“Heidi, why do you always burn the cookies?”
Well, I don’t every time. But in the eyes of the 5-yr old I live with, enough crisp barely-edibles have emerged from my oven for her to doubt my culinary skills and pose the question.
Oh, did I mention she is 5? And I am 28? I don’t recall including ‘shaming myself in front of a kid 23 years younger than me‘ in my life plan, but I bet a burnt cookie that the British didn’t plan on getting whipped by the rag-tag American rebels. Life is full of unsavory surprises.
It happened one evening when I was babysitting Karis and her 3-yr old brother Titus. We had already tapped out the standard babysitting activities: hide & go seek, story time, arguing over which Thomas the Tank Engine movie to watch. (It is surprisingly difficult to choose between mind-numbingly boring and mind-numbingly boring.)
With an hour left until bed time, I decided a quick batch of cookies would be an easy time filler and secure me their love. No, I am not above bribing children. It is good preparation for their adult lives.
As Thomas the Tank Engine had just promised me that things always work out perfectly in life, you will imagine my shock when upon checking the cookies half-way through, I beheld what resembled a brown molten lava flow. Melding into one another, the nine cookies had lost all individuality as they bubbled and slithered like a gooey primordial mass over the side of the cookie sheet and on to the oven floor.
Shamefacedly, I presented the ooze to the kids. I’ll never forget the shock and betrayal that flickered across their faces. They implicitly trusted me to carry out a simple function, and I failed them miserably (in retrospect, I should have blamed the debacle on them).
Fortunately, mature emotions such as disappointment over adult shortcomings do not reside long in the hearts of children. With great alacrity, I capitalized on a more carnal sensation I knew would fully captivate their little souls: the fleshly pleasure of a soft, warm half-baked cookie. Remember what I said about bribing?
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you are wondering why Karis asked why I always burn the cookies, if I had actually under-baked them. You see, the problem stems much deeper than that. She was confusedly referencing my habitual propensity to scorch the bean & rice dish I cook every few weeks. A simple recipe I make often, yet continue to botch, wafting a crisp, burnt aroma throughout the house from my basement lair of incineration.
My excuse for beggarly cooking skills? As a teenager, I was too busy reading War & Peace repeatedly to study a cookbook. So while I boast an intimate & extremely relevant knowledge of the chariots of Napolean’s army, I can’t even boil beans properly.
My mother often bemoans my paltry culinary skills – how will I ever get married if I can’t cook? Silly Mom. Her concerns reveal her ignorance about the ways of romance. Love must be tested. How can I be confident suitors aren’t pursuing me solely for my nominal good looks or lack of financial surplus unless I test their affection – in this case, through a burnt carcass they must ingest?
So the morals (or more aptly, lack of morals) of the story are: 1) Always bake with kids, because you can blame any mistakes on them, and 2) Read less Tolstoy and more cookbooks. Russian war stories are entertaining, but you can’t eat Napoleon.
Oh, gotta go. I smell burnt beans!
P.S. Never fear, Mommy! In all seriousness, I am making slow efforts to master the kitchen. Just this week I whipped up a delectable batch of spaghetti, burn-free and completely edible! Now that is progress.
Documentation of the carnage. Karis is bummed, but resigned. Titus is capitalizing on the situation to practice his sexy ‘Blue Steel’ look.