Cake Walk

April 19, 2012

My very thoughtful husband wanted to get me a special birthday gift this year.  He knows that baking yummy confections is a passion of mine, and he has watched me mix cake after cake with the same little handheld Krups mixer since before we were married. For years he has heard me say that I really should get a nice Kitchen Aid Mixer, especially now that they come in such cool colors and with so many magical attachment thingies, but for some reason I just never have made the leap. So as a birthday surprise, he ordered for me the Mercedes Benz of all mixers.  It was the queen mother of them all; an industrial grade Kitchen Aid Mixer complete with all the attachments known to man.  He proudly presented it to me with great gusto, for the thing weighs a ton.  I was flabbergasted, not at my husband’s thoughtful generosity, but because this thing was huge, very sophisticated and probably equally as expensive.  Tom always wants me to have the very best and this gift was no exception.  But this thing, well, it was intimidating to say the least and when I finally got it unpacked, it was too large for any counter, drawer or shelf in my kitchen.  Truly, I could open a small bakery with this bad boy. I wanted to be excited about it, but it just seemed a little too….too….everything.  And also, we had only just met.  We didn’t know each other at all.  Conversely, Little Krups and I, well, what can I say?  We are very comfortable with each other having met twenty five years ago in the basement section of Macy’s New York.  Little Krups was all I could afford at the time, but man oh man have we made a good marriage of it.  She has been with me through six different addresses, two churches, countless cookie swaps, weddings, funerals, cake auctions, book club dinners, cocktail parties, supper clubs, birthday celebrations, baptisms, family reunions and a many of my basic feelingsorryforselfsobake nights.  Little Krups has seen me at my best and my worst.   She has seen me spread my tail feathers with Ginger Ford’s Caramel Cake recipe and she has seen me, through the window, picking figs in my yard, knowing that in just a few minutes she would be churning them into a silky custard bound for the ice cream freezer. She has seen me cast shame Aunt Flora’s Pumpkin Bread recipe by confusing baking soda for baking powder,  and she has whirred sugar and eggs into a hundred buttermilk pies.  Little Krups has fought like the little engine that could to cream butters that I had forgotten to soften ahead of time. She has annually celebrated Mardi Gras for weeks by conjuring praline filled King Cakes day after day so that friends and neighbors could celebrate the season.  She was with me when together we guided my father through his one and only pound cake attempt.  We watched him turn around to look at the television while he was mixing.  Unaccustomed to baking techniques, as he turned, he pulled Little Krups out of the batter just enough so that her spinning legs hosed down the entire room with butter, flour, sugar, vanilla and eggs.  My father and I laughed and laughed as we licked batter from our hands and arms, and Little Krups was right there with us, dancing with all her heart. She infused me with courage as I made my first blueberry cheesecake for Wilson’s christening party and my first meringue for crowning a banana pudding taken to Red’s funeral gathering.  She has artfully melded dough for scones at annual Christmas Teas and she has remained calm as I taught tiny hands how to hold her and feel the texture of an angel food cake batter before it is puffed to life at 350’ in an ungreased tube pan for 45 minutes.  She persevered to cream the perfect frosting for Chris’s birthday cake and stood proud, watching, as I adorned it with candied violets from France. Like me, she now gets overheated more easily than she used to and she doesn’t seem to have quite the strength she once did.  Using her now hurts my right shoulder a little but, together, we still get the job done.  So I have to admit that the thought of replacing her with a bigger, newer, grander counterpart made me a little…well, a little sad to be honest.  So I sent Kitchen Aid Big Boy back to where he came from for, as I said, he would not fit on the counter.  He will be happier in a great big, brand new industrial style kitchen anyway.  That’s the truth.  My husband felt bad because it didn’t work out, but he still wants me to find a nice new one that will fit the counter and my needs.  And I will. His treat.  I will.  But I will never simply toss Little Krups out of my life.  One day, when I discover a young person who bakes with a passion, and only from scratch, I will turn Little Krups over to his or her care. Conditionally, it will have to be someone who is more intrigued by the history of LK’s endeavors than by her size and horsepower.  When that day comes, I will also bequeath this person a few recipes. Maude’s Pound Cake,   Muggie’s Double Layer Cheese Cake, Ginger’s Caramel Cake, Grandma Haisty’s Coconut Cake and my favorite….King Cake.  Until then, I will consider flirting with a new small Kitchen Aid Mixer, and I will let Little Krups get a little more rest.  She can still do the twist with me and my chantilly creams, meringues and pancakes, but she has done her duty on the heavy lifting.  No more elastic bread dough or caramels for her.  She can take it a bit easy now, but man oh man, what a friend she has been.


