Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Fantasy vs reality
Perfect Mother that I am, baking gingerbread "skeleton" and "pumpkin" cookies with my five-year-old is a breeze, like an episode of Martha Stewart. I assemble the ingredients ahead of time, teaching Sam the importance of mise-en-place. I speak to my son in a sing-song voice, letting him do most of the work as I marvel at his precocious poise and talent in the kitchen. The cookies are, of course, flawless. Helping a small child decorate them poses no challenge to someone who happens to be a cooking instructor in her spare time (when she is not being a Perfect Mother, that is). My camera has a memory card in it and Sam waits patiently while I seek out the most flattering natural lighting for my artful photos.
There is flour all over the kitchen. I reach for the ingredients in the cupboard one by one as we go along, forgetting the baking soda and salt. The recipe for gingerbread biscuits in the Rose Bakery cookbook calls for "spice mix," the one thing I don't have in my extensive spice collection, so I substitute Chinese five-spice powder (good enough). Sam is all over the place, dragging his stool from one side of the kitchen to the other. The only words that come out of my mouth are "No, no, no!" The cookies emerge from the oven looking a bit flat (lack of baking soda). The tube of icing that I unearth from my cupboard with a sigh of relief, thinking it will be easy for Sam to use, works like a dream but runs dry after the second cookie. Quickly I throw together some icing sugar and milk to ice the rest of the cookies, but the mixture comes out too runny. Sam eats the two skeleton cookies before I have a chance to photograph them. That's OK: I have no idea where my camera's memory card has got to. I am not the Perfect Mother, but life is too short for superfluous guilt. Sam is happy.