Sunday, February 12, 2012

How a Pork Tenderloin Saved My Life - Part 1

It was this  time last year that I decided to "get out of my own ruts" and enter a recipe contest called Recipe to Riches, which became a decision that ultimately changed my life. And now with season 2 auditions in Vancouver just on the horizon, I have decided to go back to my roots and share this ongoing memoir of my life in the contest lane.

I hope you enjoy...

How a Pork Tenderloin Saved my Life - Part 1


There is an indentation that runs right up the middle of all of our palms called the fate line that, according to legend, dictates the nature of our journey through life. Mine has a break right in the middle on both palms, as though I was destined to travel along on one course, and then midway through, suddenly shift gears and begin a whole new path.

I know the exact moment my fate line began to split; and though it happened with far more whimper than bang, the stars aligned and ignited something in me that would lead me to a pork tenderloin, and an experience that would eventually change  my life.

***

It was a Saturday night in February of 2011, and I was sitting on the couch aimlessly searching through the TV channels as my husband Vaughan snored contentedly down the hall.

Although there was a time in my not so distant past when the thought of sitting around in flannel   pyjamas on a Saturday evening with a half eaten tub of Ben and Jerry's by my side would have evoked terror, I had somehow settled into a life of well worn ruts and grooves so narrow and so deep that it wasn't only difficult to conceive of climbing out, I didn't even know I was buried to my neck.

One son, two birds, several hamsters, two cats, and a dog later, Vaughan and I found ourselves in uncharted territory: Empty nesters in our mid forties with absolutely no idea what the next half of our lives would bring.

Gone were the days of bake sales and birthday parties, waiting in terror for our teenager to come home with the car, or standing for hours in the rain on a sports field watching, forever watching, as little boys turned into men before our eyes.

First haircuts, first steps, first words, first day of school, first job, and first apartment - each milestone bringing fresh waves of grief as we smiled at our child's excitement and blinked back tears vowing we would never be one of "those" parents.

No one informed us going in that having children would involve the endless saying of goodbye and though we are repeatedly told when they are young to hold the moments tight because they go by so fast, few of us ever do.

We can't wait until our kids can sleep through the night, go potty, make their own toast, or drive.

But when the day finally arrives and they drive off for good - time, in retrospect, takes on new meaning as we realize the finality of moments - and from the vantage point of twenty years gone, I took this as a lesson: The next 20 years, if I was so blessed to have them, would be lived.

But that isn't where I was at, exactly, that Saturday evening in front of the TV. Oh sure, there had been ambiguous resolutions made at the start of the new year to take more chances and get out of my own ruts, but unless switching brands of paper towel could be considered life changing; I was still deep in my own sense of denial and living life vicariously through my favourite TV shows.

Our son Matthew had not only moved out of the house, he had gone to another city.  In one day, the entire fabric of our home and family life had changed, and we were expected to pick up and carry on as though nothing had happened.

It occurs to me now that the twenty five pounds I gained after he left home, and the multitude of casseroles and baked goods I cooked and froze for his return were connected to grief.

Some people medicate with alcohol or pills. I chose pie crust – and clicked over to the Food Network in the hopes Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives might be on.

I was really only half watching - multi tasking with my laptop tucked securely onto my knees - when an advertisement came on that caught my attention: "Calling all cooks," the announcer's voice said, "Are you a home cook with a recipe you would like to share? If so Food Network Canada wants to hear from you!"

My attention was immediately grabbed.

Food Network Canada was hosting a cooking competition called Recipe to Riches where the winning recipe would receive a huge cash prize and the competing cooks would get to appear in an actual Food Network television show!

To say there were stars in my eyes would be an understatement because from the second I heard about the competition, it was ON!  

For years I had been hosting an imaginary cooking show from my kitchen, striking a variety of poses as I mashed potatoes and described their desired consistency while dreaming of an alternate reality where people tuned in once a week to see myself as Food Network Star, looking fabulous while preparing four course dinners and cocktails for an ever changing array of guests.

