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Adventures in food for curious cooks.

Chicken With a Side of Tragedy

Unfortunate Cooking

Come for the delicious recipes. Stay for the terrible story.

Chicken With a Side of Tragedy

Lynley Jones

Return to A Series of Unfortunate Recipes homepage.

This week we endure a tragic lack of taste, intemperate environmentalists, and superfluous synonyms. We then enjoy a delicious chicken dinner, which is how you can tell Mrs. Poe is not doing the cooking.

Tragedy Strikes

This disturbing still image was obtained from the files of the Netflix corporation. It re-enacts the exact moment the bland boiled chicken dinner was inflicted upon the Baudelaires, and may therefore be difficult for some viewers.

Unlike the Incredibly Deadly Viper, tragedy may strike at any time. For example, tragedy strikes when one's parents unexpectedly perish in a suspicious fire. Or when an innocent woman is eaten by lake-dwelling animals. Or when hypnosis causes a terrible workplace accident. Or when an incompetent person is entrusted with the care of children, or with leadership of the free world.

In addition to all these tragedies, Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire were also subjected repeatedly to the tragic unpleasantness of vile food, rude dining companions and boring conversation. We all endure these tragedies from time to time, of course. But the misfortune of the Baudelaire orphans was so pervasive that they often had to endure all three of these tragedies at the very same meal.

During their brief stay at the home of Mr. Poe and his family, the Baudelaires suffered the tragic rudeness of Edgar and Albert, Mr. and Mrs. Poe's sons. They suffered the tragic unpleasantness of Mr. Poe's constant coughing, and the tragic misguidedness of Mr. Poe's judgment that Count Olaf would be a suitable guardian for them. And as if all of that weren't tragic enough, they also suffered the tragic blandness of Mrs. Poe's cooking.

Tragically Tasteless

We know that on at least one occasion, Mrs. Poe made a dull dinner of boiled chicken, boiled potatoes and blanched - a word which here means "boiled" - green beans. It is unclear whether, like Aunt Josephine, she lacked courage; or like her husband, she lacked good judgment; or like Count Olaf, she simply lacked empathy. Of course, it's possible her taste buds were removed in an unnecessary surgery at the local hospital of ill repute. It's also possible she was running for office and therefore was forced to pretend she enjoyed unpleasant food. 

Whatever the cause, the tragic meal of bland boiled chicken, boring boiled potatoes and blah blanched green beans definitely occurred. This meal was not only tragic because it lacked flavor, but it was all the more tragic because it was foisted upon three orphaned children in their greatest time of need, and yet more tragic still because it never had to be.

Obtained from the files of the Netflix corporation, this image shows the very nice library of Justice Strauss, in which she keeps her copy of An Incomplete History of Secret Organizations.

If Mrs. Poe had spent more time in libraries, she might have read The Incomplete History of Secret Organizations and learned about societies of people who are dedicated to noble pursuits, including delicious food and fine picnicking. And if she had spent more time in kitchens, she might have known how to make a more flavorful meal. 

Inexplicably, Mrs. Poe did not do either of these things. Instead, she made a bland meal for the Baudelaires, just when they needed a delicious meal the most. And when that happens, all good, true and decent people know it's time to volunteer.

Tastelessly Tragic

While conducting research into the Baudelaires' tragic gastronomical experiences, I re-created, with painstaking accuracy, the bland boiled meal that Mrs. Poe fed to them that evening. It was my grim duty to taste the flavorless, rubbery chicken, the water-logged potatoes and the drab green beans. I then donated the remainder of that meal to a rabid pack of environmentalists, who in turn donated it to a local homeless shelter, who in turn returned it to the environmentalists, who in turn returned it to me, who in turn returned it to the environmentalists, who used it to make compost.

I then created alternative dishes that are filled with delightful flavors and look as appealing as they taste. If you are still in possession of your taste buds, you may use the recipes provided below to make these delicious dishes, and spare your associates or local environmentalists the tragedy of a woefully unpleasant meal. You may also choose to dip a piece of baguette into the savory sauce that accompanies your flavorful meal. And you may choose to have an interesting conversation about the unnecessary surgeries, bland meals and other related tragedies to which you have surely been subjected.


Lemony Poached Chicken Thighs with Small Potatoes

Chicken poached (which here means "boiled") in a combination of chicken broth, wine and herbs, then crisped to state of golden brown deliciousness under the broiler. Served with potatoes that have been simmered (which here means "boiled") in the very same flavorful broth that the chicken was cooked in, to produce potatoes that are flavor-logged rather than water-logged.

Buttery Green Beans with Garlic and Onions

Green beans blanched (a word which still means "boiled") in generously salted water, so that they are crisp yet tender, and filled with flavor. Drizzled (a word which means "poured upon") with a combination of butter, olive oil, onions and garlic.

If you would like to read more about bland food and unpleasant meals, it is clear you have bad taste, perhaps as the result of unnecessary surgery. You would probably therefore enjoy reading this book, which is the first in Lemony Snicket's detailed account of the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire orphans.