Lessons for an Imperfect Lasagna

For the past year and a half, my husband and I have spent every other Sunday night with three other couples and our seven children. In the beginning, we called our gatherings a Bible study. And despite dirty diapers, runny noses and squabbles between kids, we did manage to read some Scripture, discuss a few questions and pray together.

But as time went on – and the kids got more mobile and, well, louder – having an actual study became increasingly difficult. And so, after spending the entire summer in chapter four of Crazy Love by Francis Chan, we finally admitted the truth: This Bible study thing just wasn’t working out.

Instead, we chose to just be who we are for now: a small group of young parents who crave community and are committed to spending a couple nights a month encouraging, praying for and generally loving each other. And feeding each other.

Happy Meals for the kids and last-minute snacks for the grown-ups weren’t cutting it. And just like that, our Bible study turned into a supper club.

A couple weeks ago, it was my turn to bring dinner, and I decided on lasagna, salad and bread. As far as ease of transport, a dish of lasagna makes perfect sense. But as easy as it is to move, it’s a little more difficult to make.

The afternoon before our dinner, I found myself in my tiny kitchen, frantically running from one counter to another, turning in circles, sweating and generally going a little crazy.

I placed noodles in the bottom of two greased foil pans. Then I layered meat sauce and three kinds of cheese on top. I pulled the brownies out of the oven and turned back to the pasta dish. That’s when I realized . . .

I had forgotten the second layer of noodles!

“It’s RUINED!” I cried to my husband. “This will be the worst lasagna they’ve EVER tasted!”

I may have the tendency to overreact.

With my husband’s help – and four spatulas – we scooped one messed-up lasagna on top of the other. And then I covered the whole thing with shredded cheese.

Cheese covers a multitude of sins, right?

After I put the less-than-perfect lasagna in the oven, I turned back to the brownies. And grabbed the hot pan without oven mitts.

It was at that point that I decided I needed a little break from the kitchen.

But less than two hours later, I was in my friend Amy’s much larger kitchen, unwrapping a salad and cutting up the cheese-covered lasagna while my friend Erin washed dishes and my friend Amanda made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids.

As we took turns washing each other’s kids’ faces and filling their juice cups, we found time to enjoy our own plates of lasagna and salad (No bread. I forgot it at home.). It didn’t seem to matter that the pasta had just barely survived a near disaster earlier that day.

What mattered is that we were together – and that the lasagna tasted pretty good anyway.

For a few minutes that day in my kitchen, I forgot what’s most important about our group of friends. Our Sunday nights aren’t about fancy recipes or elaborate presentation. They really aren’t about food at all.

Our small group – and every night we spend together – is about friendship. It’s about taking time to connect. It’s about laughing and sharing and stories and jokes. It’s about our kids learning to take turns playing my friend Jeremy’s drum set and our husbands discussing how to avoid kidney stones and how to fix a crumbling fireplace.

It’s about being together. Not impressing each other with pasta dishes.

Although I have to admit, I kind of liked the fact that my friends ooh-ed and aah-ed over the brownies and didn’t leave any lasagna in the pan.

What do you do when you make a huge mistake while cooking for friends? Do you freak out? Or do you take it in stride and remember what’s important?

Mary is mom to a {usually} sweet, {always} sassy toddler and wife to her high-school sweetheart. When she’s not snapping photos left and right, reading a good book or organizing her to-do lists, you can find Mary {avoiding housework} curled up on the couch with her laptop. Mary blogs about her imperfect life at Giving Up on Perfect, where she writes about family, faith, books, diet-friendly and fiber-filled foods like granola bars and nachos, celebrity look-alikes and chick flicks. You know, the important stuff.

24 comments on “Lessons for an Imperfect Lasagna”

  1. Pingback: Menu Ideas for Valentine's Day Dinners — Giving Up on Perfect

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  3. Hahah… LOL… Remember that scene in Bridget Jones, she cooks birthday dinner for herself and friends, ends up with Blue String Soup, Omelette and Sticky Marmalade Sauce…. I figure (not that it happens often – being a chef) that it actually makes the experience more fun, 99% of the time, it pushes the recipe in a whole new direction and often you create a winning recipe that you can now call your own. :)
    My Mr. is a Lasagna nut, goes crazy for it, yours looks YUMMO! :)

  4. Early in my marriage I tended to entertain the way my parents did with formal dinner parties. I’d go all out with the “good” dishes, the sterling silverware, the fancy folded napkins, the flowers & multi course gourmet dinners. I remember one time how I was sooo disappointed when I burned the bottom of my homemade dinner rolls. Ugh – I was so disgusted with myself. Two of the women at the party said to me at the end that they were so glad I burned the rolls – because everything was too perfect. It was one of those a-ha moments. People don’t need to be wowed by my entertaining expertise. They want to feel comfortable. I’ve sinced learned to “K.I.S.S.”. We sold our sterling silverware to make a tuition payment for one of the kids. I rarely buy flowers & instead scrounge around in the yard for whatever’s available or just use a bunch of candles. Menus are simpler, with more comfort food and less formal. I think people like this layed-back style better. I know it causes less stress on my end.

  5. @Alana, you crack me up! It’s be one long commute for Sandy and me to eat dinner together! And…um…yes, I’m pretty sure your husband is hinting for lasagna! (Try my version of PW’s lasagna. It’s easy and good!)

    @Jessie, so true. Cheese is the solution for so many problems! ;)

    @kirstin – thank you!

    @Michelle O – I’ve used the freak out in the bathroom trick MANY times before. MANY.

    @Lisa – ohhh, I hate it when I burn food! At least with undercooked food (my most recent disaster), you can possibly salvage it! Mud pie sounds like a good “consolation prize,” though!