In reality, I worked for a crisis center and routinely delivered education programs to local high schools where I was now known as “The Crisis Lady,” – a position I cared a great deal about but one that, after so many years of giving my heart and soul, had left me feeling somewhat worn out.

Students in school hallways all over the district would go silent as I walked past them, social groups parting like the red sea, whispering in hushed tones “The Crisis Lady” as I dreamed of a gentler existence of cooking wild rice casserole and holiday appetizers for legions of adoring fans.

***

The next day I began thinking about the kind of recipe I would submit.

With several categories to choose from, I went back and forth between appetizers and entrees, finally deciding on a recipe for chilli con carne made with turkey chilli topped with a sweet potato cornbread mixture.

Not only was I certain the dish was a winner after having made it many times over the years, I was excited to present a food item that was not only tasty it was also very healthy.

I submitted the recipe and a video and then waited in hopeful anticipation for the phone to ring - and two days before the open calls in Vancouver I received a call from Toronto! It was one of the field directors for the show letting me know they liked me, but that they felt turkey chilli con carne was not creative enough for the contest.

I was asked to come up with something different - perhaps a twist on the original recipe as an appetizer - but I only had until the end of the day to submit something suitable. Further to that, it had to be a dish that could be made ahead and frozen.

Terrified my future as a celebrity was ending before it had even begun, I took to my bed (the place I have traditionally always done my best thinking) and wracked my brains, trying to come up with a winning idea that would wow the judges. And then it hit me: At Christmas that year I had baked peanut butter cup cookies in mini muffin pans.

What if I lined individual mini muffins with healthy sweet potato cornbread, spooned a little turkey chilli con carne into each cup, and then topped the cups with more cornbread – thus making delectable little mini-muffins?

Further to that, what if I called them Gobblers?

*cue the thunderbolts*

Inspired by the powers of my culinary creativity, I threw down the gauntlet and got cooking to see if the idea was going to work.  But time was at a premium and there was no way I was going to to be able to hit the grocery store, whip up a chilli, and put it all together with photographs of the finished product before my end of day deadline.

I had no other recourse than to create a dummy version of The Gobbler and decided on prototype using pork and beans as the filling instead of chilli to see if the muffins would actually hold together as I had hoped and at exactly 30 minutes until deadline, I pulled them out of the oven.

They were perfect. And though I will not comment on taste, my 6’2 husband had just walked in the door and, starving after a long day working on a construction site, ate half the batch as is.



(These are the actual fake gobblers )

I took a few quick pictures of what was left, re-adjusted the chilli recipe (without actually trying it), and sent everything back to Food Network Canada in an email – hoping this time my recipe would impress – and sure enough, within the hour I had secured an audition time...

***

Click here for  Part 2 of our saga!

We have only just begun!!!

***
Tomorrow I will be sharing a step by step video for my delicious Pork Scallopini with Wild Mushroom Gravy - you don't want to miss it!

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If you missed yesterday's Jambalaya video, check it out here...

31 comments:

  1. You write beautifully and you have a cliff hanger here.

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    1. I am so incredibly appreciative and glad you enjoyed this! Stay tuned :-) There is lots to come...

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  2. I was just talking about you last night to a friend. Three of us were playing with my Ouiji Board. Remember it? I was telling the story about you trying out the word "medicinal" at the drive in with my family. "I need to eat popcorn for Medicinal Purposes." lol
    My friend asked me if you became a writer.

    I said, of course. A brillant one.

    Love you Lynds...

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    1. Cin, I was just thinking about you today as Vaughan and I filmed tomorrow's blog :-) I was remembering you telling me "We need to see more of the food" - wise words! Thank you for commenting - I'm so excited to have you come along on this adventure. Who knows... you might just have a very special role in this story...

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    2. I would love that for you!!!!!!!
      xo

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  3. Love this story, Lyndsay! Very well written, and I can't wait to read the rest of it! :)

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    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying it Jeanine - it's fun to write!

