Friday, February 24, 2006
When it's a Good Idea to Purchase Baked Goods
For those lacking Walt Disney’s imagination, the sad looking things in the picture above are soft pretzels. Yesterday I learned (with one more day to go in the week) that J. needed to bring “something from the bread group” to share with his class for the “food group of the week.” So I got out my Better Homes & Gardens and saw “soft pretzels” which J. loves. I briefly perused the directions and thought they didn’t look too difficult to make…
Several hours of mixing, kneading, baking, boiling, painting with egg white and baking again later I was cursing myself for not having read more carefully before promising we could make them. I sent the five best ones to school with him this morning. Yes, I know that technically there aren’t “five best ones,” but hopefully the preschoolers won’t mind. The most embarrassing part of this picture is that you probably can’t even differentiate between the several I twisted into the pretzel shape and the few created by my 2.5 and 4.5-year-olds.
If instead of What Not to Wear they made a reality series called How Not to Decorate a Gingerbread House, I could be the star. It’s not that I’m a bad cook. I’m a pretty good cook, actually, but I’m the antithesis of “artsy-craftsy.” And therein lies the secret to my baking issues I think.
I make a three or four course dinner most nights and for breakfast every day. Well, yes, it’s true that some days the four-course breakfast is made up of cold cereal, milk, apples and peanut butter, but that counts, doesn’t it? Don’t answer… I’m just going to go with “yes.” Seriously though, I like to cook, but I hate baking. I’m not sure why because I’ll go to a lot of trouble to make a big meal (cleaning shrimp, dicing onions extra fine so as to not be spotted by Little Mr. Picky, stuffing raw chicken and even making my own broth from scratch), but I just draw the line at mixing up dough of any kind and putting it in the oven. It’s too stressful for some un-apparent reason.
It could be because the only time I ever bake is for the sake of the kids. As in, the kids are bouncing off the walls and it’s pouring rain outside, “Hey kids, want to make pumpkin cake with Mama?” Or alternatively, (woe is me) my mother never baked Christmas cookies with me when I was a kid so, “Hey guys let’s make cookies… it’ll be fun!” I don’t have to convince them, that last part is for my benefit.
One of the things I like about cooking is I find it relaxing. I mean in the kitchen all of your basic human needs are met, there’s food, there’s warmth, there's wine. Often there are small, adorable humans swarming around your legs and somewhere, if you’re lucky, there’s a man waiting to tell you how grateful he is to come home to such good food every day. It’s a beautiful thing, cooking!
But let me tell you what’s not relaxing (or beautiful)… two preschool aged boys fighting over whose turn it is to (not actually) roll out the dough with the rolling pin or one boy pouring out three cups of sugar while you’re frantically searching for the yeast, because he wanted “just a little taste.” And it’s really really not relaxing to have to scream ten times per minute, “The dough needs to rest, please stop poking it!”
Whenever I start a baking project with the kids, halfway through I find that old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished,” popping into my head for some reason. But the kids are really impressed with themselves (they seem to have no idea that these things look nothing like pretzels), and we have easy and (fairly) healthy snacks for the next few days. So life is good… until the next rainy day at least.