UPDATE: Prior to this post, where I announced that my love/hate affair with baking was over, I had promised my children that we would bake and decorate some Christmas cookies. Today was the day for keeping that promise. I snapped these pictures of the aftermath. We have here a stocking, a star, a candy cane, and a Christmas tree. At least those were their shapes going INTO the oven.
Pray for my poor children. Now read on...
"Dinner will be served when the smoke alarm goes off."
That was the mildly humorous phrase displayed on a refrigerator magnet given to me as a “gift” years ago by my mildly humorous parents. I think I was somewhere in my twenties at that time. You’d think twenty-something would be a bit young to have already established yourself as the Human Torch of cooking, but no. I began burning food in my early teens, I think. Then the microwave came along and made charring that much more convenient. I could scorch twice the food in a quarter of the time! Revolutionary! By the way, if you’re crunching numbers in your head trying to figure out how old I must be to actually remember the microwave coming along, stop it. Now. I mean it.
The approaching holiday season means cooking is on my mind. While I love this time of year, it always tends to make me feel a bit apprehensive. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, people expect you to cook stuff…a lot of stuff. More specifically, people expect you to BAKE a lot of stuff. Even MORE specifically, they expect your creations to be edible. This is where I typically run into problems.
My culinary shortcomings don’t stem from my inability to read and understand recipes. They don’t even stem from the fact that most days I’d rather run a full marathon—in Yuma—in August—while wearing black thermals—than prepare food. My cooking delinquency can be directly attributed to two distinct character flaws (which, by the way, are mostly not my fault): impatience and short attention span.
When done correctly—emphasis on correctly—baking involves a decent amount of measuring, which means digging around for a lot of spoons and cups and sifters and, oh yeah, spoons. By the time I’ve measured out a half a teaspoon of vanilla and a tablespoon of Ajax and sifted out 1-1/4 cups of flour and mixed the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another, my dishwasher is pretty much full. Not to mention all that going back and forth to my cupboards and cabinets to find spoons and cups—it’s tiring and oh so time consuming!
Somewhere along the way, I watched a little too much Rachael Ray. She likes to “eyeball” her measurements. The first time I watched her show and heard her use that term, I knew I was on to something. Eyeballing is genius! Turns out, though, the eyeballing method is one of those things you should leave to the experts. Just ask my kids when they’re choking down yet another batch of my super duper extra crunchy chocolate chip cookies, made with lots of love and oodles of eyeballing.
Combine all my lack of patience with an inability to stay focused on the task at hand, and it’s trouble in the kitchen for sure. I am VERY easily sidetracked. Always have been. I can spend an hour preparing a casserole for dinner, place it lovingly in the oven, and as soon as the phone rings or someone needs me to drive them somewhere…poof! Casserole forgotten. An hour of preparation and it’s like it never existed. Until, that is, the smoke alarm goes off (reference opening quote) and all the children are asking why the house smells like burnt feet.
I'm even worse with cookies. My mom always burned the last batch (sorry, mom). I burn them all. I'm pretty sure my kids would break into song if they never again had to hear me utter the words, "The burnt ones are kind of yummy."
You think I’m kidding, or maybe exaggerating, but I’m not. There is, after all, the time I nearly took out my kitchen…and my family…with a little grease fire. I had a craving for
tacos, so I put some grease on the stove to heat up. Nothing wrong with that, unless you suffer from a severe case of CADD (Culinary Attention Deficit Disorder) and you leave the room to start another project. The next thing I remember was being tapped on the shoulder, turning around, and seeing the sweet, frightened face of a tiny little blonde child. “Um, mommy, there’s a fire.” This was followed by panic, billowing smoke, hiding in the closet and crying (the child, not me), charred cabinets, and ultimately a nicely remodeled kitchen courtesy of our insurance company. Thanks a ton, AmFam! Unfortunately, my insurance claim didn't include a big fat check to cover the therapy my kids would need after the fact. Every time I'd go into the kitchen for months to follow, my little girls would ask, "Mommy, you're not going to cook, are you?"
Sadly, I'm still not exaggerating.
So, while I know the holidays are all about homemade goodness, I’m afraid I’m just not cut out for all this measuring and paying attention nonsense. After thirty some-odd years, it’s time to own my lack of talent and desire in this area. I’m giving up on baking. I think I’ll go tell my kids right now.
I wonder which song they'll sing.