Hear Me Out

March 3, 1996

A friend of mine called last week.
When I picked up the phone,
I heard the not-too-distant tone of hysteria in her voice.

"It's frightening." Nikki whispered. "He could still be in the house. I don't know what to do. I feel so violated." You see, her son Josh baked a cake.

"Don't panic, that's the most important thing." I wanted to help her through this, his first expedition into the kitchen for more than something wrapped in cellophane.

"It's still here. I've never been scared of food. This thing frightens me."

Apparently Josh and a buddy came home from school and had a hankering' for something sweet. Finding nothing, they decided to make IT. After all, they are men (14 years old, right smack in the middle of hormone induced delusions of grandeur).

These two teenage Neanderthals didn't know the difference between a Dutch oven and a boning knife. They used pie tins to make the three layers for the cake. If you don't bake at all, believe me this is a dangerous way to go. That gentle slope that makes pies so inviting also makes cake layers slip and slide all over the place creating a Mt. St. Helen's cake. It's ugly, messy, and destroys anything in it's path.

I consider myself a very good cook. It's something I can take pride in without feeling guilty or apologetic. (Being raised in the Macho world the Jimenez family, pride in anything besides the family and the kitchen is frowned upon). Over the years, I have found my niche in the kitchen. I do dinner. More specifically, I create main dishes that make you cry for your mother. My appetizers aren't bad but they aren't for everyone. I like overpowering appetizers like marinated mushrooms that are so full of garlic, onion and vinegar they hurt.

Leslie, cannot cook. When I met her she could burn water. I don't mean she would simply boil off all the water in a pan ... I mean she was so bad in the kitchen a pan of water would actually burst into flames out of self defense. So far she has melted the handles off two coffee pots.

While I have been honing my skills, she's been discovering hers. She can bake bread. I'm sure it's because she follows the recipe religiously unlike us creative types who take it as a mere suggestion. The first time she did it, I was amazed but proud. The loaf was a beautiful golden brown, the crust was firm and crunchy but not hard. The middle well cooked with loads of air bubbles to make it light and aromatic. Inwardly I knew it was a fluke. Then she did it again. Same results. After the third time, I had to admit to myself that she can make bread while all I could do is get yeast infections.

The last time I tried to make any sort of bread-like product was over eight years ago. It was cinnamon buns. I combined, I beat, I kneaded and I waited. The dough didn't seem to rise but I wasn't sure how much it would because it was cinnamon buns, (maybe a distant cousin to bread but not exactly bread). I moved on. I rolled up the dough and cut it into 12 two-inch rolls. The recipe mentioned twenty-four to thirty but I figured it was like the pancake recipes. It says you should get 37 dozen dollar sized pancakes and I end up with eight.

I put the buns in the oven and enjoyed the smell. I was feeling very Mary Homemaker. I was mystified when I pulled them out of the oven. They were exactly the same size as when I put them in. They were beautiful and golden with the hot sugar glistening at me but they didn't raise to the puffy equivalent of the picture next to the recipe. Oh well; Big Macs never look the same either.

I picked one up. The thing must have weighed a pound and the density made me nervous. I tried to bit into it. I say I tried because the damn thing was hard as a rock. I hadn't made cinnamon buns, I'd made ceramic representation of pastry! I was crushed. I decided to try again but I needed more supplies for another attempt. Just at that moment, Leslie walked in and mentioned how good the house smelled.

I headed for the front door as she headed to the kitchen. As I put on my jacket she said, "God, these look great. Looks like you succeeded!"

There was no way for her to know. I said something smart-ass about baking baseballs. She thought it was so funny she picked one up and threw it at me. The bun hit my forehead with such force and weight it raised a welt.

Struck down, like Goliath, with my own cinnamon bun. Talk about adding insult to injury.


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Copyright 1997 by Laura Jiménez.

Updated 03/13/97
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