Tuesday, March 7, 2006

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

With the exception of being a little windy, today was a gorgeous early spring day here in Northeast Arkansas. Spring bulbs and other flowers are beginning to bloom, and some of the spring-flowering trees and shrubs are beginning to show color. The Bradford pears are just starting to bloom and in a week or so will be in full blossom, if they don't get their buds froze off, that is. Area farmers are already plowing and working the ground, preparing for the planting season. These daffodils are right outside my front door, and are putting on a shameless show. My photography doesn't do them justice. I have some tulips and other bulbs that should be blooming soon, and I will try to do a better job with pics of them, and hopefully post them on the blog.

This was not an especially busy weekend, but I still didn't manage to post on the blog. I have had several visitors who have posted comments, including some from across the world. I am sure some of the things they read on this blog are as new and different to them as theirs are to me. I am enjoying getting acquainted and learning new things about their culture in comparison with ours here in the United States. They certainly have a much better grasp of English than I do of their respective languages. Welcome, everyone, make yourselves at home, and if you have any questions, post a comment and I will try to get back to you. Welcome also to my new blog friends here in the U.S. who have been visiting, and the same applies. Bring a friend, too, there's room for all who are interested, and I would like to get to know you better, too.

I had made a reference to an incident that happened when my sister Cecil and I were growing up in my last post. Cecil and I decided that as we had no money to buy Mom and Dad a gift for their anniversary, we had very limited options in the gift category. We discussed and rejected several options, and finally settled on baking a cake for them. You have to realize that at the time we were oh, maybe, 13 and 12 years old, and had very limited experience in cooking much of anything, much less baking a cake from scratch. No, not a cake mix, that might not have been too bad, but one from scratch, and one we had never even heard of before: we just went through magazines and picked one by process of elimination. Yes, we had flour, no, we didn't have coconut.......yes, we had sugar, no, we had no lemon flavoring, but we did have vanilla.......And so on, until we settled on a vanilla chiffon cake with Seafoam frosting. I am a fairly adventurous cook these days, but I doubt I would attempt to make that recipe even now. Not that it would be that difficult with the experience I have now, but Seafoam frosting has coffee in it, and that doesn't even appeal to me at all, now. I really don't know why it seemed to sound like such a good idea then........hmmmmmmm.......Who knows what was going through our minds then.......... :)

Other than an Olympic-sized mess, we managed to put together the cake without too many disasters. One note, however, to anyone who has not already learned this the hard way: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR LITTLE SISTER SAYS, LIFT THE MIXING BEATERS OUT OF THE CAKE BATTER WHILE THEYARE STILL IN OPERATION. It was an eye-opening experience to us exactly how far cake batter will travel when flung by a handmixer on Warp Speed. Of further note: If you should ever come across a recipe in a Woman's Day magazine, circa 1976, for Vanilla Chiffon Cake with Seafoam Frosting-----when the recipe calls for coffee, it is referring to instant coffee crystals, NOT coffee made to drink with hot water added. Just a note.......For the cake batter, this was not TOO much of a disaster........As for the frosting, that is another matter entirely.......But we shall discuss that further after we deal with the cake.

For whatever reason, Mama only possessed 2 round cake pans at the time. The recipe called for 3, but, we reasoned, since all the batter would fit in 2 pans without running over, what was the big deal? It all fit when we put it in the oven. Okay, now for the frosting. Seafoam frosting involves lots of egg whites, sugar and coffee......Yeah......remember the coffee? Four tablespoons of coffee.......so we made up a cup of coffee---hot water, with instant coffee crystals dissolved in it, and painstakingly measured out exactly 4 tablespoons of coffee. Ever seen what 4 tablespoons of hot coffee will do to 6 beaten egg whites? It ain't pretty, folks.......And in the midst of this crisis, Cecil informs me she smells just a teeny bit of smoke......Leave the egg whites for a moment to check on the cake...........Open the oven door........and our Beautiful cakes are climbing out of the pans!! And dripping onto the bottom of the oven in the process! (By the way, properly assembled cakes RISE, and if the pan is not large enough to hold it, it WILL rise up and run over the sides in pursuit of fluffiness.........) So now we have falling egg whites, cake that is climbing out of the pans, and burning cake batter in the bottom of the oven. Are you with me so far? Well, my solution to the burning cake batter was, let it burn, and try to get it cleaned up before Mom and Dad got home from work. As for the cake, I had a grand IDEA! I had Cecil go get a clean wash cloth, and I wet it with cold water. I then proceeded to MASH the cake batter back down into the pans. Hey, it sounded like a good idea at the time, and we were scared to death we were going to catch the stove on fire. Dire straits call for desperate measures, people. Now the cake is squashed into submission, disaster averted, and it's time to deal with the frosting. As far as I knew, the egg whites were supposed to de-froth. I did have a passing thought as to why spend 5 minutes beating the egg whites to stiff peaks, only to wilt them with hot coffee, but, hey, it really didn't seem that important at the time, :)

