Neither a Cook nor Baker Be
“You’re cooking? Why?” Even over the phone the look of horror on my stepdaughter’s face was evident.
“I want to surprise Dad.” I tucked the phone under my ear and continued my hunt for our largest mixing bowl.
“An attempt on his life will do it,” she muttered, and I pretended not to hear.
Fall-heading-into-winter Sundays—what is it about them? This weird nesting instinct comes over me like a pumpkin- spice-infused fog and I head for the kitchen.
Despite a complete lack of training and a spotty track record of culinary success, each year I end up wearing an apron bedecked with leaves and humming “’Tis the Gift to be Simple” while the November winds lash at the windows.
I must have been feeling especially Hallmark Channel-ish this year, because I was trying to bake a couple of things. I’ve often heard that people are either cooks or bakers, rarely both in one individual. I am neither, so I figure I’ve got an even shot at this. But, I must confess that Angie comes by her reticence honestly, as I fed her spoiled grape jelly when she was ten. Kid has the memory of an elephant. (And I would like to point out that she had nary a case of strep throat that year.)
Pumpkin spice cupcakes. The recipe sat propped against the kitchen radio, surrounded by bowls, measuring cups, and dry ingredients. I had reviewed the directions, like a new driver looking at the map before leaving the driveway, and, though I had some questions, I felt confident this was a task even I was up to.
The act of baking is actually therapeutic and has been proven to lower your blood pressure. Or is it brain function? No matter. As I measured and stirred and folded and hummed, my relaxed mental state brought about several deep, profound moments, some of which I share with you now:
- Have you ever noticed how alike baking soda and baking powder look? Who thought that was a good idea?
- I separated the eggs, as instructed, but it was a pain to have to go to different rooms to retrieve them. Baking is certainly labor intensive.
- “Fold in with a spatula until there are no flour pockets”—What in the name of Julia Child is a flour pocket? It sounds like a bad thing. I base that solely on having never heard a cupcake described as being delightfully riddled with tasty flour pockets.
- A half-cup of brown sugar? I’d be happy to comply if this stuff wasn’t one solid brick. What did I read about bread keeping brown sugar soft? I wrapped a bag of bread slices around the brown brick and set it aside.
- How am I supposed to whisk something that clumps like boys at a junior high dance?
- “Add flour in two additions”—We only added onto the house once, but okay. I sure am trucking this bowl around a lot.
- This recipe is so narrow-minded. Something can be dense and fluffy at the same time—am I right? Of course I am.
- Here’s an interesting tidbit—cream cheese is surprisingly aerodynamic for something that can cling to the ceiling.
- If you have bowls left over in your cupboard, you didn’t do it right. I did it right.
- When tidying up after baking, it is best to start with the ceiling and work your way down with help from Mr. Gravity.
Just a little tip from my kitchen to yours!
As I was waiting for the oven timer to ding, my niece Michelle called.
“I’m baking!” I offered cheerfully.
Michelle’s voice dropped to a nervous whisper.
“What happened? Have you been kidnapped?”
“What?” I said. “What put that idea in your head?”
She breathed a sigh of relief. “I thought this was your secret panic phrase to tell me someone was holding you hostage.” Brat.
The cupcakes were supposed to be frosted with one of those decorating bags with the different tips on it. Stuff like that is not exactly standard equipment in our kitchen like say, a high-powered corkscrew or an industrial grade weather station that tells me when it’s raining in Newfoundland. So, I just slathered about half a pound of frosting on each cupcake and called it good.
My coworkers fell on those cupcakes like a hobo on a hot dog. And I’ll have you know there were no reports of sudden onset stomach pain, fever, or visual hallucinations.
If you factor in my hourly rate of pay at work and the cost of ingredients, those two dozen cupcakes cost $374.12. But can you really put a price on homemade love?
Pepto-Bismol, yes, but love, no.