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Column

‘Mom signed up to bring snacks? Oh no!’

My family likes to remind me of all the stupid things I’ve ever done. More than likely, I’m not alone in this. At least I’m hoping your family does this to you as well? I like to call it a character building exercise, and man ... am I ever a character!

For some reason, I’m the person in my family who constantly courts embarrassment. I have broken both of my arms by falling upstairs. I say things incorrectly at the worst times, “What do you mean the lyrics aren’t ‘There’s a bathroom on the right?’” I’m just a little awkward in general. It’s okay though, my misadventures have provided me with some genuine comedy that have provided me with life lessons and good old fashioned belly laughs.

Plus, thanks to one of my most famous embarrassing moments, I’ve also been given a free pass to all things baking related.

You heard me right. If there is any family event that requires baking, I get a big “It’s fine,” or “No thank you.” I’m not insulted. Less stress really. The kids don’t think that’s as cute though, as they have grown up with a mom who doesn’t bake cookies. Those poor little kids, living years without chocolate chip cookies sitting on the counter. They’ll probably complain about it to their children someday, “My mom only cooked when she had to write an article, it was called Bakecrastinating, and it only happened once a year. She was the worst.”

How did I develop this baking aversion? Well, I’d like to say it’s because baking is so closely related to math, which I am allergic to, but it’s actually because I once screwed up so badly that I get a little nervous when baked goods are discussed. I get the baked good sweats.

You see, my little sister Katey was bringing her boyfriend, now husband of 19 years, James home for us all to meet for the first time. This was a big deal. If you know Katey, you know she doesn’t talk much, nor does she tell you about her life. Holy heck. It was like we were all getting to read her diary! Which I had never done before ...

The pressure was on. Naturally, we wanted to impress her boyfriend. Mom decided to make a big dinner, and I thought, “I’ll make a dessert.”

Now why I would decide to do that, I don’t know. I remember mom even making an expression like, “Oh. Oh my.” However, she was willing to trust me ... and how hard can pumpkin pie be? It’s not hard. It really isn’t. You can hardly screw that up!

You know what? You can screw it up. You can really screw it up. You can screw it up in a major way. I found that out and have never been allowed to forget it.

I didn’t realize how badly my pie misfire was though because it looked so good! I was baking along, and everything was just jiving. I should tell you that I am a good cook, and am one of those cooks who typically doesn’t use a recipe and “eye-balls” everything ... important information for this story. Important because you can’t do that when you’re baking. Nope.

So, there I am in my mom’s kitchen. Cute apron. Radio playing. Pie crust turned out! Filling looks good! Did I taste it? No, why bother? It looked great! Gordon Ramsay would have had my butt for that one.

I remember putting the pie in the oven and victoriously pulling it out later thinking, “Well, this is going to be the best pie ever. Everyone will ask me to bake the pies for Thanksgiving now.” I envisioned my grandmother beaming with pride, my mom smiling and handing me the family pie plate. This was it. I was going to be honored. I could not wait!

Dinner time finally arrived and we were all getting to know James. It was nice to visit with him. He was a rodeo fella, and we were a car family ... so we were learning a lot about something we weren’t familiar with. But all I could think about was my pie. It basically sat on the bureau and glistened. Gosh, it looked good. Then mom said the magic words, “Would anyone like some pie, Kelly’s pie looks beautiful.”

Oh! Praise from my mom about something I baked! I beamed. I think they saw me blushing 10 counties over. I basically jumped up and dashed to the kitchen, prancing back with the whip cream and pie plates.

Choruses of, “Oh, how lovely,” broke out in the dining room. Gosh, did I feel good. I had never had anyone talk about my baking. I had visions of my own cookbook dancing in my head, I mean I was basically Betty Crocker.

Mom cut and served the pie, and we all waited for our guest of honor, James, to have the first bite. I sat there as he took a bit with his fork, put it in his mouth, began to chew, and then stopped. He stopped, and then he just coughed.

He took a big drink of water.

My stomach sank. Maybe he just had indigestion from mom’s cooking? Then everyone else took a bite, but they weren’t as polite.

My dad took a bite and spit it out, “Colleen! What in the world is wrong with this pie?”

My mom looked concerned and took a slow but intense bite, spit it out and said, “Kelly, could you go get me the recipe card real quick?”

Holy cow. You guys. I did not want to go get that recipe card. It was like the walk of shame to the kitchen, but I was raised to do what I was told, so I went and grabbed it. Mom looked through the recipe and then said, “What does this mean?” pointing to the teaspoon line.

I said, “Tablespoon? But I couldn’t find yours ... so I eye-balled it using a serving spoon.”

She started laughing. She couldn’t stop. Between cackles she said, “You eyeballed salt using a serving spoon?”

All you could taste was salt. Thick salt. Dad said it was like one big salt lick, and offered to take it out to the deer.

I think for dessert we all ended up just passing the big bowl of homemade whip cream around, which you know ... I think that’s better than pie anyway.

So, now for any event, I’m left out of the baking festivities. I could get upset about it, but you know it’s actually less stressful. I’d rather just show up and eat anyway.

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