Onward to the business at hand. I continued adding ingredients to that frosting, and I beat.........I whipped............I beat some more.............But that was still the thinnest frosting I had ever seen. I decided it must be like a glaze, and it was supposed to soak into the cake and make it moist. I have decided a lot of things in my time that didn't exactly work out right, but never mind that now. Added to all the excitement, it was almost time for Dad to come home, and we needed to get things done and cleaned up before he arrived. So, as soon as the cake came out of the oven, we gently beat them out of the pans onto a plate, and poured our frosting(?) over it. What little life those egg whites had left in them died the death when they hit that hot cake. It was ugly, folks...Kind of like a frothy bathtub ring.........But to us, it was beautiful at the time. Our first homemade cake, and we made it all by ourselves!

When Dad went to get Mom and brought her home from work, we couldn't wait until after supper for them to have a piece of their anniversary cake, they had to cut it and have a piece immediately. I had a piece of it, too and so did Cecil. I decided that it must be because it was gourmet food, because I wasn't real fond of it. It had to be because it was a fancy recipe from a magazine. It couldn't possibly be the fault of the cooks that it didn't taste all that great to us. We just didn't have a sophisticated enough palate, that was it. Poor Mama and Daddy, they had to love us to eat that mess! I don't know how they choked it down, but I did notice they had several cups of coffee with their cake, and we just couldn't talk them into having seconds. They said it would ruin their supper. It's a wonder it didn't give us terminal indigestion! I never saw them eat any more of that cake, but somehow, more of it disappeared every day. Mama told me later, she would put some in an empty can and pitch it in the trash every day to make it look like they were eating it. She tried throwing it out to the chickens and the dog to eat, but even they wouldn't eat it. Now that's bad food, when the chickens and the dog won't eat it. That is true love, when someone will eat something the dog won't, to avoid hurting your feelings.

If Mom and Dad were still living, March 11 would have been their anniversary. They would have been married 60 years this year. They had been married 58 years when Dad died. That is a long time to live with someone. It is very rare these days to see anyone get to 10 years together, much less 58.

This is in loving memory of my Mama, Jessie Lue Headrick Cook-June 28, 1929-April 13, 2005, and my Daddy, George Franklin Cook-Sept. 26, 1923-Dec. 19, 2004. I miss you every day, and I can't wait to see you again.

I Love You.....................Joe


Yasser Rahman said...

It is wierd what your folks will take for you..My Mum, Dad and everyone around me take a lot of my nonsence, I wonder why...But they jst do

Guess thats the power of love :)

Cake! I could do with some now ;)

Diane said...

Love does indeed cover a multitude of sins, and also a lot of nonsense from our kids, too...... :)

You should appreciate your parents and all your loved ones while you have them with you. Who knows what the next moment may bring......

It's 3 am here in Arkansas, and cake does sound pretty good....But, trust me......you really don't want any of the cake mentioned in this blog!!!
It truly was horrible on a grand scale........ ;)

I left you a comment on your blog, too..... :)

owlhaven said...

Hi-- found you thru HolyMama. I have a daughter the same age as yours

Mary, mom to 8

Diane said...


You're a better woman than I am!! I wouldn't take anything in the world for Jessica, but I am so glad she is 18 and all the childhood stuff is behind us. I cherish all the pics, keepsakes and memories of her childhood, but I would dread to know that I had to do it all again, :)

I only had the one: how in the world do you manage 8 of them?!

I visited your blog and left a comment. I really enjoyed your blog, and I have you bookmarked to visit often. Please feel free to visit here, and make yourself at home.

Welcome, new friend. :) ;)

Morning Glory said...

Diane, this is one of the funniest stories I've ever read! How very sweet of your parents to make it look like it was the best they had ever eaten.

I'm enjoying reading through these recommended posts of yours.