Santa Visits the Lousy Cook–Twice!

(A very late post! Pretend it’s still 2016: a nice thought in oh so many ways.)

Cookie "dough" in Grandma's mixing bowl
Cookie “dough” in Grandma’s mixing bowl

(Note: I wasn’t paid for this post by the advertising department of a certain kitchen appliance, but I should be. I’m open to offers.)

I left my holiday cookie decorating class full of resolve to practice the decorating skills I had learned, instead of shoving everything into the fridge like after my cupcake decorating class two months ago, where it all still sits, untouched. But the day after the cookie class, I ran into trouble with Step One: making the actual cookies. My dough looked like wet sand. I posted to Facebook:

Sugar cookie dough is in crumbles. Mixed with my old hand mixer. Supposed to be in fridge for two hours but it’s literally a bunch of crumbles. Add more egg?

Melody:           I would add more butter.

Tiffany:            Or 2 tablespoons of sour cream!

Christine:        Let it warm up, add butter sparingly, until the dough comes together. Then, back to the fridge.

Me:                  Wouldn’t life be grand if the answer to everything was “add more butter”?

Melody:           Isn’t it?

Karen:             It isn’t?

Peggy:             FYI just bought case (36 lb) of organic butter (as preferred by Bruce Naftaly). Still have some shares left at $5.00/pound.

First, who the heck is Tiffany? I have no recollection of meeting her, but clearly introductions need to be made, since she likely brings terrific contributions to potlucks.

Second, I have funny friends.

Third, I am clearly out of my league with friends who bake. I need to wrangle more dinner invitations.

I bought a share of butter from Peggy, though I have no idea who Bruce Naftaly is and I can’t much tell the difference between margarine and butter, because clearly I need all the handicaps I can get.

I had halved my cookie dough recipe. Why? Is there such a thing as too much cookie dough? This led to the initial problem of halving an egg, which is impossible and threw my proportions out of whack.

I added another whole egg, some water, then more flour, then more water, then more flour, until eventually I ended up with something resembling cookie dough (as I envisioned it, never have seen it during all of my adult years).

But the real problem with my cookie dough was that I was using a 15-year-old, $15.00, generic brand, hand-held mini-mixer, a short step up from my grandmother’s hand-crank mixer that I well remember my own mother using (with flecks of red paint, most likely lead, from the wooden handle flaking into the dough). Hey, folks used to bake before there was electricity. Why did I need a fancy pants piece of equipment hogging my counter? Plus, if I got a mixer, I will lose my excuse to never, ever bake.

But my teacher’s recipe, like all recipes, referred to a different beast of mixer.

Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl.

My dough wasn’t pulling anything other than my brain synapses and my temper.

Also, are we talking a few seconds, or enough time to attempt a Sudoku puzzle? Most folks apparently have an innate sense of the time involved. Or what “pulls away from side of bowl” even means.

Clearly, my 30th anniversary cake goal needed to enter the 21st century. Other than the hand-held mixer, I own a food processor, a wedding gift from 1988. I also still use the blender that MIM bought the day he met me in 1987, which he used to mix two pitchers of margaritas and drank himself. Apparently I’m not a discerning gal on a lot of levels, because I didn’t notice that the love of my life was a drunk. (Luckily that issue resolved itself with his military discharge.)

Back to Facebook:

So what is that amazing electric mixer that all you bakers love, and how much does one cost? Santa wants to know.

Karen: KitchenAid. With bread hook.

Kirsten: Definitely the KitchenAid stand mixer, with a bread hook and whisk. I also love the special ice cream maker bowl accessory. And you get so many colors to choose from!

Karla: Tom and I have had a KitchenAid for many years and it is great. Heavy though!

Everett: KITCHENAID!

Christina: Kitchen Aid big mixer indeed 🙂 mine is going on 30 years and still going strong

Jackson: We have kitchenaid with pasta attachments, sausage maker, bread hook, ice cream maker, and other attachments. It’s expensive but useful!

Lisa: Kitchen aid! It will last forever

Michele: I have a red 6 KitchenAid you may borrow to see whether you mind its weight or size. I bought a 7 and had been planning to sell my 6 on Craigslist…but I never got around to it. Feel free to test it…possibly indefinitely.

Christine: Kitchen Aid, for sure. It’s expensive, but baking without it would make me sad. The only thing I don’t use it for is pie crust.

David: We just replaced our KitchenAid. In lasted 28 years. 🙂

Maureen: Kitchenaid is definitely good. and it qualifies as industrial machinery. you can either defend yourself with it or leave it to future generations. it will survive anything

Shari:  I have an old kitchen aid that I love, but they (literally) don’t make them like they used to.

Claire: We have a classic one in matt dark gray. Hardly used and we don’t bake anymore. Would you like to have it?

Margo: Kitchenaid!

Alice: kitchenaid for the win. Can make bread without carpal tunnel syndrome

Kelly:  Kitchenaid stand mixer. I’ve had mine for over 10 years and absolutely love it. It works like a Trojan – nothing is too difficult for it to mix.

Allyson: The Kitchenaid I’ve had for 18+ years finally bit the dust this weekend (it was an Artisan). I literally just unpacked the replacement – I went with a little bit more watts (we burnt our old one out – too much dough making).

Good Lord! I had no idea all of this baking was going on under my very nose all these years. My friends are all KitchenAid addicts. Where do they find the time? Not only that, but in the space of twenty minutes I was given two—two!—of them by friends I’d met through the Ballard Writers Collective, which has been a never-ending source of friendship, support, connection, and inspiration.

I went to Claire and Jeanette’s house to pick up the first mixer. Talk about Santa’s feverish workshop! Claire and Jeanette sew nonstop to make menstrual kits for girls in Africa. On December 4 (my dad’s 81st birthday), their group, Seattle Limbe Sewing Circle, had sent off a group to deliver 1600+ feminine care kits for girls in Cameroon (Seattle’s sister city). All told, 250 members have sewn 2,600 kits in the last year and a half (each kit lasts three years).

Menstrual kits ready to go at Sea-Tac Airport
Menstrual kits ready to go at Sea-Tac Airport

Girls worldwide suffer indignities, infection, even exploitation trying to stay in school during their menstrual cycles. …Seattle Limbe Sister City Association (SLSCA), formed Saturday Sewing Sisters, a multi-cultural/multi-ethnic group of women, men, and children who volunteer to create feminine care kits to help girls in Cameroon stay in school.

I knew that Claire and Jeanette sewed with the group every Saturday at a church downtown, but every inch of space in their living room and dining room (and hallway and stairs) was covered with supplies for this charitable venture. Another member sewed at the dining room table while I was there. Claire also makes dresses for the delegation to wear when they travel to Cameroon to deliver the kits; she had sewn 12 dresses in one week for the early December delivery. She would also go on to make over 500 (not a typo) pink pussy hats for participants in the historic Women’s March, including these for Peggy:

peggys-pussies

A few days later, despite not feeling well, who should show up on my doorstep with the red mixer (and two gingerbread house kits with the works needed to complete them) than Michele. Michele published a YA book this year, which the Little Man loves. She baked all kinds of cakes for her book launch. