October 3, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Cooking tensions lead to blessed sense of humor

Shirley Vogler MeisterFolks used to joke about women who “can’t boil water,” meaning that they are not handy in the kitchen.

One morning this summer, my husband, Paul, shouted, “What’s burning?”

I dashed to the kitchen and discovered that I had accidentally burned a cup of water! After reaching the boiling point, the water evaporated then scorched the pan. White residue coated the inside of the pan, and the smoke set off the fire alarm, which was screeching.

Only a few days before, I had found old notes about another cooking incident gone wrong. It took a different path.

Someone with a flare for comedy could turn such experiences into a silly book or a mini-drama. I, however, stress instead that we can either roll with such moments or go to pieces.

Sharing the following incident might help others recall similar nothing-is-going-right moments—and laugh. Now for that long-ago misadventure:

I was making a Three Citrus Cheesecake from a magazine recipe. It called for orange, lemon and lime juice and the zest from their peelings.

Instead of using an appliance to crush graham crackers into crumbs for the crust, I used a rolling pin on a large pizza pan, which flipped over unexpectedly, scattering crumbs everywhere. After cleanup, another try was successful.

I melted butter in the microwave, but it splattered because I was distracted while searching for and then washing a dusty spring-form pan.

I cleaned the inside of the microwave. When I pulled the beater from storage, the cord caught onto stored bags that tumbled out. I put them away.

I beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla, losing my grip, throwing splatters everywhere. More cleanup!

Then I climbed a chair for my grater, not finding the best one. So I used an antique. Of course, it needed washing. I grated the rinds and hand-squeezed the fruits, but tipped the bowl so juice ran over the counter. More cleanup! While the cheesecake baked, I washed the utensils and bowls.

The aroma was wonderful, but while taking the finished cheesecake from the oven I noticed that the top was split badly so I covered that with whipped cream before serving it the next day at a luncheon.

I did not notice another problem that surfaced that evening. The pan leaked creamy filling onto the oven floor.

So, when heating pizza in the oven that evening, the house filled with smoke. Fire alarms went off and the cats “went crazy.”

We turned on the bathroom and kitchen fans and hand-fanned the alarms. Smoke billowed out the windows. Neighbors with puzzled faces looked our way. I waved, smiled and shrugged.

The cheesecake recipe supposedly took 20 minutes to make. It took two hours. My mistake was forgetting to punctuate the process with prayer! Thank God that I found my old notes. They made me laugh.

(Next column: More about blessed humor.)

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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