When You Need Some Aid in the Kitchen (#300)

For more than a decade, our Labor Day weekend has been marked by intense kitchen rivalry, thanks to the neighborhood cooking contest.

Andy trounced everyone for years—until he got tired of me micro-managing the presentation of his savory entries and told me to make my own dish. I did, and he was sorry after I crushed him and our whole neighborhood with my baked goods. Two years ago, Andy staged a comeback and walloped me. Last year, we tied.

Some of Andy’s doughnuts.

This year was looking to be a showdown. Andy spent quarantine mastering everything from French bread to homemade doughnuts, prepping for a possible assault on my baking territory.

There have been casualties:

My waistline.

An immolated dish towel.

A burn mark on our supposedly unburnable granite kitchen counter.

But worst of all?

My beloved Kitchen Aid.

Decades ago, I turned in my baking beaters for the smallest white Kitchen Aid on the market. The Kitchen Aid (KA for short) was big enough to mix dough for 5 dozen cookies, but not so loud you couldn’t talk over him.

KA in the background, holding more ganache for piping onto the six-hour cake.

KA was a work horse during baking season, churning out pumpkin cheesecakes and maple cream pies at Thanksgiving, followed by Andy’s six-hour birthday cake and over a thousand Christmas cookies. When Andy and I remodeled our kitchen, I had the cabinet maker design a special pull out drawer for my baby.

Then came Andy’s bread making obsession.

When I bake bread, I don’t use KA. I get a better feel for the dough and have more success kneading by hand.

My husband, however, believes in the dough hook.

Andy doing doughnuts with the cursed dough hook.

Unfortunately, he turned his back on bread hook one time too many, with perhaps one cup flour too many. The thickening dough created resistance. KA struggled and heaved…

…and rocked his way off the counter, crashing onto the kitchen floor.

Our tiny house reverberated with the impact.

I ran into the kitchen.

Andy lifted KA back up to the counter, bleating, “I, I, I just turned my back for a second and it fell off the counter!”

As if poor KA had a mind of his own and did it on purpose, rather than Andy not paying proper attention or filling KA’s mixing bowl too full.

Andy plugged KA back in and turned him on. KA churned slowly, groaning and wheezing.

“It still works,” Andy insisted triumphantly, because Andy hates spending money and Kitchen Aids are not cheap. “I mean, maybe not like before, but it’s been having trouble recently, and it’s old…”

Reader, I did not say a word.

Instead, I examined the five-inch dent/ divot that now existed in the kitchen floor and left the room.

Because I knew if I said a single syllable, I would be unable to stop until I pointed out every single mistake that had led to Andy nearly murdering my mixer and our kitchen floor and perhaps I might throw something at him.

*****

We had a heatwave not long after The Incident. Baking went on hiatus because no one wanted to turn on the oven. But the early heatwave morphed into a very cool summer. I pulled out KA to make chocolate chip cookies.

KA could barely cream butter, gurgling and grinding slowly.

“Oh my God,” I told Andy. “These are his death throes. You murdered him!”

“I did not! I told you he wasn’t running well even before he jumped off the counter—”

“You shoved your baguette dough down his throat until you killed him! MURDERER!”

“I did not—”

“Oh, no, do not even start! What do we tell Baby D when he breaks something and tries to shift the blame?!”

“But I—”

From the living room, a voice yelled, “You broke Mom’s toy! Take responsibility, Dad!”

Andy made a face. Then he looked at my face and promptly looked at the floor. “Sorry.”

Baby D yelled, “Sorry for what, Dad?”

“I’m sorry I broke your Kitchen Aid, honey.”

“I don’t hear you identifying and admitting your mistake!” Baby D called out, with no small amount of relish.

Andy gritted out, “I’m sorry that I wasn’t careful or paying attention and I broke your Kitchen Aid.”

“And how are you going to make amends, Dad?!” Baby D shouted gleefully.

Welcome, KA 2.0.

Ironically, the neighborhood cooking contest was canceled this year due to the pandemic. Andy sacrificed KA for nothing. 

Burned (#291)

My Chinese-American husband is a fantastic cook. Andy can make any cuisine, from pulled pork barbecue to agedashi tofu.

