Monday, March 12, 2012

Foods that Go Awry

We don’t come into this life being fully mature, generous, adept . . .  at anything.  It turns out we’re interns for life, sometimes informally, mostly informally.  And our mistakes. . .Yowza.

I don’t know about you, but it turns out that I never forget a lesson I learned the hard way.  I run into the problem again, and that old situation just comes up, shining through hard, and the memory is back, full-tilt and full-force.  I’m lucky if it doesn’t burn a hole in my retinas.

So, in the mistakes count category, here are three doozies.

First pie.  I was a sophomore in high school, in charge of lunch for the farm hands, which included Bobby, the sweetest of all possible guys.  My mom was running errands. Left to my own devices, I decided to make a cherry pie.  There was a big can of pie cherries in the pantry.  So, I made a homemade piecrust.  I only put a tablespoon of water in it, so when I rolled it out, the crust was a half an inch thick and only made one crust, instead of two.  I had to literally bang the thing into the pie pan.  There wasn’t enough left over for much of a rim and the tenderness factor was missing.

Onto the fruit.   I opened the can, and there was plenty of juice, but what I didn’t realize was that there was no sugar.  I spooned out the cherries, ladled some juice over, and stuck it in the oven.  The piecrust was so tough and thick, that it never cooked.  The pie came out of the oven pretty much the same way it went in: Raw and magnificently tart. 

By then, my mom was home and Bobby was in the kitchen.  My mom was horrified, thinking I was up to toasted  cheese sandwiches and warmed over chicken noodle soup, which I had done none of. Bobby was so gallant, he tried eating a bite or two, and stuck up for me, said it wasn’t too bad. He didn’t grimace once although the temptation for that was compelling.   My mom having none of it, rescued him by trashing the slice of pie and promising him a better meal, the next day.

So, forward 20 years, my post-Germany summer.  I was so homesick for that beautiful country that I was going to make a cake, like the ones I’d had there.  This one:  white cake, whipped cream for frosting, and fresh fruit.  Friends were coming for dinner, eager for a German meal and dessert.  

Cake layers, done and sliced in half, so there were four layers.  Whipped cream, whipped to fairly firm, plenty of sugar.  A plethora of fresh fruit: fresh cherries, kiwis, strawberries, green grapes, some of them were sugared for the top.

I carefully stacked the layers: cake, cream, and fruit—four times.  It was glorious.  So I put it in the fridge, it needed to be chilled.

Four hours later, I opened the fridge, while the guests were there, and there it was: the cake.  It wasn’t that it was flatter, it was that it had taken a little journey, from the plate to the refrigerator racks—and fallen through the slates on the refrigerator shelves.  It was resting on pieces on the veggie bin, having sieved itself on the racks. I had to dig it out of there with a spoon.

Later that summer, I asked my buddy, Carla from Germany, what had gone wrong.  Apparently, the bakers use a stabilizing agent with their whipped cream cakes.   Who knew?

Last summer, July.  One of my church buddies, Rick,  has a two-state family.  His wife, Suzie,  and his children and a darling grandchild live in one state.  He lives in my state, because he has very specific computer skills and you need a large organization for that.  In this case, state government.  So last summer, everybody traipsed over to my state and Rick hosted a party so we could get to know his kids: two beautiful girls, one of them is the mother of the beautiful Ellie.  My job was to bring the cupcakes. 

So, all afternoon I made cupcakes, chocolate, maple, and strawberry.  The chocolate and the maple ones were great, but I was losing time fast, so I didn’t let the strawberry ones cool for the hour or so required before you frost them.  The frosting was butter based, actually thawed strawberries, powered sugar, and butter.  It was a hot day, so the frosting was pretty soft.  I got them all done, before my five o’clock deadline, and went to get ready for the party.

When I came back, I chanced a look at the dining room table.  The frosting had fallen off the cupcakes.  They were as naked as babies.  I had some frosting left and I whipped in more powered sugar and I stuck the cupcakes in the freezer for 15 minutes and then refrosted them.  I was an hour late to the party.  

Ray, of Ray and Katie, soon to be newly weds, liked the cupcakes.  He seemed to be someone who’d eaten prepared or processed foods most of his life, and the real stuff was a revelation. I left most of the cupcakes for him. 

We’re friends for life.


  1. Wonderful post! Funny and tender stories.

  2. Thanks! I loved those small badges of honor. Sometime, Lucille used to say, our worst mistakes are our best memories.