Cupcake please, Mama

It’s late and I should be in bed. The first batch of red velvet cupcakes are out of the oven and I have a few minutes before I can stash them away from Sky Harbor’s long reach.

I tell people  I am a mediocre savory cook. Honestly, I’m not a bad cook; however, I don’t typically have anything in the house to cook. Shelves are packed with flours, sugars, dried fruits, and a zillion spices; the cupboards have every sort of baking pan/pot/implement imaginable, but good luck finding a wicked sharp knife in the house. If you want me to bake nearly anything, I can. Aside from chocolates, butter, milk/cream, and eggs in the fridge, anything of savory substance (on a regular basis) is nearly non-existent. There’s usually some fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market and usually makings of breakfast for dinner, but really, that’s about it.

I make baked goods and sweet treats because I associate them with a warm kitchen on a cold foggy night; a special occasion that will be remembered, a simple dinner where friends each grab a spoon and devour a slice of rich cake…notice the goofy smiles, the laughter…when was the last time a pot pie made someone giddy? Okay, the whole ‘comfort food’ craze attempts to do that, but you get my point.

When we Americans go out to dinner, we order entrees, but often skip the dessert. Calories and such aside, why is that? Sure, some (myself included) don’t like sweets all that much. And yet, on the rare occasion, I order a dessert, it’s usually inspired by the urge to splurge or because the dessert selection strikes at a memory.

Take Magpie’s carrot cake cookie sandwiches with sweet cream cheese frosting. My grandmothers never made those for me, but somehow, I think of them every time I nibble on one. It’s pretty much the only dessert I purchase when I get dinner out (often); I leave that lovely eatery feeling all is right in the world.

Food is eaten, but great food is devoured. What makes food great? I believe it’s the love and passion that goes into the creation of the item. A cliché for sure, but clichés are such for a reason.

So, what am I rambling on about?

I want to share a photograph— this is the heart and soul of my kitchen. Here is my beat up oven thermometer (I resisted the urge to scrub it shiny before snapping a picture) resting upon a 1962 copy of Better Homes and Garden’s New Cookbook. My mom bought this copy on Ebay a few years ago for me—it was in nearly pristine condition and I’ve done my best to smudge and smear it up. For you see, that’s the edition of her cookbook, the one I grew up seeing open on the kitchen counter. For me, it represents Christmas baking and after school cookies, and well, all sorts of good eats. I know where all the recipes, conversion charts, and substitutions can be found. I don’t really read the recipes by text, but more from memory; I let my eyes move across the letters, falling into a different time.

I pulled it out tonight to double-check a conversion. I sat the thermometer on top its open pages without much thought. I turned back to snag the thermometer and I smiled.

This is why I bake… it reminds me of who I am. Standing in my kitchen, dogs lying on the living room rug, paws just over the threshold, cat on the nook’s cushion, I am reminded of the good little life I have and I am grateful. Corny, but true.
Again, it’s late and I’ve got a full few days ahead. Sleep well. Dream better.

Postscript:

Last night, after two days filled with baking mayhem and madness, coupled with the pounding of contractor hammers, the house was silent. I came home, finished up the dishes, and then turned and placed a few items on the Wedgewood. I smiled. Yes, I should have included it in this post. I bought Wildlands because of its old cottage architecture and this stove. Old faithful.


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