Anybody who has read any of my Story Time posts, may have noticed there is a slight fantastical edge added to each of them. I’m a writer, so naturally I like to spice things up a little. This story, however, needs very little added to it. It speaks volumes all on its own.
For my wife’s birthday last year, I sent her away for a spa weekend in the mountains. Two days of beautiful views, and well-executed relaxation with a professional hot stone massage, pedicure, and facial. I thought this was a pretty good birthday gift. She works so hard (she deals with me seven days per week) she deserved a break, even if it was just a brief one. So, with a baby strapped to my back and another holding my hand, I vowed to make her return spectacular.
She was to come home early afternoon at the end of the weekend, and my kids and I had spent copious amounts of time designing birthday signs, blowing up balloons, and decorating the house. Having been a cook for ten years prior to becoming a writer, I decided to cook her a wonderful meal. But on top of that, I wanted to really surprise her, so I baked her a cake.
I’m a cook, not a baker. That said, I am also a freestyle type of cook. I don’t use recipes or anything of the sort. I throw it all together and make original masterpieces. Never will two dishes taste alike. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t work for baking. Anyone who bakes knows that everything must be precise, or things do not work out. This is the reason I dislike it and on most occasions, refuse to bake. But this was a special weekend, and so I would step out of my comfort zone.
Since I’m not a baker, I didn’t try to do anything so handily as start from scratch. I bought a box of cake mix, icing, and set out to make the best cake I could manage. Everything was going splendidly, until it came time to mix it all together. Now for the most part, any time I’ve ever baked anything I’ve used the electric mixer. But since I know baking generally requires the directions being followed explicitly, I did exactly as it said.
I came to the final step before pouring the mix in the pan and the directions stated, “beat by hand.” For any seasoned baker, or for anyone with a drop of common sense, they would know what this means. I on the other hand, decided to follow that direction a little too closely.
So there I was, staring into a massive bowl of ingredients floating together in unmixed madness. I glance to the box, nodding after consuming the directions, and plunge my hands into the mixture, ready to fuse every atom of ingredient together into a single viscous slop. My fingers are bending and squeezing, my hands are churning and thrusting, and my eyes are unwavering, but the ingredients refuse to be mixed. I pull my hands out slightly, letting raw egg drip from my fingertips. I look back at the box, check the directions, nod again, and dive back in. It’s messy, it’s gooey, and its uncompromising will refuses to be broken.
Frustrated, I take a long, deep breath. I glance at the box, then the bowl, and finally, the half-cracked mixture that clings to my hands. “I should really just use the electric mixer,” I say to myself. “This isn’t working, what could I POSSIBLY be doing wrong?”
I try wiping the goo from my hands but it isn’t working. It’s stuck to me like a sandy symbiote, waiting to fuse its evil, semi-sweet soul with my own. I curse under my breath and reach for the spatula. Surely this baking beast cannot conquer the trusty spatula! As I pull it from the vase of kitchen utensils, the whisk rolls to the front and looks up at me.
“You’re a douchebag,” it says.
“Look at you. You are clearly, a douchebag.”
I scoff at the whisk. “Screw you, you you wiry, plastic-handled shit!”
The whisk stares up at me in silence, lifting a single metal coil to give me the finger.
I’m angry, ready to throw him in the recycle bin, and then it hits me. ‘Beat by hand’ actually means don’t use an electric beater with tiny whisks attached, but use an actual whisk and beat the mixture by hand.
I sigh in self-disappointment, wash off my hands, and use the whisk to defeat my gooey nemesis. The mixture blends beautifully, succumbing the flimsy wire device, and twenty five minutes later, there is a near-perfect pre-packaged chocolate cake cooling on the stove.
Icing it was a synch and the final product, although embarrassingly created, is a grand, double layered chocolate cake with cream cheese icing. I have struggled, I have been gooed, I have been insulted by inanimate kitchenware, but I have succeeded. I have bested the pre-packaged cake.
All baked goods shall now bow before me…as long as I’m holding the power of the whisk.