Shake shake shake shake shake. I brushed the hair back out of my face and stared wildly into the silver pot on the stove, shaking it back and forth across the burner, like a giant, All-Clad maraca.
“Hey, Mel, want me to go to the store and buy cookies?” my husband tentatively offered. He was a dead man. I whipped my head up and glared.
“Go away! I just burned my sixth batch of popped amaranth and need to focus.”
This is what the internet will do to you. Last night I found myself ordering my children upstairs while I shook tiny amaranth seeds (Are they seeds? Does anyone freaking know?!?) in a Dutch oven trying to get them to pop without burning. The kids backed away slowly, recognizing that Mommy had done lost her mind, finally.
I was attempting to make homemade peanut butter cups for my neighborhood group that was coming over, and somehow the popped amaranth was the key ingredient, according to the internet recipe that made it look easy.
The little buggers went from impenetrable beads to burned bird poop in seconds. I adjusted the temperature, the amount, and my shaking of the pot from gentle to vigorous. Nothing worked.
And then I stepped back and realized my problem. There was nothing wrong with my pot or my ability to read a recipe. My problem was the internet.
What the hell is amaranth? I didn’t need to know this. I certainly didn’t need to pop it on my stovetop minutes before my neighbors would arrive to my smoke-filled house.
I’ve been using my three-ring binder of family recipes lovingly assembled by my mother on the occasion of my wedding for the last decade and a half, yet somehow over the last year I’ve been wooed time and again by internet recipes flashing their tasty ingredients and bright plastic spatulas across my Facebook feed.
My people use Cool-Whip and pudding packets. This is our wheelhouse. It was like I’d been kidnapped by a gourmet cult and brainwashed with quinoa and espresso powder.
I recalled the Christmas Crap from last year. That debacle almost ruined chocolate for me. ALMOST, I SAID ALMOST. And two months ago I made stir fry with cauliflower as faux-rice and my family fought tears and tried to reconcile what was happening in their mouths. “Mom, what kind of rice is this?” “Why does it smell like fart?”
The last time I hosted my neighbors I made banana oat globs that tasted like the way Oscar the Grouch smells. I tossed them in the garbage last night to make room for the popped amaranth peanut butter cups.
After unsuccessfully popping half a bag of amaranth, I finally gave up and made the peanut butter cups sans ancient grains. Everyone loved them.
And as I was describing how to make them, I realized the recipe had me chop peanuts and mix them into peanut butter. One of the rocket scientists in my group pointed out that the grocery store sells this mind-blowing invention called crunchy peanut butter, which would accomplish the same thing.
But this is what the internet does to me. It convinces me to cultivate my own hand-hewn crunchy peanut butter as a tender chalice to receive perfectly popped amaranth balls. Before the internet, I a) didn’t know you could pop amaranth and b) didn’t know that amaranth existed.
And I was happy. And my mother’s homemade brownie recipe is fool-proof. Unless the fool decides to branch out and make dessert she saw on a viral video.
I’m breaking up with internet recipes. It’s not them, it’s me. I love the internet so much that everything looks attainable with 2.4K likes and a comments section filled with “This looks so easy!”
You know what else looks easy on the internet? Running for president. But that doesn’t mean we should all try it.