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)

Hells Bells (#285)

I’m having a hard time working from home. That may seem odd, since I’m a writer used to working at home.

Let me clarify: I am used to working at home ALONE.

My husband is technically an essential worker because his company does top secret work for the government. I stopped asking what he does because there are polygraphs involved and we need our health insurance. Andy’s supposed to be going into work. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, company employees kept testing positive for COVID-19, which meant the company closed down and sanitized every infected employees’ building(s). During this process, the company sent all the employees that normally work in the infected building to other buildings. Not surprisingly, employees in THOSE buildings then became infected and those buildings had to be shut down.

It was an endless, ludicrous game of Whack-a-mole until all the buildings wound up shut. The company had no choice but to attempt remote work. Continue reading Hells Bells (#285)

The Mask Avenger (#284)

Like a lot of Chinese-Americans, my husband isn’t into fanfare. He doesn’t make a big deal out of the delicious meals he cooks. He presents me with seedlings for my garden that I had no idea were germinating in his greenhouse.

I only found out about a huge bonus he got from work when I found it on our checking account.

Compared to all the mediocre white males who constantly tout their non-accomplishments (see the Trump Administration for hundreds of examples), Andy’s reticence seems like an excellent characteristic.

Alas. Information hoarding has a dark side. Continue reading The Mask Avenger (#284)

Easter Won’t Be Easter Without Any See’s Candies (#283)

See’s Candies at Christmas time.

When I moved to California, I discovered See’s Candies. I got really pissed that I’d been stuck with Whitman’s Samplers all my life. I also gained about ten pounds (they give out free samples).

It’s probably not a coincidence that we bought a house a few miles from their outlet shop. Our son also grew to love See’s Candies, and the sales people there grew to love him. Every holiday had some See’s, whether it was a chocolate Santa in his stocking or green shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.

Due to COVID-19, See’s closed for the first time since World War II in March. Continue reading Easter Won’t Be Easter Without Any See’s Candies (#283)

Quarantine Scenes (#282)

I dunno about everyone else, but I can’t write for shit these days.

There is no concentration in the time of coronavirus. Not with husband and child sharing less than 1200 square feet with me. If the kid isn’t demanding food, attention, or help with school work, the husband has a conference call on speaker phone. (I don’t understand three-fourths of the conversation, but I’ve learned that most engineers have social skills similar to toddlers. Both equate volume to getting their way.)

If the kid is playing an online game with friends (or without friends) there are shouts of anger and despair.

I haven’t been alone in a month. No, not even in the bathroom, because dog and cat know how to open the door. Continue reading Quarantine Scenes (#282)

COVID-19 Cassandra (#280)

In Greek mythology, Cassandra of Troy was gifted with the power of prophecy—and cursed that no one would believe her. She was a tragic figure, her wailings of death and destruction ignored even as they came to pass.

If you follow bloggers and news out of China, you are not surprised by the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. If you follow the news out of Italy and compare it with Taiwan and South Korea, you know that the United States health care system will be overrun in two weeks with COVID-19 cases—just like Italy.

As soon as you figure this out, you get on the phone or social media and tell everyone to stay home as much as possible. You share everything from charts to interactive data that can’t be denied. You argue with your dad when he won’t cancel a trip. You yell at your best friend M when she says flights are cheap and she wants to come visit. You warn folks that the more people who go out, the more people will die. You write angry, pleading letters to state officials and School Boards, asking them to close down everything.

You are NOT everyone’s favorite person. Continue reading COVID-19 Cassandra (#280)