s face it, aren’t great) and a tad outside my comfort zone.

This recipe required meat prepping, something I’m not a fan of. I had to slice chicken breast. Then pound it to make it thin. OK, settle down all you accomplished cooks who do this all the time. Yes, it’s not that hard. But I avoid messing with meat. Because … ew. And I know I could have bought chicken tenders already nice and thin, but the regular chicken breasts were on sale.

ANYWAY, the point is, I was doing a cooking task that I typically avoid. And all seemed to be going along fine. I pounded out the chicken. Scattered my bread crumb mix on it and made little rolls carefully fastened with toothpicks. All per Lidia’s very clear instructions. Made the sauce that would go with it and baked per the instructions.

The smell was delightful—lemon, herbs, chicken. I was pretty darn pleased with myself. Until we sliced into the chicken. Raw at the center. Blech. Back in the oven. Another test. Still raw. Back in the oven. Check. Raw. Oven. By the end I had more than doubled the cooking time my beloved Lidia had promised! Things got desperate when I finally put my serving in the microwave. By then I didn’t want to eat it, and even though the chicken appeared cooked through, the texture suggested something less palatable.

My husband and son waited patiently for the chicken to be done, while I read and reread the recipe. Where had I gone wrong? What did I do? I could not find my mistake. Then it must be Lidia’s fault! But … my beloved Lidia. No, I couldn’t blame her.

Maybe it was just one of those things that can’t be pinned on anyone. Is it possible that no one was to blame?

We do that a lot, right. See the world in black and white. Relationships fizzle and we either blame the other person for rejecting us or ourselves for being inadequate. We stumble at a job and shake our fist at the unfair corporate structure or decide we must be incompetent. We seem rather comfortable in this all-or-nothing thinking even though it keeps us stuck in blame and self-criticism.

But life is more complicated, and our experiences don’t necessarily fall into easy-to-define buckets. Good vs. bad. Right vs. wrong.

In the end, I don’t know what happened with my chicken. I’m not a failure, and Lidia didn’t let me down. Chicken, ovens, baking pans—it’s all complicated. So I’ll try again, sometime. But maybe a veggie dish next time...

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