Andy’s beef Wellington

His eggs Benedict are sublime. Pretty sure I joined Instagram just to make people envious over of his beef Wellington.

I am content to give Andy the cooking crown in our household. I focus on baking, which is my strength.

I stay in my lane.

Andy is NOT staying in his lane. Continue reading Burned (#291)

Breadaggedon(#279)

Thanks to the inept Trump Administration, COVID-19 is popping up all over America. It’s going to get worse, too. SO MUCH WORSE.

America is sliding into full-on, toilet-paper-hoarding pandemic mode. Yay.

Andy texted me from Costco this weekend: “They’re rationing bottled water.”

Me: “Who cares? Be sure and get all the flour, sugar, and butter you can.”

After following Marta and Jocelyn through quarantines in China, I’ve figured out what quarantined folks really need:

Baking supplies and recipes. I’ve got both! Continue reading Breadaggedon(#279)

The Joys of Downhill Skiing (#271)

Wondering where I’ve been?

Working on maple sugar rugelach.

Well, first I was in the kitchen, covered in flour, making Christmas cookies. Tons of cookies, because we were meeting up with the familial horde in Utah.

Then we were on the road, and then we hit the slopes. Continue reading The Joys of Downhill Skiing (#271)

Savory vs. Sweet (#260)

Our neighborhood holds a cooking contest every Labor Day. My amazing Chinese-American husband Andy won for many years—until I figured out how to sneak chocolate baked goods into the competition.

Then I won for many years. The hostess finally created two categories, Savory and Sweet, in an effort to mitigate my chocolate dominance. Andy, sulking over repeated defeats, refused to enter again until last year.

Then he jumped categories and trounced me soundly with his homemade ice-cream and sugar cones. My miniature eclairs did not even place.

This year, the contest’s theme was “picnic food.”

Andy threatened to make ice-cream again.

I threatened to withhold sex unless he returned to his proper “Savory” category. Continue reading Savory vs. Sweet (#260)

Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). Continue reading Showers (#250)

Custard’s Last Stand (#230)

Our neighborhood holds a cooking contest over Labor Day weekend. The hostess picks a different ingredient or theme each year.

My husband Andy is an amazing cook. He won until the year of the potato. I snuck in a potato flake cake from a 50s recipe. My chocolate crushed the competition – including my husband. The following year, the hostess split the competition, creating two different categories: one for savory items, one for sweets.

Last year Andy didn’t enter a savory dish. He says it was because it was a hundred degrees and there was no way he was turning on the stove. Continue reading Custard’s Last Stand (#230)

Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

When I was a kid, birthdays were a big deal.

As an adult? Well, after your 25th birthday, when your car insurance bill drops, there’s not a lot to look forward to. Besides, no birthday could ever live up to my 10th, when I got a kitten and pierced ears.

My husband tried, though. Andy made me a cake the first year we were together. It was beautiful: nicely frosted, with my name written across it, even. Andy is a fantastic cook. I know it. He knows it. Everyone knows it, probably because I brag about it all the time. I expected the cake to be delicious.

I took a bite. The cake was moist. It was sweet.

Other than that, it had absolutely no flavor. Continue reading Of Cursed Birthdays (#220)

West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

In my childhood house of a thousand siblings, there was only one day more exciting than Christmas.

My birthday.

On my birthday, I got to sit at the head of the breakfast table and preside over a plate of powdered doughnuts with candles. Powdered doughnuts might not seem very exciting compared to the Krispy Kremes and Voodoo doughnut delicacies of today, but back then they were a huge treat. Especially to a kid in a big family on a budget. Continue reading West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

Warning: Slow Cook in the Kitchen (#203)

My kitchen at the height of Baking Season: Christmas.

When we get new neighbors, I usually take them a plate of baked goods. If they’re lucky, the newbies moved in between October and December, which my husband dubbed “Baking Season.” Baking Season starts with cream cheese sugar cookies shaped like fall leaves and moves onto maple cream pie, apple pie, maple sugar rugelach, and candy cane meringues.

The new neighbors usually bring back an empty plate and sexist mouthful of compliments. “You’re a fantastic cook! Your husband is so lucky!”

Continue reading Warning: Slow Cook in the Kitchen (#203)