    @Tracie B – I actually don’t make lasagna that often, either. But it’s so good for a large group!

    @Lisa – The dessert is S’mores Brownies. I posted the recipe here: http://bit.ly/ahhCP8

    @Rene – Oh my gosh! I would have definitely freaked out about that, too!!!! But yes, takeout is a perfect solution!

    @Merry – I love the idea of your small group! I’d love to spend more time with folks who have a little more experience and wisdom!

  6. Sandy, I have to share!
    My girlfriend and her son had an idea to start a bible study group that they could both be part of. It’s called Generations. We started out meeting at the church but over the summer moved it to my house and it looks like we’re going to keep it here. It’s a nice mix of 50/60 and 20/30 somethings. We did Crazy Love and then Forgotten God. We too are starting to share a meal. We started out as snacks but then I thought these “young” ones might enjoy a “mom” cooked (free) meal :o)
    I just got such a kick out of your post because we are you guys, just with a couple more years on us! LOL
    PS, next study: Ann Graham Lotz, Vision of His Glory.

  7. Honestly, I freak out on the inside. Especially when I’m getting ready to serve my in-laws, who are visiting from out of town, and my 9×13 glass lasagna filled dish breaks in two as I’m pulling it from the oven!! So much for trying to fool them into thinking I’m perfect!! :) It must have been that faulty temp gauge on the $50 oven… that made me crank it up 175 degrees hotter than the recipe called for. Thank goodness for Chinese take out in a pinch! BTW your lasagna looks delish! Love it thick:)

  8. What is the dessert you served? Is it chocolate cake with graham crackers and whipped cream???

  9. I’m ooohing and ahhhing too. The lasagna and brownies both looked absolutely delicious. I wonder why I don’t fix lasagna for my family more often? It’s always a hit. I just don’t think about it. Thanks for reminding me!

  10. I am glad I am not the only one who ruins food. Last time we had our children’s friends over for lasagna…I didn’t put enough sauce on the bottom and it burned big time. Not one complaint, though…because I told them they could fill up on homemade mud pie…it worked! :)

  11. Yea i;ve had a night like that, lol. The last girls night i had i was making pizza rolls & the shredder blade in my food processor broke like an hour before everyone got there. I about lost it…well i totally did for a few min & just locked myself in the bathroom for a lil while lol. But in the end the night went well & it was all about friends gettin together, & watching chick flicks :)

  12. what an awesome post! The lasagna looks “perfect” (C:

  13. I tend to freak out over food because it’s the only thing I think I am good at (cooking). It’s frustrating to me that I am like that, and I am trying to chill out in my “old age”! It’s not the food that is important … it’s the sharing with friends!

    And hey, what can’t an extra bag of cheese make better?


  14. So I didn’t notice that this was a guest post right away and I was looking at the pictures… I saw the picture of Annalyn and thought… wow, thats cool, she is in group with Mary. HAHAHAHA. Might be a bit tired this morning.
    I have never made lasagna before but just the other day my husband mentioned that it sounded good. I think it was a hint. Maybe. Still thinking about whether it was a hint or not. What do you think?

  15. @Jade, the recipe for the brownies is here: http://www.givinguponperfect.com/2010/11/monday-morning-mmmm-s%E2%80%99mores-brownies/ (and they ARE delicious!)

    @pk – I find it much easier to focus after a brief freak out, myself! :)

    @Lauren – that’s what my husband says, too!

    @Annie – you nailed it. People DO just like to be together, and the food, decor, etc. really doesn’t matter!

    @Mrs. Jen B – So true! We’re the only ones who know what it was supposed to look like, taste like or sound like. Everyone else is most likely thinking that it’s all amazing!

    @Elen – We compromise and call it “small group,” knowing that the fellowship and accountability we share is more important than faking our way through a Bible study at this point in our lives!

  16. I love this post. Keeping it real. ;-) Breaking bread together is one of the most elemental things we do. I’m not so sure you shouldn’t still call it “Bible Study”. It was a great save on the lasagna! And the dessert looked divine. I’m sure the first thing I do is totally Freak Out. Then I get all up in my philosophical zone, shrug and fix it as best I can. What else is a gal to do? :-D

  17. Oh, I totally freak out. Totally. Not only that, but with Christmas coming and yours truly making most of the food…I feel like I’m gonna need a drink or a pill or something to calm me down, just thinking about it. I don’t know, I guess I just want everything to be “perfect”.

    Although now that I think about it, not only are you totally and completely correct that it’s all about being together, but I remember a piece of advice given to me when I was planning my wedding (and making bouquets and centerpieces and flower arrangements for the church…): No one knows how it was *supposed* to be, but you. So let it go already! haha

  18. Isn’t it funny that the things we think are most important in the grand scheme, often aren’t important at all? Last night I hosted book club at my house, disappointed I didn’t have a great homemade dessert or hot chocolate to serve (I just ran out of time!), but as I looked around the room, I realized… People didn’t really care. Not every gathering is my idea of perfect, but I don’t think that matters either. People just like being together. Thanks for this reminder!

  19. The way I look at it, if it tastes good, who cares what it looks like!

  20. I’m SO glad to hear that I’m not the only one that does things like this. SO me in the kitchen! :-) When I mess things up I usually freak out immediately, and then slowly calm down and focus on what’s important.

  21. Lasagne is one of my favourite things to make for a get together – I love that I can make it all beforehand and spend time with my guests and it tastes do good! You’re right that cheese covers up so much – same as whipped cream and grated chocolate for puddings!

    Do you have a recipe for those brownies, they look delicious? I hope your hand is ok!

  22. What a great post we young moms can all relate to!

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