This is something I wrote for Fun in Writing Group May 28, 2014
Anyone who has ever set foot in a kitchen knows what potential disasters lie therein. Whether it’s from mis-measured ingredients, substitutions that didn’t quite make the grade, or an obstinate, uncooperative oven, disasters happen. I’ve had a lot over the years, but a few stand out in my mind.
One of my early disasters included my sister. It was our parents’ anniversary and we wanted to fix them breakfast and take it to them in bed. I’m not sure whose idea this was. I was only 7 and my sister was 9. Our kitchen skills were minimal. We had no idea how to fix coffee or pancakes or even scramble and egg. We decided upon toast and fresh squeezed juice.
Unfortunately – no fruit to squeeze, so we fixed ice water. That decided upon, we embarked on toast.
Our toaster was an old fashioned kind. It didn’t have a press down button or a timer. It was triangular with slotted doors on each side. It had one temperature setting—ON. To operate, you opened the door with the little knob on top, slid a piece of bread into the slot, shut the door and waited until it browned. How long you left it depended on how brown you wanted it. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop automatically.
You can imagine the disaster potential this presented for two industrious, and somewhat oblivious, children. We forgot about the toast until it was flaming. I’m not talking smoking a little, this was full on flames! They shot up, igniting a picture of a rooster I’d made with colored macaroni. It burned beautifully, blackening the wall and the calendar.
Our screams woke our parents. Our father ran to the kitchen, yanked the flaming picture from the wall and threw it in the sink. Our mother unplugged the toaster and carried it outside, depositing the bread cinders in the backyard.
I know they wanted to yell, but once they found out we’d been trying to fix them breakfast, the stopped. We were forbidden to use any kitchen implements without adult supervision—especially the toaster!
Many years later, as an adult, I wanted to bake my mother a special birthday cake. It was her seventieth birthday and wanted something more than a box cake. I had a wonderful recipe I wanted to try, so I set about gathering ingredients and mixing it up. I popped it in the oven. It smelled fabulous. I made the frosting and put it in the refrigerator, waiting for the beautiful cake to bake.
It was perfection! I poked a cake tester in a few inches. It came out clean, so I let the cake cool a little and inverted it on a plate. To my amazement, it slid out just right, not sticking to the pan. The bottom touched the plate and I heard a SLUUUURP PLOP! The inside was RAW! It got all over the table and floor before I realized what was happening. Although the outer crust was baked, the core was still liquid.
Upset, but determined, I cleaned it up and started over. I’m sure you can guess what happened. By the time the second cake came out, I was hysterical, but stubborn. I was ready to make a third attempt, but my husband put his foot down. He went to the cupboard and pulled out a box mix and handed it to me.
“No more! You’re making yourself crazy! Your mother will appreciate the effort. It doesn’t have to be a from-scratch cake.”
I wanted to argue, but I knew he was right. He helped me clean up the second disaster, which was nearly as bad as the first, and I made the boxed cake. Damn thing came out perfectly!
To this day, I don’t know where I went wrong with the other cake. Maybe it was a bad recipe. Maybe it was a fluke of my less than stellar oven. All I know is that, wonderful or not, I’ve never made it again. Nearly all my cakes are from boxes and I haven’t had any trouble with them.
My husband, wonderful man that he is, reminds me from time to time that I haven’t had a major kitchen disaster in years. I tell him that’s because I’ve got mad kitchen skills now.
“Nope,” he tells me with annoying confidence. “That’s because you’re good enough to skirt the every day ones. That means when you have one, you’ll probably burn the house down.”
© Dellani Oakes