A Vintage Life Lines from 2014.
Remember that episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Aunt Bee gets all upset about not winning the prize for the best pickles at the Mayberry fair?
I always wondered why she got her panties in such a wad over that. I mean, you can buy pickles at the store, right?
But I sort of understood. Before women began competing for Top Salesman and a corner office in their company, they worked at home, so their only affirmation came from their homemaking skills.
If a woman kept a spotless house, she was honored as “A Good House- keeper.” But the fastest way for a woman to be recognized in those days was to be competent with the pots and pans. Being a Good Cook was comparable to being the female CEO of a Fortune 500 company today.
After preparing a few forgettable meals, I realized early on that I was not going to be proclaimed A Good Cook.
So I sought another way to win acclaim and went into teaching. I didn’t win much “acclaim,” but having a career was a good excuse for not having to make prize winning pickles for the state fair.
Since our son moved out to start his own life 30 years ago, I’ve cooked very little. My husband and I eat a lot of things wrapped in paper that come from down on the highway. But recently we were planning to go to an event that required a contribution to “dinner on the ground.”
It’s always a fun event, so I decided this year that the other participants deserved something better than my usual store-bought casserole or fastfood chicken.
I decided to make a Milky Way Cake, a crowd pleaser if I remembered correctly from the last time I made it 40 years ago. I had done it once, I could do it again.
I got out my go-to cookbook, Our Delta Dining, and found the recipe.
What I couldn’t find was the flour sifter. I haven’t used it in over a year. Now where would a person hide a sifter? I finally located it in a cabinet of other things I haven’t used in a year and got started.
I turned on the oven to pre-heat. A minute later, I smelled the spiderwebs in there toasting. I cleaned them out and started again.
I fished out my huge table top mixer and struggled to put all the pieces together. Mid-construction, I turned the whole thing over. A piece of the mixer flew off and hit a coffee cup, sending coffee all over the counter. I could neither identify the part nor fit it back on so I left it off.
The next step was to cream the sugar and butter in the mixer. I started, but it wasn’t going fast enough for me. I stuck my big spoon in and began “helping” the mixer, which retaliated by grabbing the spoon
I smelled the mixer’s motor burning as it sat there going WHHAABB!
The smell of burning motor now blended with the smell of the burning Milky Way and butter mixture on the stove. I was supposed to be stirring it continuously, but that had ceased to be fun, so I had wandered over to the mixer to watch it spin, with the result that I now had a large metal spoon stuck in it.
I finally found the off switch on the mixer, got the candy mixture off the stove, blended the batter together enough to hide the burnt candy, and shoved the batter into the oven, which had finally stopped smelling like a singed spider.
With an hour to wait for my cake, I turned my attention to cleaning the kitchen. I wiped up batter and coffee from the counter and raw egg from the floor. I rinsed bowls and the bent spoon and put them in the dishwasher.
Wait. What was that baking soda box doing on the counter? Did I put some in the batter before the spoon crisis? Or not? Oh well, too late now.
I poured the left-over sifted flour back into what I thought was the flour canister. Hmm, that flour in the bottom looked pretty grainy. Okay, so I had poured flour into the sugar. Trying to be nice, my husband said, “We’ll just have sweet flour the next time we need it.”
“There won’t be a next time,” I mumbled, scraping the unintentional mixture into the trash.
“Why would anybody waste a good Saturday making a cake?” I grumbled. I think my husband said something about it not taking most people all day to make a cake. But he didn’t say it very loud.
Surprisingly, the cake turned out well. I watched people at the dinner who ate it, and no one sickened, which is my criteria for “good cake.”
But my little bit of success didn’t warrant spending another whole morning struggling with a cake. So Aunt Bee doesn’t have to worry about competition from me.
Next year if we go to the same event, I’ll get my acclaim by taking the biggest bucket of fast-food chicken anyone has ever seen and throwing in a jar of store bought pickles.