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  4. I can relate, I too medicate with pie crust! I am still 10 years away from the empty nest though.

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  5. Lundsay, I love the way your write. You had me right there with you on the couch, with the Ben and Gerry's, LOL. So, great to get a glimpse at someone else journey in the cooking contest world. Can't wait to read part 2!!

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  6. P.S. I really do know how to spell your name.... LOL

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    1. I kind of like Lundsay :-) I can't wait to start introducing each of you to the story.

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  7. Oh how I've missed your blogs! I'm glad to see your back to writing your stories again.

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    1. Hi Pam!!! Thanks for commenting - it's nice to be back writing! I think this is going to be fun.

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  8. Hi Lyndsay,
    It is so nice to see you today, I always love your post and this is a great post! Hope you are having a great day and thanks for sharing!
    Miz Helen

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    1. Thanks Miz Helen. It's great to see you and fun to be getting back into blogging. Have a great week!

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  9. LYNDSAY...

    DO U HAVE ANY IDEA HOW COMFORTING AND EXCITING IT IS 2 HAVE MY VERY DEAR, FAMILIAR FRIEND BACK AT THE BLOGGING GAME?

    GURL!

    THO I HAVE SO BEEN ENJOYING THE NEW PATH U HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING, TRUTH 2 TELL, MY HEART HAD A GIANT HOLE IN IT WHERE MY BUDDY AND FELLOW BLOGGER 'MAVEN' HAD MADE HER OWN SPECIAL PLACE IN MY LIFE THAT I WAS FULLY CONFIDENT WOULD LAST 4 EVAH!

    THIS IS JUST ENUFF OF THE OLD 2 BLEND AND MARRY WITH THE NEW AND MAKE EVERY BLOG, RECIPE, AND VIDEO FEEL LIKE CHRISTMAS 2 THIS VERY LONESUM SOUL!

    WELCOME BACK, HUN!

    AND OF COURSE, AS ALWAYS, A HARDY 'TOWANDA' 2 CHRISTEN THIS NEW BLOG!

    ~ERIN~

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    1. Thanks Erin, I've definitely adopted a bit of a new style but I'm hoping that people who stop by to read continue to enjoy!

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  10. Lyndsay I am on the edge of my seat! I can't wait to hear the rest!!!

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    1. I am so excited to share this with everyone! And the story has only just begun :-) Thanks for your support Cathy!!

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  11. Great story Lyndsay...wow..your writing is good!! Keep it up girl!
    Nice blog!

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  12. Miriam, thanks so much!! I love you and thank you so much for the support!

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  13. Very excited and happy for you! Wonderful story that many of us can relate to. Love your creativity and ambition!

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    1. Thank you so much! The story has only just begun - I hope you continue to enjoy it!

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  14. You already know I am a big fan. You always bring such heart and wit to everything you write. I will be following this feature with pleasure. You are such a beautiful writer.

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  15. Wonderful!!!!! Love every bit of it!!!!!!

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  16. Lyndsay, i can't wait for your next post! You see I too went through something similar and now....have my own show on The Food Channel called Chat 'n Dish! I know I'll be seeing great things from you!!!!!

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  17. Wonderful.... you seem to be more of a writer than a cook. Your way of writing has really touched my heart and your recipes seem to be really good too.I havent tried them yet.Keep it up.....

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  18. Thank you so much! Your kind words are greatly appreciated :-)

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  19. OMG, the pork loin story is so intriging. I also love the way you write. You have given me so many ideas for my YT channel. I'm really not a copy cat but I believe that nothing is just happenstance. Who knew that we would find each other and start chatting. You are very good for the ego. I will continue to eat,pray and love. GrandmaCheapCheap aka Marty

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  20. I am so intrigued by your writings. You give me mega ideas for my YT channel and maybe even a blog. You are such a good cookie. Who knew we would find each other. GrandmaCheapCheap aka Marty

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