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. He is veering over into MY baking lane. Maybe it’s because I showed reluctant promise with the crockpot. Maybe it’s because he’s nursing a grudge after I took his neighborhood cooking title and kept it for several years. He stole it back two years ago, but last year we tied.

Maybe he’s trying to redeem his birthday cake failures.

Or maybe it’s because he’s bored and quarantine is a great opportunity to prove he can rule the oven as well as the range. In the last two months, he’s made scones, lemon bars, and even madeleines. All were either overcooked or undercooked just enough that we both knew my baking remained superior.‬ (Okay, his doughnuts were fabulous, but that’s more cooking than baking. It doesn’t count.)

I may have baked a batch or two of cookies just to reinforce my dominance.

‪Andy retaliated.

Suspiciously soon after I put up post on making Shaker bread, Andy presented me with his first batch of baguettes.

“Not bad,” I told him.

“You don’t have to sound so surprised,” Andy huffed.

The second batch he shaped too small.

“Did you mean to make breadsticks?” I asked.

Andy glowered at me.

The third batch collapsed before going into the oven.

“The dog loves them!” I assured Andy. The dog growled at me until I gave him another piece. Andy just growled at me.

The fourth batch? Delicious. Almost Parisian, especially with French brie. The only one unhappy with that batch was the dog, who didn’t get any.

Yesterday, Andy made his fifth batch of baguettes. He shaped and scored the loaves like a pro. He checked on his loaves every 30 seconds, spraying them with water to mimic the old French ovens and give them a good crust. Before he spritzed, Andy even laid a dishtowel over the glass in the oven door to keep the cold water from shattering the glass. (This is important when baking at 500 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The first two baguettes turned out brilliantly.

Andy put in the second set of loaves, spritzed them, and closed the oven. “I think I’m getting really good at baking bread!” he told me triumphantly.

“Uh-huh.”

Andy pulled the oven open to spray his loaves again. Smoke billowed out.

The oven was on fire.

Well, not the actual oven. Andy had left the dishtowel in the oven after the last spritz. It was burning.

Andy grabbed the flaming dishtowel and threw it in the sink. I turned on the fan.

“That was almost very bad,” I observed.

“Yeah,” Andy mumbled. “Good thing I have to spray every thirty seconds.”

*****

My friend JM called a little later and asked, “How’s your quarantine going?”

“Well, Andy tried to burn down the kitchen today so–”

Andy yelled, “I was not TRYING. And it was only a TOWEL.”

I took my phone outside as JM said, “Wow. I don’t usually hear Andy yell. Is everything okay? Or at least not still on fire?”

“Everything’s fine,” I assured her. “More than fine. He was getting pretty cocky about those baguettes. But now? Now they’re extra crispy and I am still the queen of the oven.”

The slightly scorched oven.

Andy’s first two beautiful baguettes…and the remains of the torched towel.

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)