Once upon a Kitchen

Sometimes, the gods just aren’t with you, for example…

Once upon a time, when we were young, my husband and I spent many weekends in New Hampshire with our good friends Steve and Ann. My parents had a small place on a lake, my husband and I had the ‘grandchildren’, and our friend Ann loved to cook and play bridge. For my mother, this was perfection. She even bought her own mother up to camp to babysit, while she played golf during the day. Meanwhile, Ann cooked a spectacular dinner and afterwards everyone played bridge. Whenever I suggested coming up to the camp, my mother would say.

“Oh! Are you bringing Steve and Ann?”

There was only one faint cloud in this otherwise glorious arrangement. Or, perhaps more accurately, several clouds.

“I’ll say!!” my husband chimed in. “Any time you and Steve were in New Hampshire at the same time, it rained.”

I sighed.

It was true. On a typical Saturday, my husband and I would get up very early in the morning, herding sleepy children into a car packed with water toys, swim suits, and tents. As we left Massachusetts, the sun would rise, heralding a clear and glorious day. But, inevitably, as we inched into the Granite state, we would begin to see them. Clouds. Faint at first, but as we drove deeper and deeper into the state, the sky would darken. Drops, just a few at first, would fall. Shortly great furious sheets of water would be hitting the windshield. We would drive slowly and defensively down the narrow rural roads, alert for sudden floods and washed out roadways…

“Yup,” my husband would mutter, “you and Steve are both in New Hampshire.”

I recount this now, because a similar thing is happening with me and my daughter-in-law. With us, it isn’t the New Hampshire rain gods. It’s the kitchen gods.

It all began shortly after their marriage. We had convinced the young couple to come for a “visit”. They may not have quite realized what they were in for.

“What you had planned for them, you mean.” my husband interrupted again.

On this particular morning, I had invited just a small number of relatives up for brunch. I had chosen brunch on the grounds that I couldn’t mess it up.

“Even I can cook quiche.” I had declared. And, I had an ‘ace in the hole’. My daughter-in-law was going to cook a strawberry rhubarb pie. Even if I did everything wrong, the pie would save the day, and my relatives would all love me.

Thus it was that, on a clear Saturday morning, my daughter-in-law and I found ourselves together in my kitchen. And then things got more complicated. Namely, I realized that I didn’t actually know how to cook quiche. My husband and son were in the next room, but they weren’t helping. One of them was laughing, and the other was praying.

Obviously, although my recipes were a bit more complicated than I anticipated I was really not a bit stressed by the imminent arrival of relatives, the pots and pans that were plied high, or the fact that in my postage stamp kitchen, I was trying to duck around my daughter-in-law who had her own issues with the pie dough. We really didn’t know each other very well. She was trying to keep out of my way. We kept smiling and saying excuse me.

Then for a moment, all seemed well. I had successfully accomplished a multiple step quiche, and all I needed to do was simply place it in the oven. The oven door was opened, I picked it up, bent over, and…the aluminum pie shell crumbled in half. I watched in slow motion, as my carefully constructed quiche spilled slowly all over the oven door, all over the kitchen floor, and all over the bottom of my oven. I froze in place. My daughter-in-law watched. For one very long moment, we stared at each other, with vitally identical deer-in-the-headlight expressions. Neither of us breathed.

Then, suddenly, someone giggled. She thinks she giggled first. I think I did.

“Wow. It sounds like you are having a good time in there.” my son called out sounding a bit relived.

“Ah…umm” and we giggled some more.

And that was the start of our bad kitchen karma.

I was thinking about this today, as I sat in her kitchen, watching her cook a cake for her husband’s birthday. Once again, the guys were in the living room. Once again her cake was having issues. Something needed to cool for much longer than expected. The guys headed back to the living room with more beverages. We amused ourselves by thinking up really expensive home additions.

That may have been what brought the guys back into the kitchen. Meanwhile my daughter-in-law was beating a lovely artery-clogging frosting. We were all quite excited about the prospect, and were amusing ourselves by encouraging the young terror to make a really serious mess out of his peanut butter and strawberry sandwich. Buoyed by all the attention, he was exceeding expectations.

Then, while my head was turned, my daughter-in-law suddenly spilled the luscious frosting. Then she tried to turn off the beater. But, in one of those nightmare moments when you hit the gas instead of the brake, she turned the beater on high while pulling it out of the bowl. The frosting flew from the beater and in a glorious arch it came to rest from one side of the kitchen to the other.

We all stared. And then we giggled.

“This is all your fault.” my husband said sternly. “You brought up the bad kitchen karma thing earlier today.”

I ignored him. I had work to do. I helped my daughter-in-law by wiping up a bit of the frosting with my fingers.

“Umm.” I replied.

“There is still plenty in the bowl.” someone else observed.

And then, I thought back to New Hampshire. When it rained, my mother didn’t get to play golf. She consoled herself by playing bridge all day. The kids played with each other. And, they got to watch TV, a normally forbidden pleasure. I snuck off and read. I think my grandmother might have enjoyed some adult company for a change.

Thinking back to the day of the quiche, my brunch wasn’t ruined. After all the strawberry rhubarb pie had turned out just fine. And, on this day of more bad kitchen karma, there was still plenty of frosting for a rather spectacular red velvet cake. And I don’t think the young terror even realized that his mother had seriously upstaged him in the mess department.

“We’ll just have to do this again.” I concluded, sitting in the kitchen and licking my fingers.

After all, maybe the gods are with us. They just need a bit of comic relief to make it through the day.

1 comment to Once upon a Kitchen

  • Lyn

    Those were the days!! Kids and dogs and lots of love. Miss it all and often remember our first visit there when we slept on the floor and it was my job to wake up in the night and add a log to the woodstove. Thanks for the memories.

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