My siblings and I have a talented Mom who turns tuna, noodles and mushroom soup into a feast fit for a king. Our memories are filled with bubbling pots of savory stews, creamy casseroles and mouth-watering desserts. Mom made liver look good. She dedicated her time and creativity to keep six stomachs full while my Dad worked non-stop to feed his happy horde.
My brothers watch the Food Network. For fun. They glory in barbecue, brisket, spices and sauce. If you want their attention, just whisper, “Talk foodie for me.” My sister will whip up a quiche at the drop of a hat and serve countertops full of delectable dishes at each family gathering.
But me? I’m not a cook.
I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen!’ — Rita Rudner
You’ll never catch me floating around the house in an apron and pearls looking like June Cleaver or Julia Child. Before the wildfire, I had a few cookbooks and a recipe box I rarely opened. I make a mean banana bread, but will serve up the same simple fare for a long suffering sweetie who loves me for my conversational skills. I’ve been known to scrape and serve burned toast and disguise lumpy gravy with onions.
Of course, baking a birthday cake at 7500 feet can present some problems. But I wanted my son to beam with pride and family to swoon in delight at my scrumptious concoction. I would blush, careful not to steal the limelight, but bask in just enough glory and adulation to be memorable.
“What? Me? Another Julia Child? Aw, c’mon, you don’t really mean that! You DO? No, it’s nothing, really. I made it from scratch in my spare time from an old family recipe.”
The beep of a pre-heated oven snapped me back to reality. It was time to get down to business, so I read the high altitude tips on the back of the box. In went the extra flour with water and butter. I prepared the pans, poured in the delectable goo and popped them both through the oven door. And then I prayed. I prayed to The Pioneer Woman for just a smidge of success, secretly hoping one day I too could make it big from a blog.
The moment of truth arrived. T’was time to cast my eyes upon the miracle I’d made. Two golden orbs of sweet smelling deliciousness stared up at me. I carefully lifted them up and out of the oven, knowing a tap on the counter would free them from their buttery bonds. I would marvel at my skill as each layer fell gracefully (in slow motion) ever-so-gently onto the plate below.
But something was terribly wrong. The darned things were sticking.
If I wasn’t careful, I would soon have a crumbly mess. Large chunks would rip away, revealing grotesquely gaping holes. No amount of frosting would disguise it. I could see those family faces now — eyes wide in shock, mouths twisted in disgust at the senseless destruction of a perfectly good cake. My son would race from the room, sobbing uncontrollably.
It was time for drastic action. Deftly removing my pearls, I reached for my weapons and slowly walked towards whatever fate would deal me. Cold and unforgiving in my grip, these instruments of force were intricately carved, handed down from my great-grandfather through the generations — only to be used if there was no other resort. My son tried to intervene, but I shook him off, demanding he run for cover. I stopped and planted my feet on the hard, dusty ground.
(The theme song from Clint Eastwood’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly played in the background.)
“This. Ends. Here.” I growled.
With a steady gaze and a lightening fast flip of my spatulas, the uncooperative cakes broke free and landed with a thud, lifeless and beaten. Overhead, turkey buzzards circled in the blinding sunshine and shimmering heat, waiting for a chance to attack their meal.
Oh wait, those were my guests! They came, they sat, they devoured everything in sight. My son looked at me differently that day and forever after. And I, dear reader, now knew how it felt to be tested, revel in the thrill of victory and take my place alongside bakery bastions, heroes and legends!