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pretending you home-cooked it

I'm wondering what foods other chowhounds are saying you spent hours slaving over, when you really BOUGHT your thanksgiving contribution. I picked up a couple of quarts of creamed spinach at Sarges Deli on 3rd Ave, moved it into a piece of tupperware that isn't the kind you get with take-out, and I'm ready to go for t-day. just curious what suggestions you all have for next time! Liz

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  1. Ooooh, you ARE a lizardqueen!!! How sneaky of you. I do the reverse. Spend hours slaving over an apple pie and tell everyone it's a Mrs. Smiths ; ) Happy T-Day, Adam

    1. That's just....unfortunate.

      You understand you're asking people what they're planning to lie about, right?

      My suggestion is make it yourself if you're going to tell people you made it yourself. Or, alternatively, tell them where you got it if you bought it.

      1. Well, I actually enjoy cooking these days, but years and years ago when I was 19 I bought some frozen rolls, stuck poppy seeds on them and said they were mine. And they believed me! Not that I'm proud of it......

        1. It never fails for someone to find out and cause a bit of embarrassment. Oh, not speaking of myself, here. My Sis is one to take the path of glory, only to be ashamed for gloating.

          I was trained by my granny, that honesty is the best policy. I have had my disappointments, but who hasn't? No need for cover-ups makes a better cook anyway. Learning wise.

          1. I decided to cheat on the gravy this year and my plan backfired royally. Instead of relying on Bisto - the ultimate cheater gravy - I bought a packet that advertised 'rich gravies and sauces' only to discover at the last minute that it was basically soup stock. D'oh! I had lovely, fresh turkey stock, but couldn't be bothered to make gravy after having already decided to take a short cut. Fortunately I had some Bisto onion gravy in the cabinet, so I added that. Yes, Bisto saved the day and I felt like such a dolt, I told everyone about it.

            1. Sneaky LQ, I usually make the stuff and then when the guests ask for the recipie, I clam up!

              1. I did it once when I was a a young fool, some 2o+ years ago I bought a pie from the local mom and pop store (The owner always made them fresh for Holidays) When they asked me if I made it I said "yes". Only to have my mother be asked "So how did your family like the pumpkin pie?" by the store owner the next day.

                DOH... busted.

                1 Reply
                1. re: gryphonskeeper

                  LOL! My Sister got so busted when someone looked at the bottom of the empty pie tin, and saw the price sticker and barcode. Then sis was mad as she assumed the the bakery did their own pies from scratch too. Double Ooppss!! The Family Bakery got swamped with so many orders, that they had another bakery help them out!

                2. My grandmother made the best cakes when I was a kid. She always had some to offer visitors, topped with her special frosting. One day, I went to throw something in the garbage and spotted an empty cake mix box. Busted! (I think she would doctor up the mix somehow, but still...). It became a big family joke about how I became disillusioned that day. The strange part was that she was a great cook so I don't know why she was using a mix in the first place!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ms. clicquot

                    I say if you doctor something up so that it is different/better than straight outta the box, you can claim it as your own!

                    1. re: ms. clicquot

                      Oh, my granny claimed that cake flour ended up costing more than boxed cake mixes, but she never attempted to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. So whenever asked, she would claim the recipe called for a "basic" boxed cake mix, plus her list of special ingredients. Rather obvious back then, as they didn't have such a vast selection of different mixes as they do today. (Like egg plant cake/muffins, carrot, raisin, etc...)

                      1. re: ms. clicquot

                        I think a lot of people doctor up mixes for various reasons. I don't see anything wrong with it. It's not like she bought a bakery cake and passed it off as homemade.

                        I know my mom gets regular canned tomato sauce and doctors it up to make her own. I still think she can say it is her own sauce at that point.

                      2. I always say "I was up all night making that" when I get compliments on pre-made food. Then I say, not really, and tell them what brand it is. I think they all know my little joke by now.

