We have been living through the Summer of Visitors. There was OmegaBro and SIL and chilluns. There was FIL and MIL. There was Aussie Cuz and Memphis Cuz and Memphis Cuz Jr. There was a drive-by by a nephew and his girlfriend (how did that happen? Sheesh! He's supposed to be 10 years old forever, y'know?).
Today there was another coupla cousins, stopping by for a quick visit as they make a tour of Indian land for their (woohoo!) 25th wedding anniversary.
These things happen in waves; last year and the year prior, we had no visitors a-tall. None. Zero. This year has more than made up for it.
At least the house gets vacuumed more often!
OmegaDad, reveling in the coolth of autumn, and under duress from yours truly to try a weekly menu to see if we can curtail our expenses, dug out a favorite recipe of ours from old, Chicken Corn Chowder. Absolutely scrumptious. Warm, filling, aromatic--it brings to mind the wonders of autumn and winter cooking, filled with things like Split-Pea Soup, casseroles, pumpkin pies, family gatherings, fires in the wood stove. (Another sign of autumn: the elk have begun bugling at last; lying in bed with the dotter the other night, I heard what sounded like a very large, very rusty gate creaking and swinging in the wind. After a few moments, I realized it was a bull elk out in the Big Meadow either asking the elk ladies to come get a load of this hunka-hunka burning love, or else admonishing any other bull elk in the neighborhood that a real Elk's Elk was marking this as his turf.)
The combo of the cousins' visit, the savory soup, and the autumnal atmosphere reminded me of one of my greater kitchen disasters. Don't ask me why, it just did.
Many moons ago, when I was just a young lass, living with my paternal grandparents while attempting (hah!) a year at Northwestern University, the seasons swung around to OmegaGranny's birthday (Feb. 1). The grandparents were off visiting relatives, it was a snowy day, and filled with a fit of dotterly love and grandiose ambitions, I decided to make mamasan a birthday cake from scratch. An applesauce spice cake with buttercream frosting. Yum.
So I rummaged around in grandma's kitchen, found various baking devices, found an old Fanny Farmer's cookbook with the recipe, and started grabbing ingredients.
Problem number one: I couldn't find baking soda in grandma's pantry. Oh, well, thought I, surely just baking powder will do the trick.
I chopped nuts, I sifted flour, I stirred in applesauce and various (oh-so-yummy-smelling) spices. I pottered around, poured the two layers into the layer cake pans, popped them in the oven, and turned to the frosting.
For some reason, I was in a hurry. So rather than creaming the butter by hand, I decided to use the mixer.
Now, I know some folks swear by using a mixer to cream butter and sugar. Let me just state, here and now, that this particular incident is why I have resolved never to cream using a mixer, ever again.
Because...well...it didn't cream, see? It just turned into this bowlful of pellets of sugar and butter.
Hmmm, thought I. Well, that didn't really work. What to do, what to do? So I called someone (don't remember who), who suggested, add more confectioner's sugar, more butter, and cream it all by hand.
This eventually worked. However, I ended up with double the frosting mix. Eh, what's a little extra frosting, think I. Sort of. This wasn't turning out the way I had planned.
So then I pulled out the cake, which was done by now.
Except...well...it looked kinda...flat.
Like a cake that was supposed to end up being four inches high was going to be about an inch and a half high.
Um. A Powerful Lesson On The Differences Between Baking Powder And Baking Soda.
By now, I was crying. My splendid birthday surprise for my mom! Ruined! Horrible!
I kept crying as I cooled the cakes. I sobbed as I slathered the oh-so-thin layers with double the frosting.
I called a taxi. But, since it had kept snowing while all this culinary experimentation was taking place, the taxi company said it might be an hour before a cab got there--if they could promise a cab would be there at all.
It was getting dark. I sat in the dimness in the living room waiting for the taxi, watching the snow fall, and feeling like I was a Total Failure At Life.
The taxi finally came. It took us an hour to drive to my parents' house. I had the still-warm ultra-dense cake on my lap...
When I got there, the first thing I did, after dumping the cake on the kitchen table, was collapse in my mother's arms, sobbing out the tale of the cake. My mom, my dad and my cousin (one of the aforementioned 25th anniversary cousins!) gamely tried the cake and pronounced it quite tasty. Cuz guffawed and made comments about this being the recipe those single-serving packs were trying to copy.
Folks, this was thirty years ago.
I have never--not once!--forgotten to double-check whether the recipe calls for baking powder versus baking soda since that day.
I have never--not once!--creamed butter and sugar with a mixer since that day.
And my baking has greatly improved.
Many thanks to the little birdie who informed me of my typo which greatly reduced the impact of my Powerful Lesson!
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