Scary Food Stories
As the mother of 3 girls, who had learned to cook from a talented chef of sorts (or so she has always said of my father) it was important to my mother to teach us the intricacies of cooking. I, as a stubborn hard-headed child who rebelled against most anything my mother tried to teach me, resisted her efforts. I told her at the age of about 10 that I wouldn't need to learn to cook, I was going to marry rich and eat out a lot. She still gives me a hard time about that, since I've never even dated a man with money!
Anyway, I never learned much more than how to boil water without burning it, and then married a NOT rich man at a very young age, who amazingly enough, expected to have dinner when he got home from work, and even more unbelievably, he expected it to be edible! Silly silly man! He was most definitely sadly disappointed. The years since I left home at 16 have been filled with cooking mishaps and nightmares. I remember french fries that damn near burnt the house down, (not that I didn't know how to bake french fries, but apparently, I didn't know how to remember that I'd put them in the oven!) and then there was my first attempt at country style steak over rice, which resulted in a beautifully smoky flavored pan full of charcoal briquettes.
I've come to terms with the fact that I'm no goddess, I'm not exactly Martha Stewart. I've even learned, for the most part, to overcome my domestic disabilities, and can cook most any meal requested of me. But it tends to be like listening to someone play Beethoven by rote, but without heart. For me, cooking is a chore, but at least one that I can do perfectly adequately.
Baking however is a whole different story. My mother is an amazing baker. She makes cakes that make you drool, and decorates them like a pro, seriously, she did it for money for a while. So the year my oldest son turned eight, I decided I was going to drag out her cake-baking books, and make the ultimate in birthday creations. That year he was fascinated with magic tricks, and all the gifts he requested were of the magical variety, and I was planning on making the ever-so-popular magicians hat, complete with the rabbit coming out of the top. It looked simple enough, beginning with a round 2 layer cake... I figured the worst part would be the taste of the black icing... Oh how wrong I was!
First, I was pregnant with my youngest son at the time, and some old wife told me that baking while pregnant is always a bad idea. I've believed her ever since. Aside from that, it was early July, extremely hot, and the A/C was on the fritz - never the best case scenario for sculpting icing. I mixed and poured according to the directions on the box, preheated, baked and timed according to the same, and, lo and behold, I burnt the cake, and had the opportunity to realize that, apparently, my oven sat on a bit of an angle... as evidenced by the fact that both rounds were thicker on the one side than the other. Knowing there were only a few hours before the little party people arrived, I opted to trim off the high spots and the crispy bits, and hope that the design would have them all so awed that they wouldn't notice that it tasted like licking the grill. Ever tried to ice the cut edge of a cake? Yeah, so then we had icing with cake crumbs mixed in. Black icing, brown crumbs, but hey, the kids would buy it if I told them that it was on purpose, right? I mean, they were only eight!
As I worked my way around the outside edge of the cake (turn, ice, turn, ice) the parts I'd already iced began to ooze, sliding ever downward, so that by the time I got back to the spot where I'd started, I found that the icing was more of a puddle on the cake plate than anything else. Of course, the best course of action then is to turn on the A?C, even though it doesn't actually cool very much, and try to re-spread the icing directly in front of it. No, that didn't work, but after enough tries at it, there were enough cake crumbs mixed in to sort of 'stiffen' the icing and make it look only slightly molten.
Next, there was a cardboard donut, wrapped in aluminum to lay on top of the cake, thus forming the hat's brim. It too had to be iced in black, but at least it was horizontal, and would hold the icing! Unless of course, it was cut with the center hole too large, and therefore, won't stay on top of the cake, but rather, falls to the bottom, scraping away all icing from the sides as it goes...
Do you have a mental image yet? Let me remind you, it was mid summer, in the 90's, the oven's been on, there's no A/C, I'm pregnant, stressed out, pissed off and cussing... Oh yes, there was much cussing that day. I've spent hours trying to find a picture of what that cake was supposed to look like. I haven't found one. I'd like to believe that's because no one's been able to actually accomplish such a feat of baking 'magic.' I do have a picture of how my poor son's eighth birthday cake looked though:
Thanks to the local Bi-Lo bakery department!