                        1. I went to a party and somehow, last minute, ended up being responsible for bringing a lasagne. It was one of those things where it wasn't worth the drama of not going or not bringing something. So, I bought a Stouffer's, put it in a pyrex dish, thawed out some homeade sauce and scattered extra mozzerella on top and baked that sucker and accepted the raves from the hostess. When she asked for the recipe, I told her it was a family secret.

                          1. I am one of those people who usually makes everything from scratch, however, on the odd occasion that I "cheat"-if I'm asked- I'll say that I made it "happen"....

                            1. I make rolls from the frozen (white) bread dough the morning of whatever. Everyone says it is the best bread they have ever had. Every time. I tell them what it is and they don't believe me.

                              1. Not a thanksgiving story, but related nonetheless....
                                Several years ago, a group of girlfriends of mine decided to host a baby shower, me included in the hosting duties by way of being asked to bring some food to the party. At this time in my life, I was attending graduate school, leading a student group and working both full time and part time (I have no idea how I did it all). I did not question the assignment (frankly I was unhappy about the baby shower in general, not even wanting to be there in the first place). The party was on a Sunday, and I figured I would stay up late Saturday night (after attending classes and other activities) preparing some food to bring to the party. I happened to mention this to another girlfriend (who was not part of this clique) and she offered to make something for me to pick up at her place on the way to the party! She lovingly put together crab-meat stuffed mushrooms and deviled eggs, and handed me an ingredient list in case anyone asked how I made it. I handed her a stack of cash and profuse thanks. No one ever asked about the food I brought, and I still resent the "girls" to this day. At the end of that baby shower, we stayed late to plan a bridal shower for another one of them. Before being asked, I offered to purchase decorations for that one. Women have a strange way of showing their resentment, eh?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: maddogg280

                                  I'm confused, what did you want them to ask? Do you mean that they didn't say 'thank you'? That is pretty lame.

                                2. I half cheated. After blanching 2 pounds of spinach and then realizing I didn't have enough for the creamed spinach, I got a few blocks of frozen spinach. I did make the cream from scratch. Also I added 2 store bought corn muffins for my stuffing because I didn't make enough corn bread.

                                  1. My mother's pies were legendary. She used to work with a young woman who'd recently gotten married. This woman wanted to impress her new in-laws, so she paid my mother to make her a lemon meringue pie to take to dinner at their house. She told them she'd made it herself. The pie was a big hit, and they asked for more. So every time she visited them after that, she had my mother make her another one. What she didn't count on was that one day, my mother was going to up and move 3,000 miles away. I still wonder what she told her in-laws...selective amnesia, maybe? a sudden allergy to lemons?

                                    1. Awesome thread! Don't have a thanksgiving one but do have an embarassing story. I had a good friend Donna and her husband and two sons over after dinner for cards and snacks. I had some wonderful frozen ready to bake cheese straws that I had gotten from a greatl take out place called Gross Gourmet. I was known as a good cook who liked making things from scratch and for some reason I decided to pass the cheese straws off as homemade. I thought I was safe because Donna didn't like to cook but when everyone loved the cheese straws she asked for the recipe. I was surprised and hem and hawed and managed to wiggle out of it. A little later she asked again, and I tried to put off writing out the recipe til "later" as I would have to look it up. But her son Josh must have really liked them and he was a persistent ten year old. He said "Come on! Give my mom the recipe!" and I had to 'fess up.

                                      1. I believe honesty is the best policy, generally, and there's not much of a reason to lie about cooking. I took a store-bought dessert to Thanksgiving this year (I usually make one, but couldn't be bothered this year), and everybody was still appreciative and complimentary anyway, even though they knew.

                                        I remember a date years ago who was making me dinner. When I arrived, the date sheepishly said, "I'm sorry to admit, the salad is from Safeway". Charmed by the honesty, I replied, "That's okay, so are these flowers." :-)

                                        I was once looking for a special cake for a birthday, and a then-co-worker (himself a chef), recommended his cousin, who has a cake business. The cake was marvelous, and everybody loved it. Only later did my co-worker admit that his cousin makes her cakes from a box mix. What sets her apart is her decorating skills. I thought, "well, whatever", and have ordered cakes from her since.

