Sunday, March 17, 2013

Meet Jordan McAllister, Culinary Reporter for the Ranchero Globe

Did you ever look back on your life and want to just slap yourself?  Yeah, that pretty much describes how I felt explaining to my editor at the Ranchero Globe why I ended up in a small town fifty miles north of Dallas writing personals when I’d graduated several years before at the top of my class with a journalism degree.

Three words—a cheating fiancé. I didn't need the editor to remind me how stupid I'd been to put my own dreams of becoming a big-time sports reporter on hold while I followed the jerk all over Texas and watched his dream become reality.

So, here I am in Ranchero, Texas, writing personals and helping desperate women hook up after reading some redneck’s lies about himself. Loves to dance? Right. Probably doesn't have a job, either and still lives with his mother—thinking Norman Bates here. Needless to say, my expectations of ever being in another relationship were in the toilet.

I was beginning to think I would have to crawl back to Amarillo and listen to my parents and four brothers tell me they told me so—until my editor called me into his office. Seems the culinary reporter had been in a ski accident and would be out for six weeks rehabbing both a broken hip and arm. Needless to say, I jumped on it, despite the fact I couldn't cook myself out of macaroni and cheese box.

Did I mention my four older brothers? They’d needed me to even up the sides every day after school when they played flag football with my dad in the front yard.  Granted, I can throw a razor-sharp touchdown pass from fifty yards out, but I have yet to cook a grilled cheese sandwich without burning it. Consequently, my diet consists of fried bologna sandwiches, fast food, and Hostess Ho Hos, which I equate to Prozac.

How hard would it be to write about food as long as I didn't have to actually cook it, I thought.  No sooner had I signed on the dotted line—why, I'll never know since the man informed me there would be no increase in my already measly salary, and I still had to write the personals—that I began having serious second thoughts.

Then the editor informs me my job also includes an occasional restaurant critique, and in fact, my first one would be that night at a newly reopened steakhouse on the outskirts of town. Now might be a good time to tell you I hate steak and all fancy food. Since I had the sinking feeling I wouldn't see nachos and mozzarella sticks on the menu, I prayed at least there would be chicken.

Wearing hand-made jewelry and carrying a borrowed purse from Rosie Larue, my hippie neighbor who sold the stuff on eBay, I knew immediately after scanning the menu that I was in trouble.

"What on here isn’t red meat?" I asked the hunky waiter, explaining I was watching my cholesterol.

"Foie gras," he said. "I've never tasted it myself, but that guy over there orders every week. At this price, it has to be good."

I figured since I wasn't getting a boost in my salary, the newspaper could cough up the extra bucks for my meal. But as soon as the waiter set the plate in front of me, I knew I had made a big mistake. There was no way I could eat the foie gras, especially after hearing it was really fatty duck liver. When I thought no one was looking, I shoved the entrée into Rosie's purse, thinking I had just pulled off the con of the century.

Or did I?

This is from the first book in the Clueless Cook Series and gives y’all a look at the main character, who is very much like me. Well, unless you mention that she’s skinny and has great hair…and she’s young! Sigh! I meant we have the same eating habits. I grew up eating fried bologna and casseroles. As a matter if fact, most of the recipes in the back of all three books in the series are my own. And although I have never slid any yukky food into my purse, I have spit stuff out in a napkin.

What about you? What do you do when you eat something that you know you can’t swallow? Do you act like a grown-up and swallow it anyway?


  1. A local Kosher Pizza place is "under new management". I told them I hoped the pizza would be better then the old guys made. I was assured that it was..

    I ordered a slice of Sicilian pizza and took a bite.. It was like biting into air.. nothing to it.. they used too much yeast and it ruined it. I walked to the door where the garbage can was and very pointedly tossed it in the garbage, $3.00 right into the can.

  2. I'm not very picky, but things happen, like laughing so hard my drink comes out my nose...

  3. Napkins work better than a purse. I know, believe me. I am not going to eat something I can't stand. It's one thing to find yourself surprised that you like something you never thought you would. It's something else when it turns out you don't, whether it's something you didn't expect or something that was badly made.

  4. @Nora - I hate when I am so excited to try something and it's terrible. Good for you for making a point. Did you ever go back to see if it got better? There is no excuse for bad pizza in NY!!!

    @Willow - That actually happens to my heroine in Liver let Die. I've done it, too, and it burns.

    @Diane - Mostly, I do this when I get meat that has gristle or fat. Yuk! I am more like my heroine than I want to think.
    Sigh! If only I had her gorgeous curly red hair. In Murder For The Halibut, Jordan does the napkin thing when she's judging a culinary contest.

    Thanks for commenting, guys.

  5. Paper napkins might work better than a purse, but it occurs to me the restaurant might not appreciate your using their cloth napkins ... [laughs] No, I generally know what I'm ordering at a restaurant, so discovering the dish is horrible isn't generally an issue. Things like that slice of pizza ... I'd have taken it home and added stuff to it. That's why I always carry zip-lock plastic bags with me: left-overs and do-overs. Never waste food, never.

    The one exception was when the veg of the day was Brussel's sprouts. Since the chef was one I trusted, I decided I'd gather up all my courage and test out what the pro-spouts contingent has been insisting: that I'd simply never had them prepared properly. Well, took one nibble ... couldn't get myself to the nearest restroom fast enough, let me tell you. (Didn't help that the nearest one was one for The Opposite Gender, but, hey, emergencies is emergencies ... ) I still try never to waste food, but I will maintain to my dying day that Brussels sprouts aren't food. [wry grin]--Mario R.

  6. Love the Brussel's Sprouts story, Mario. I have never personally tasted them, but I suspect my reaction would be the same as yours. I also love the idea of carrying zip lock bags to restaurants. One of my favorite things to do is to get a doggy bag and take home a favorite to figure out how to make it myself. A few of those recipes are included in my books.

    And although I hate wasting food, Nora made a point.. Hopefully, management acted on it.

  7. O dear, I actually do love Brussels sprouts, but I do dislike their smell. And believe me or not, it does matter for the taste if they have actually been grown somewhere in winter, and have been frozen on the land before harvesting. It is after all a winter vegetable. Just like kale.

    I love going out to dinner to a bit fancy restaurants, and order things I don't know. Most of the times I enjoy my picks, but sometimes I really dislike it. If so, I won't eat it, and just send it back to the kitchen with my apologies. It was not something the chef did, I just wanted to know what it was and did not like it. Sometimes I order something different, most of the times I just order a nice desert instead.

  8. I used to work with a woman from China who knew I like Chinese food. She brought me an authentic dish for lunch one day ad when I opened it up it had octopus tentacles in it. It didn't taste bad - it was just like chewing rubber bands. I don't think octopus reheats well in the microwave. Anyway I ate it all since I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

    I like Brussels sprouts too. A lot depends on how they are cooked. My favorites are the Green Giant microwave ones in butter sauce.

  9. I do sometimes eat octopus, but not the tentacles, uck. And yes, it is very rubbery, that is not the microwaves fault.

    You can of course drown the sprouts in a cheese sauce, that way you won't taste them too much. I like them with a little nutmeg sprinkled on.