It's 3 p.m. and I'm standing in my parents' kitchen, frantically trying to learn how to blanch a tomato in time to get dinner on the table at a decent hour, and it's all Kris Jenner's fault.
But let's start at the beginning.
I read Kris Jenner's In the Kitchen With Kris: A Kollection of Kardashian and Jenner Family Recipes in one sitting on a train from Portland to Seattle, and was immediately itching to try my hand at making a few dishes. The super-ambitious recipes were tempting, since everyone loves a good swordfish steak, but I opted for dishes I'd theoretically have time to prepare on a weeknight if I liked them enough to make them again.
They were: Kris's Spicy Tomato Salsa; Iceberg Wedges With Green Goddess Dressing; Bruce's Meatloaf and Mashies (I thought it was important to choose both a Kris and a Bruce recipe to make it clear that I'm not taking sides in the divorce); and Brownies. With a menu set, I needed a few mouths to feed, and with Kris's emphasis on family first and foremost, I knew just who to cook for: my mom and dad. (Use of their dishwasher and gorgeous kitchen were just an added bonus.) As they are about most of my career choices, they were baffled but supportive, especially since it gave them the opportunity to not have to cook on a weeknight.
Without further ado, a brief rundown of the toll that kooking like a Kardashian can have on a person.
11:05 a.m. Enter grocery store. Have first surge of "I've made a terrible mistake."
12:07 p.m. Finally make it to the checkout. Spend just over $77 and sulk briefly. I'm notoriously cheap about groceries and try to spend less than $100 each week. Even the USDA's most "liberal" weekly meal plan for single-lady households (Put your hands up!) recommends spending $76.30 for that time period.
1:15 p.m. Start on the brownies.
2 p.m. Complete brownies; lick food processor parts in a way that can only be described as "animalistic."
2:12 p.m. Start salsa. My father heads upstairs for a nap, leaving me free to listen to pop music of questionable quality.
2:14 p.m. Try to peel a tomato with a vegetable peeler. Fail. Google "peel tomato"; learn about blanching. Despair. Somehow spend the next hour peeling, seeding, and chopping just two tomatoes.
3:17 p.m. Spend over an hour cutting salad dressing herbs. Resolve to take a knife skills class. Announce that we'll likely be eating between 8 and 9 p.m.
4:24 p.m. My mother gets home from work. Within just over an hour, the salad dressing is done, the mashed potatoes are ready, and the meatloaf is in the oven. Moms are the best. My dad, very genuinely apologetic, says later that he hadn't offered to help because he'd thought of it like an 11th grade science project — the sort of thing you can't get parental help with — and makes it up to me by doing the dishes. Dads are also the best.
5:30 p.m. Appetizer time!
Kris's Spicy Tomato Salsa
In the cookbook, Kris encourages chefs to think "outside the tortilla chip bag" when preparing this salsa, but since that's literally my favorite bag, I ignore her. We dig in, and the spice is overwhelming almost immediately — with a tablespoon each of red pepper flakes and Tabasco, that's understandable. But the kick is really all there is to it. There's a lot of spice, but not a particularly full flavor.
"It'd be great with a big, ripe summer tomato," says my dad. I tell him the grocery store didn't have beefsteak tomatoes, like the recipe recommended, so I'd had to substitute. "Then you should make it clear that it's probably the tomato's fault, not the cookbook's!" my mom cautions.
I crankily sit around and wonder why I'd blanched a tomato. For this? Really?
While we're eating, I give my parents — who didn't have the slightest inkling who the Kardashians were until I started borrowing their cable to recap Keeping Up With the Kardashians this summer — a rundown of who Kris Jenner is and why she wrote the cookbook. We flip through it together. They roll their eyes at mentions of Hermès place settings and her overcomplicated ingredient lists for foods that should be simple, like chicken pot pie. But they like the dedication, concurring that putting together a collection of recipes for her children and grandchildren seems like a lovely thing to do.
There's still a bit of time left until the salad dressing is steeped, so we all take a BuzzFeed quiz to find out which Kardashian we are: My mom is Kim, my dad is Khloé, and I'm Kourtney. This is actually pretty dead on.
Iceberg Wedges With Green Goddess Dressing
Let's be real: This salad doesn't look all that appetizing plated up. So my parents' initial reaction isn't all that optimistic. They admit to not having eaten iceberg lettuce in a really long time, saying that iceberg is "kind of the polyester of lettuce." But we all dig in anyway.
"The book said they like for their food to be a little water-y, right?" my mom asks. "So they feel full more quickly? This is definitely doing that." Kris mentions that eating food packed with both fiber and water is a good strategy for figure-watchers, but it makes the otherwise thick salad dressing, loaded with avocado and sour cream, feel thin.
I'm pretty finicky about food with too many flavors going on, and the mint, tarragon, and basil all together aren't doing it for me. "I think I'd make it without all these herbs," I say. "It'd still be green." My mother, vaguely scandalized, says "Well, yes, but it wouldn't be goddess."
Mom: 7/10 (She says it'd be a 9 if the dressing didn't have mint in it, and recommends it as a dip.)
Bruce's Favorite Meatloaf and Mashies
The meatloaf was a slight disaster from the beginning, since the recipe only called for one large loaf pan and, to quote my parents, "Our pans are too small! We haven't kept up with the Kardashians!" There's also no cooking time listed for it in the cookbook, and meatloaf isn't necessarily one of those dishes you can tell is ready just by looking at it.
We manage to avoid under- or overcooking the two loaves, but as we put them out to serve, my dad looks concerned. "I don't know," he says, "Kim would think these were pretty shrimpy." (He's really gotten in the spirit of it things for someone who didn't know Kim's name two hours ago.)
We all basically agree that the meatloaf is good, but not great — it's got a bit too much going on with two kinds of tomatoes, plus carrot, celery, and onion, which makes for a sort of irregular texture. All that vegetable chopping was pretty tedious, and in the end, it didn't add much to the dish. "Does the ketchup cheapen it?" my dad asks. (No.)
The mashed potatoes are a different story — I'd found some gorgeous russets at the grocery store and, blended with cream and butter, they're absolutely delicious. We're a family of snobs when it comes to mashed potatoes, but all agree we'd make them again, especially since the recipe is so fast and simple.
My assault of the batter-coated food processor earlier in the day was so rewarding that my hopes for the brownies themselves were pretty stratospheric — and they were met. We all go nuts for them. This says a lot: Brownies are probably my very favorite food, and my own recipe for them — a dramatically guarded secret — is famous among my friends and family.
My dad snaps a few pictures of the brownies, loads them on to his computer, and sighs, "Wow. There's an actual event in my events folder called 'Kardashians.'"
We eat our dessert slowly, rehashing the entire meal and wondering who the cookbook is really for. I explain that Kris doesn't do much cooking on her shows anymore, but it's clear through the stories she relates in the cookbook that this particular version of herself — the loving mom with boatloads of recipes and tablescapes for every occasion — is still really important to her, even if it's not the person she is in the present day.
Mom: 9.8/10 ("But I don't give anything a ten.")
I woke up this morning to an email from my mother with the subject line, "What's even better than cooking with the Kardashians?" and the body was short and simple: "Spending time with a wonderful daughter!"
Maybe that doesn't seem all that special, but it's a message I'll squirrel away in a folder with the other emails from friends and family I plan to save forever. Kris Jenner gave me six frustrating hours of tomato blanching, sore feet, tiny kitchen disasters, and wildly subpar salsa, but she gave me that gem of an email too. Thanks for that, Kris. And thank you for the brownies.