                                        1. I fail to see the reason one has to pretend. Maybe I am missing something. Pretense takes more work over time than being honest.

                                          1. I made breadsticks out of Trader Joe's pizza dough last year for my aunt's birthday party. I figured no one would eat them since it was only women. But everyone took one.. and loved them. One woman kept asking me for the recipe and I kept saying I don't remember. She was sooo persistant that I finally answered that a friend named Joe gave me the recipe and I didn't recall the ingredients. No one was the wiser.. ha

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: cheesecake17

                                              Why lie? What did you gain from this? (Note: serious question. I'm genuinely curious here.)

                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                My aunts friends all think I'm a serious baker (which I am, I just didn't have time being in school and work) and some of them have actually bought cakes and desserts from me in the past. I didn't want anyone to jump to conclusions and think that if I bought the dough for the breadsticks then I use cake mixes or premade frosting for my cakes.

                                                I do tell people that my brownies usually come from a Duncan Hines mix... but I would never sell a batch of brownies.

                                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                                  It seems to me that if they find out you were dishonest about one thing they're more likely to conclude that you're dishonest about all of it. If you're honest when you do something other than make a baked good entirely from scratch (and, seriously, using good quality store bought pizza dough to make breadsticks doesn't seem like something to be embarrassed about) then I'd think they're more likely to conclude that you're honest and sometimes run short on time.

                                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                                    These people think I'm somewhat of a superhero- school, work, and cooking all at the same time. It didn't want to say I bought the dough because it was a large party. Now that I think about it, if one of the women asked me after the party, I probably would have told her where I bought the dough. Not that they would know from Trader Joe's anyway.

                                                    I once brought brownies from a mix to a friend's house and I told her without hesitation they came from a box. When she wanted to know what I added, I told her exactly what I put in. I guess it was the situation- I didn't want a bunch of ladies chatting about me.

                                            2. Not something I would ever do, for a couple of reasons, 1) I don't believe in buying prepared foods @ a grocery store, and serving, or eating them. 2) I just think its pretty unacceptable, and dishonest behavior. 3) Anything store bought would be a step down from what I can cook.

                                              1. Liz,

                                                A few random thoughts as I've been reading:

                                                1. Avoid lying. The only times it really works are for those unavoidable acquantaince questions pertaining to whether trousers make one look fat, how a new hairstyle looks, and if you enjoyed the 3 hour tap dance recital by preschoolers. These are untruths to spare someone else's feelings. Lying to make oneself look good is sorta bad for the soul. which leads me to...

                                                2. You confessed on the Internet. You know what they say about confession. If you can confess to millions of people, surely you can tell the people with whom you spend a significant holiday the truth. In fact, if we want to speak of the value of your contribution to the holiday table, moneywise, you probably contributed more dollars than if you had made the creamed spinach yourself. So - just fess up to folks when you buy versus slave over a hot stove. Now on to...

                                                3. If the creamed spinach is really good chow, then be a friendly CH and share that info with your holiday-mates so they can seek it out as well! Heck, you told us posters that we could get it at Sarges on 3rd Ave! And you don't even know us! Share your delectable food finds with people you are close enough to to share a Thanksgiving meal - maybe they'd appreciate the tip. Good food should not be a secret. Isn't that the point of these boards?

                                                I know time gets tight and some of us don't cook as much as we'd like to for certain celebrations, and the power goes out and, and, and...but honesty is the best. Transparency is a lovely thing, be it Sarges spinach or your own newly invented recipe. We're all here to share, and that's really the crux of these family/friends oriented gatherings. Or boards, for that matter. My suggestion for next time, as you requested in your OP, is to make or buy whatever you want to bring, then tell the truth. And if it's really great? Tell us all about it!


                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: cayjohan

                                                  You have crystallized my thoughts perfectly!! Thanks for the pithy comments and the best post in this thread so far. Adam

                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                    Great post, cayjohan.
                                                    While I often do cook/bake for parties/holidays, with the number of parties we attend, a busy job and a family, I can't do it all. So, I've made it my mission to find the best local suppliers for when I need to bring something and can't cook. I love sharing the contact info for my "shadow cooks" with family and friends - they are happy to know where to get something great, and the cooks get more business. Everybody's happy, and no one has to lie.