Waldo’s Apprentice

April 12, 2012

I have a fancy cousin named Hugh.  He is a sweetie and he is also quite the jet setter.  Old enough to grab a little respect simply by standing there, yet young enough to attract the ladies who can still dance in high heels.   He is a fine piece of eye candy if I must say so myself.  Always dressed like a centerfold for J. Crew’s Unintentionally Internationally Chic line.  Get the picture?   My husband, Tom, and I call him Hollywood Hugh because somehow he is always surrounded by celebs.  Celebs of all kinds.  Movie stars, famous rockers, sports legends, sisters of movie stars… you get the picture.  Also, he is forever fluttering off to the grooviest places on earth even if he isn’t surrounded by celebs at that particular moment. Fascinating!  Because you see, this fella isn’t from a jet setter sort of family.  They are the warmest, most wonderful salt of the earth people you will ever meet.  They are educated and well traveled yes, but in a different sort of way than the ways of HH.  And they, like me, are from a small town in Louisiana, not NYC, Paris or London.   Hollywood Hugh is a different animal.  He is his own gene pool all together, even though he looks exactly like the rest us, only better.  Sometimes at family gatherings he will drop the names of mutual acquaintance/place/fame fiend nonchalantly and humbly as in, “I ran into Hans in the St. Martin airport the other day,” or “I ran into so and so in a little restaurant in Beijing,” or “Yeah, I was having dinner with _____________in LA and he said that ____________is about to make a big announcement about _____________.”  I don’t understand.  I know he has a job and that he works, so when does he?????  How does he????? Whatever.   More than once my husband and I have been hunkered down watching the Oscars or the Final Four or the Grammy’s  or the likes when what to the wondering eye should appear on the screen, usually in the background, but-tah-dah!-Hollywood Hugh, often on the arm of the sexiest woman in the joint.  True!  It is like a reality game of “Where’s Waldo.”  Sometimes, just to get under his skin a little I will text him a photo of yours truly in a fancy/groovy/fashionable setting with the fanciest/grooviest/fashionablest person I can entice to step into the photo with me whether I know them or not.  I will include simple cryptic captions such as, “Awww, too bad!” or “She knows you!”  I toss out just enough foreplay to tweak his interest, but not enough main dish for him to figure things out.  And that is fine, for he is well aware that he has me beat on the red carpet. And really, that is fine too because he will forever be my most entertaining of relatives, and I know he will always be there for me in a crunch or just for fun.  I mean, you know, if he isn’t running the bulls in Pamplona.   So I guess this guy has the goods from two different worlds.  He is handsome, charming, single, resourceful, loyal , good to his Mama, and somewhat covert.  He is an anomaly.  He is intriguing.  After all, he is Hollywood Hugh.


April 6, 2012

Last weekend was magical.  I attended a wedding in Palm Beach Florida, at the Polo Grounds don’tcha know, and it was all ever so loverly and quite tah tah if you get my drift.  The people however were anything but stuffy.  The people were oh so down to earth and wonderful.  Anyone at all would feel comfortable among them, but the setting was, well…it was Palm Beach dahling.  I had all my fancy outfits ready to go, my attitude was perfect and my enthusiasm was over the top.  Before I knew it we were there!  It exceeded even my expectations from every front.  Sniffles and tears for the bride and her family abound.  Hugs and kisses were traded with old friends not seen in for-eh-vah.  Nice warm dry breezes (great for the hairdo) drifted through my champagne clad fingers.  Ahhh.  It was all very Town and Country if I must say so myself.  My sweet hubby was on my arm and taking photos of the entire scene, and then…..then he wanted to take photos of me.  Me with my friend Jo.  Me with the bride, her daughter.  Me with Presley the flower girl.  Me with the polo field behind me.  Oh yes!  Cheese!  Cheese!  But wait!  Every girl of a certain age knows that photos of self must come with rules.  You gals know what I am talking about and yes, I have my own list of them any time a camera appears.  As Tom was cutting up and catching “candids”-eeee gads!- of all of us, I did my best to discreetly beg of him to:

  1.  Hold the camera higher than my head ( makes chins and eye bags go away)
  2. Only shoot my right side (left side has too much ruddy skin and too little hair)
  3. Don’t get my arms in the shot (saggy skin tone)
  4. Give me a three count so I can hold in my stomach
  5. Make sure the weight is on my back foot (makes you look skinnier)
  6. Give me a minute to turn sideways (also makes you look skinnier)
  7. Give me a chance to stick my chin out to alleviate the neck wrinkles and tip my head slightly to the left (makes smile look not crooked)



So once all is said and done, what we have, folks, is an outstanding photograph of my right eye.  Glamorous it ain’t, but it is somewhat… well… artistic if I must say so myself.  Better yet, a photo of the flower arrangement with me in the distant, very distant background would be just dandy.  Why do you think that wedding photographers take all those close-up photos of the big button on the elbow of the mother’s  dress? Hello! It is because they know that she might actually purchase that photo over the one with her back fat pouring over the zipper of an overpriced strapless dress that makes her look “more like the bride’s sister than her mother!”   Right.  Whatever.   Sell me something else, Carson. This is why nature removes our perfectly good eyesight once we hit 50.  It is like putting a soft focus lens over life and the mirror.  Everything looks like a perfume commercial if we don’t screw it up by adding glasses or contacts.  So run with it.  Live in your own fantasy.  Zoom in on the earring or the headband but, goodness, do not ever, EVER take my picture from a level below the treetops.  Even in Palm Beach.