"I'm a better baker than cook." That was my go-to party line while dating when asked about my kitchen prowess. I imagined myself a Martha: all cakes and confections. Talk about delusions of grandeur!
Upon leaving my job and out of work for the first time in years, I was faced with the age-old question: What next? Should I throw myself back into a full-time gig, freelance, travel or take the opportunity to start a family of my own? As my older sister so delicately reminds me, my "eggs are rotting." So perhaps I should focus on the latter.
But, before that, there is one thing left to do: get in the kitchen! I always imagined my motherhood moments making pancakes, baking cookies and teaching my kids how to cook. There's just one problem -- I don't really know how. Sure, I grew up baking every so often and therefore coined myself Betty Crocker to potential suitors (it's all about the upsell!) but I'm more nervous chef than Iron Chef. If I'm going to become a domestic goddess, forget the knives, I have to sharpen up my skills.
So I made my way to the store and started to explore. That was a lesson in itself. After a decade in NYC, chasing my dream career, which resulted in delivery for dinner and diners for breakfast, I'm out of my element. I found myself wandering wide-eyed down the aisles, surveying the surplus of supplies. God bless the patient souls at Whole Foods. Several hours and an extreme headache later, I left ready for my own little kitchen challenge.
My husband requested (before you go all feminist movement on me, he does most of the cooking and it's good) stuffed chicken for dinner and apple cinnamon muffins for the morning. I thought the muffins were golden (Actually they were more like a burnt brown but more on that later). It was the entrée I was worried about. Cooking chicken makes me nervous. I'm always worried I'll under do it and give someone salmonella. So, I often end up overcooking it and no one likes a dry bird.
I should mention I'm also slightly scatterbrained. Almost always, I forget one, if not two, of the ingredients or mistake it altogether for something else and mid-experiment either have to send someone (read: scared and hungry husband) to the store or improvise, a dangerous thought when it comes to me in the kitchen.
Despite my fears, the chicken was delicious. Okay, it was decent. But no one got sick and there wasn't a dry mouth in the house. Thrilled with my progress, I moved on to the muffins.
It should be noted that our oven sucks. I'm not making excuses, I'm just saying... I stared at that door, opening it every minute or so to reevaluate. I waffled (waffles! Perhaps that's what I should try next?) between keeping them in well past their removal time and yanking those puppies out before they burst into flames. Finally, a good eight minutes or so, I lost count, past their due, I removed them.
They didn't look like the muffins I order at the local bakery. They didn't even look like bake sale baked goods, apparently, elementary schoolers, a third my age, have more than math skills on me. At half the height of a normal muffin, with caved in tops, cavernous holes and charred bottoms, they weren't the most sightly things you've ever seen. But perhaps they still tasted yummy.
They did not. Inside they were doughy and a bit bitter (too much salt?). My husband tried to humor me as he popped the apple-scented hockey puck into his mouth. "They're not terrible," he said trying to sound optimistic. I tossed them in the trash and, deflated, went to watch some reality TV. Clearly, I should have turned on The Cooking Channel or The Food Network but I'd had enough for one day. There was only one thing that was going to make me feel better about myself and that was the dysfunction that is the Real Housewives of New Jersey. They may be good in the kitchen but that's about all they've got sorted in their lives.
During the commercials I had a thought: Perhaps I was wrong all along. Perhaps I'm more of a Rachael than a Martha. Perhaps I should stick to perfecting my savory signatures and leave the pastries to the pros.
Tell me, are you better cook or baker and why?