                                                    1. re: foodiemommy

                                                      It's humanizing when someone who seems to have it all together comes right out and says he/she bought it, or took a short cut. People who pretend to be perfect get irritating after a while. As you said, it's a win win when you tell.

                                                    2. re: cayjohan

                                                      Well said. And, once the lie comes out, which it often does (or at least on this board), everything you say and do from that point on is suspect. Integrity means much more than a dish.

                                                    3. I could say "I don't understand the question" which is to some extent but not entirely true. I would certainly never say that I had "slaved for hours" over something that I bought. What, exactly, is wrong with saying honestly "I didn't have time to make the spinach - I hope that you like it" ? That is, assuming that you know the spinach and can vouch for its quality.
                                                      My suggestion for next year, since you asked, is to make it yourself and if you can't, get it from a good source, or don't bring anything. You could even ask someone else to do it, if you felt that necessary.

                                                      1. I will freely admit when I've taken shortcuts with mixes or cans or whatever. But I remember being shocked and then finding it terribly funny when an old friend pulled the wool over my eyes along these lines. She and her husband invited us over for a weeknight dinner and we accepted, knowing she wasn't that great a cook, but loving their company. The evening's main course was surprisingly good: fillets of sole, wrapped around a crabmeat stuffing, in a cream sauce. Since she's super organized, I figured she must have prepared them in the morning, before leaving for work, so that the casserole dish just had to be popped into the oven and bake while she threw together a salad, boiled up some rice (I think it was Minute Rice) and steamed some broccoli. My husband and I weren't big on fish at the time (this was back in the late 70s), and both of us finished and then dragged bits of bread through the remaining sauce on our plates. And since, as I say, we weren't real big fish eaters, it didn't occur to me to ask her for the recipe 'cause I knew I wasn't going to try to replicate the dish. Years - maybe 15? - later, we were together at dinner and I remembered this particular meal and finally said, "You know, I'd like to give that a try. Where did you find the recipe?" She and her husband burst into hysterical laughter. Seems she'd picked up the ready-made casserole at a local gourmet foodshop, brought it home, switched it into one of her own casserole dishes, and passed it off as her own creation. All those years, we'd been saying to one another, "You know, she still really isn't much of a cook, but remember that one fabulous sole and crabmeat dish?!"

                                                        1. Shortcuts have their place, as do cake mixes (for example, if it isn't going to get eaten within a day or two, the additives in a mix cake do maintain the texture longer). I'm not one to readily chuck old food. So I once made bread pudding with half a stale Trader Joe's small pumpkin spice bundt cake and Hood's pumpkin eggnog. I added an egg, stirred things together, and dumped it in a baking dish. The "sauce" was more eggnog, right out of the container. It was heavenly and became a regular dessert. But I always feel like a cheat when I make it, even though I don't claim it as homemade.

                                                          One thing that does bug me is when people donate purchased goods to a bake sale. To me, the bake sale concept means you've made the effort to make something if not from scratch, then at least from a mix. Those rolls of refrigerated cookie dough don't qualify, either. Pumpkin pie is iffy if it's from a purchased crust and pre-seasoned canned filling. Canned pumpkin plus your own spices makes a more legitimate claim on homemade.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                            Not sure I agree. My mom recently mentioned seeing a group of little girls selling Oreos for some worthy cause or other. They'd opened a package and were selling them for a dime each. My mom was happy to buy a couple because she'd never buy a whole package for herself and hadn't had an Oreo in 20 years. Besides...isn't the worthy cause mostly the point?

                                                            1. re: Glencora

                                                              My only issue with this one is that a dime each doesn't sound like enough of a markup for a fundraiser! Isn't that about what they retail for? Maybe there's an Oreo fund raising setup where you can get them less expensively in order to resell them and make some money. Krispy Kreme does that, among others I'm sure.