This last push towards the end of the corporate eventing year is always a long drawn out and tough one. It goes without saying, you work so hard and you pull so many rabbits out of a bevy of fascinators and yet you still don’t seem to reap any rewards. You dance on the verge of trading in your soul because deadlines threaten to gobble you up. You feel out of control and you can’t see any value in the slog because the final products are not quite done yet, hence the push.
By the time last weekend came (the first weekend I had had in a long time). I needed to realign my inner Zen and to make a significant impact on the timeline of my life. I was craving instant gratification. And so, I pulled out our new pie tins because I was about to show the world what action and reaction looked like.
I was about to make my version of a great vegetarian pie. Watch out pastry chefs of the world, you with your reputations of how you defy gravity and such when you bake a gooey substance and it transforms into a light and airy tart/pastry/puff/etc. The point is: how hard could it be? I was dedicated and I was seeking finite results, forget a need for a seemingly never ending vision, I was about an hour away from being a part of greatness.
So I started to mix the ingredients together (technically I didn’t have a recipe as I had not thought that through, I simply took the instructions that the pie tin manufacturers had generously placed on their packaging). Once the mixture was clinging to me right up to my elbow, I remembered how my granny had rolled her mixtures with a rolling pin and on a plastic sheet. I looked for something that vaguely resembled a rolling pin but then got caught up in a tussle with the mixture. I was adamant not to let this get the better of me, and I definitely would not let the mixture in on the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing yet. Yet.
I managed to eke out the goop into the pie tins, squished it with a floured thumb, and then generously filled my base with some cut up stir fry veg. I then contemplated how to cover the mound of veg, as mixture-veg ratio seemed a little off kilter. I proceeded to spoon out some of the veg and then squished in the dough without it lifting back off with pieces of veg clinging to it.
When I finally got the tins into the oven (which I had remembered to pre-heat) I was mighty cuffed, so they didn’t look that nice but I bet they would taste great – just like pure vegetable wholesomeness. As time passed, and after looking into the oven many a time, something was not sitting right with my baked delights. They seemed more biscuit-y as opposed to pastry-ish. As if I had made millionaire’s shortbread but instead of the chocolate and caramel, I had placed vegetables which, by this stage had dehydrated beyond recognition. At the taste test, I realised that the pies tasted like a sweet biscuit that had somehow lost its identifying sweetness. I ate one wholeheartedly just to show baby that he was missing out on my pâtissière skills. I oohed and aahed over my tasteless dry-crunch, but baby was having none of it, he was going to call in for a take away.
The remainder of the pies stayed in their tins for the rest of the week end, untouched by everyone including the cats, and that really is saying something.
Come Saturday I was adamant to beat this baking thing. I was not about to let a minor slip up get me down, I was determined to show the world I could control this controllable.
My next mission was to bake a chocolate cake, yes a full-on cake with icing and sprinkles and such. I was not too perturbed about taking ownership for something that was packaged in a step-by-step box and all you really had to do was mix all the elements together and then bake it and then mix some more things together and then pour the new contents over the baked good and then tah-dah, bob literally is your uncle. I was in the process of folding the mixture which seemed to be extremely toffee-like in texture. I had absolutely given up on using my hand wound egg beater, and was practically using my fist to stir. Real upper body workout material this.
Luckily my mom rocked up and had a go and it all seemed to get better. The baking part seemed ok as the cake rose and didn’t look like a flop – I sensed imminent glory – finally. We took it out of the oven and left it to stand for a while. After tipping it out of the mould onto a cooling rack, it seemed to sit for a minute and was then taken over by a tremor and literally quaked into four rugged pieces. Luckily, baby had a suggestion that stemmed from his building industry – cement the cracks with the piece of sticky cake that had somehow been left behind in the silicon cake mould, genius I tell you. I had wondered what we were going to do with that extra piece that hadn’t directly come from the bottom but had somehow come from inside the cake. My mom had stepped back by this stage, something to do with too many cooks and broth which I didn’t quite appreciate because it seemed a bit of a jinx in light of yesterday’s savoury dish that had come out sweet and I didn’t particularly want todays sweet to be savoury. [Later our suspicions were confirmed, just one speck of the sponge and we knew it was on the slightly salty side].
Anyway, I pasted the cake together and then proceeded to pour the fondant my mom had mixed, over my patch work. Fondant cools fast I tell you and further more, it kind of fills up the negative spaces of a cake. So after the majority of the fondant disappeared somewhere into the sub surface well of the cake, I sprinkled the gold goodies on the top and marvelled.
It didn’t look too bad but I was not sure I wanted to eat any of it just yet, perhaps I would take it to work as incentive for fellow colleagues to help push towards the end of 2012. If you get the fondant blob then that sugar rush might kick you into 2013, alternatively the now confirmed slightly-salty-cake part might impact your new year’s resolutions – to never eat cake again.
By Sunday, the cake was packed away and ready for the following morning to take to work, and I was slightly depro at my culinary disappointments. In one last attempt to boost my self-esteem, baby suggested that I cook a meal that I actually had confidence in and did know how to make (since even before I met him) – a chicken and veg stir-fry. That’s it, I thought, get back on that wooden spoon and show that big hob in the sky that I can cook. Sheer liberation, those carrots were getting the julienne of their lifetime. I owned it and for a split second I took my eyes off the road, you know, a little bit of kitchen cruise control and I chopped the knife blade right off itself. I was feeling like the time had come to bow out gracefully and leave the adventures in the kitchen to baby – he really does make magic when, without even a poof of smoke, a stunning rib eye and tsasiki is served.
Needless to say, once all my ingredients were simmering, the mysticism continued. Somehow, the stove-wok-chicken combination seemed to spark some sort of chemistry. My tried and tested chicken and veg stir-fry crisped to a blackened coal substance. I wailed with incredulity and baby moseyed into the kitchen to see what this last bit of commotion was about. He chuckled as I showed him my charred dish. All he offered me (not so much a shoulder to cry on, but words that I later interpreted as a double entendre): “Yep, that’s my Cake Anderson.”
Sure, baby meant that I should not give up my day job in the corporate events, and I guess that you can’t take your corporate frustrations out on the delicate ecosphere that is the kitchen.
But this was not the last of my attempts.
As I type this, funnily listening to American alternative rock band, Cake’s version of I Will Survive, I know the making of an awesome persona. I envision a continuous stream of pastries, marbles and puds, for everyone, but most of all, I envision a Great Cake Anderson.