Sinister forces seem to be at work in the ‘boken. Clearly there’s some strange chemical in the water or some airborne hallucinogenic substance being carried by the breeze. I can think of no other explanation for my sudden urge to harness my inner Ina Garten and get my baking on.
Before I launch into the sad saga, I need to first explain a bit about Elly in the kitchen. While I have never had stitches due to a cooking incident, that doesn’t mean I haven’t needed stitches due to a cooking incident. I’m just not good with knives. In fact, it was a big topic of discussion with Aloysius before the nuking began. “Normally we tell people to not cook during chemo because they usually can’t handle the smells and as a result, they’re even less likely to eat. Based on your husband’s description of your propensity to injure yourself, I think we’d rather you not prepare any food to limit your chance of infection.” No knives, check.
My chemo brain seems to have left me even less dexterous than before. I don’t know if my hand to eye coordination has actually deteriorated, if my depth perception is worse, or if I just don’t have the attention span to actually look at the knife the entire time I’m chopping away. Currently I’m experimenting with a little metal glove that you slide over your hand to lessen the likelihood of lopping off a digit. I’m pretty sure it works. Of course, I only remember to put it on after I remind myself with a solid gash to my index finger or thumb.
I also tend to not follow direction well. Recipes are the work of THE MAN. I don’t take well to those oppressors telling me how finely I should chop my onions or that I need to measure ingredients. The world is my oyster, damnit. If I want to pour in a whole mess o’ vanilla because I just really like vanilla, I should be able to do it! That may be why baking just hasn’t really worked out well for me in the past.
Saturday was cold, rainy and generally icky. It wasn’t exactly the type of day to spend wandering around town or reading in the park. The temperature had dropped below 75 degrees so turning the oven on would not instantly convert my apartment into a two bedroom sauna. A good day to bake, right?
I went for a short jog and ended at the grocery store. I’d managed to cram my shopping supplies into my fanny pack (and who doesn’t look good in a fanny pack?) which, between the rain and my sweat, was literally dripping wet. I fished around and found the soggy scrap of paper that had once been my grocery list. So far, so typical.
The goal of the day was to bake some cancer cookies and zucchini bread, make some ice cream, and cook up some chili for Captain No Carbs. I managed to remember everything I needed and dragged the bags home. Exhausted and soggy, I dropped the bags on the floor and changed clothes. The good news was I managed to remember that there was cream sitting out on the kitchen floor before any real safety issues came into play. Bad news was it would now need to chill quite a bit before I tackled the ice cream.
I decided to start with the zucchini bread. I opened the freezer to grab some ice for my seltzer and my eyes fell upon the murky brown baggie that had been chillin’ there since 1982. Why not? I couldn’t see a reason not to add bananas to zucchini bread. Guess what? There really ISN’T a reason not to add bananas to zucchini bread. And that’s where the clear thinking ended.
Turns out there is a good reason to look in the oven before preheating for zuchana bread – your husband may have chose that location to store the iron skillet (complete with silicon handle). I wasn’t mixing long before I noticed a very distinct and very wrong odor. Then again, the windows were open and it’s not like I live in Montana. Hoboken is often a cacophony of random scents ranging from brackish low tide to Ivory-esque smells from the soap factory. I finally figured out the true source of the stench when I opened the oven to load in the first batch.
The silicon continued to smolder as the pan cooled on the stove top. I found it rather distracting – so much so that my ability to follow a recipe reached an all time low. Baking Soda and Baking Powder are really tricky! I had to throw out two batches of flour because I kept mixing the two up. Eventually I had to set the Powder by the sink and the Soda over on the table with their corresponding spoons. I then chanted the proper quantity out loud as I walked from one side of the kitchen to the other (a whole step and a half) with my mixing bowl of goodies. Somehow I managed to finally get the batter mixed correctly (I hope).
While those bad boys baked, I mixed up my cancer cookie dough. I had decided to make up a double batch since they’re so tasty and full of cancer fighting goodness, despite the fact Rocco doesn’t like them. Even when making a double batch, I didn’t need all four of the shredded coconut packages I found in my shopping bags. I can’t recall touching four bags of coconut at the store, let alone placing four bags in my shopping cart. I don’t remember the distracted cashier scanning them at the register. I don’t remember putting them in my shopping bags. Yet there I sat with three bags more than I needed.
I mulled this over as I chopped my walnuts, beat my eggs, and folded in my oats. Someone had to be playing some kind of joke on me. What the hell was I going to do with four bags of coconut? I adjusted the oven temp, dug out my Silpats, and climbed on top of my little step stool to fish out my baking sheet – the baking sheet I gave to the Salvation Army three months ago during the great unpack-a-thon because my attempt at roasting chickpeas had gone rather badly. Doh.
So back on went the shoes and raincoat before I scurried out the door to Battaglia’s. I calmly perused the many beautiful housewares and was briefly distracted by the shower curtains until I remembered the BREAD WAS STILL IN THE OVEN. All calmness disappeared as I frantically grabbed the first cookie sheets I saw and flew to the cash register. Sprinting down Willow, I tried to remember what time I’d put the bread in the oven. As I turned onto 14th Street, I was greatly relieved to see no smoke billowing from my open windows. I fumbled with my keys and finally got the door to the building open. Again, more relief as I noted that there was no screech from a fire alarm.
In my mad rush, I tripped over the gatos as they waited for me at the front door. The cookie sheets flew from my hand and crashed into the wall as I watched the rug rapidly approach my face amidst the hisses and howls of Lucy and Simone. As I lay there with my right arm bent at an entirely uncomfortable angle, I took a moment to really breathe in and savor the sweet scent emanating from the pile of cat puke a mere two inches from my face. Slowly I unbent my arm and slid my hands up to my shoulders. I propped myself up on my elbows.
Then the usual chemo confusion: “Hold the phone. Why am I in a hurry again? I’m sure I was doing something important but what the hell was it?”
The timer went off and it all came rushing back…all four bags of coconut and burning bread included. I rescued the bread without further incident.
But wait, there’s more…
While the cookies baked, I mixed up the ice cream. I put the liquids back in the freezer to chill while I set up the machine and chopped up some cookies. I flipped the switch, poured in the goop, set the timer, and sat down for a much needed break. Twenty minutes later, the incessant bell signaled it was time to add the cookies.
I must have stared at that machine for a solid minute before I figured out what had happened.
It’s a simple machine, really. You freeze the drum ahead of time and the machine spins the drum while a small plastic paddle scrapes the sides as the milk mixture freezes. There’s a whopping four pieces, only one of which moves. Fool proof, right?
Not chemo proof, apparently. I’d somehow skipped the paddle entirely. I now had a massive vanilla flavored cylindersicle, minus the stick.
Did I mention the cookie sheets I purchased are two inches bigger than any of my cabinets? I’m currently storing them underneath my living room couch.
Needless to say, I gave up on the chili.