The ground turkey was about to expire. That’s really the only reason I started making a Mexican casserole. Later, when it was all assembled and about to go into the oven, I sent a text message to a friend: “Right now I’m cooking something that no one in my family will eat, including me, and I’m becoming more depressed with each passing moment.”
This is not the type of message one should be texting on New Year’s Eve.
My youngest son is a picky eater, loathe to try new things even at 14. Still, I thought I might have a shot with this – packed as it was with tortillas and cheese – but at the last minute I added black beans, which I knew would extinguish any possibility.
My husband, I just learned, also now avoids black beans, but even if he didn’t, the casserole contained salsa, which is made of tomatoes, which are verboten for his blood type, as he is an Eat Right For Your Blood Type zealot. Whether you buy into that premise or not, I’ve watched him go from eczema laden to eczema free after giving up a few key foods, so I don’t scoff. Much.
The fact is, all four of us have different blood types and our natural predilections bear the theory out: there are very few single meals all of us enjoy. I think Shrimp Scampi might be the only one. Still, my older son would probably have eaten the cheesy casserole, even with his latent dairy allergy, but he was away for the week and I was sure I’d have thrown the casserole away by the time he returned.
There’s no real good reason for me not to eat this casserole as it contains a few of my most coveted foods (cheese and tortillas), except that I feel like I’ve become really fat over the last few days and indulging in my favorites does not easily fit into the rules of abstemiousness that I so tenaciously cling to.
“Do you want to try my Mexican casserole before you go out?” I asked my 14-year-old. He looked at me as if I’d suggested he drink gasoline. “I think you might like it.” (I had little to lose by pressing.)
He countered with a firm, “No.”
I could have made something entirely different with the ground turkey, something with marinara sauce that I would have spooned over quinoa pasta and not hated myself for eating, but instead I chose this casserole and I’m still not sure why. Even as I opened the oven door to pop it in, I was chastising myself for wasting perfectly good food, envisioning, as I was, scraping the whole thing into the garbage the next morning.
After the casserole cooked, cooled and had been refrigerated, I dropped my 14-year-old off at a New Year’s Eve party and my husband and I went to a dinner party nearby where I ate a virtuous (cheeseless) vegetable-only dinner and scurried off to the living room alone when dessert was served. At half past midnight, my son sent word that he was heading back to our house with some friends and my husband left our party to meet them there. I got into an engaging conversation on my way out the door and ended up staying for another hour.
When I pulled back into our driveway it was 1:45 a.m. Before I even got out of the car, I received a text message from my son: “Where are you?”
I hurried into the house, reading into his question some sort of peril, but found him and his friends in the TV room playing a video game, not a peril in sight. “Is something wrong?” I asked.
“Yes. We’re really hungry. Can you make us food?”
“It’s two in the morning,” I said, a statement that was not only inarguable but also fully conveyed my lack of enthusiasm for meal preparation. “Plus, I don’t even know what we have in the house to eat…”
And then I remembered the casserole.
I addressed my son’s friends directly. “Say, do any of you guys want some Mexican casserole?” I was about to launch into a small sales pitch but there was no need. Their eyes had already widened and I could detect salivary glands coming to attention. I heated it up and watched our three guests devour it. “This is really good,” one of the boys said to my son. “Why don’t you want any?”
My son and I exchanged glances, both of us acknowledging that I was claiming a sort of quiet victory, although one that would ultimately amount to nothing in my ongoing family feeding travails. Still, I took it as a good omen for the start of a new year.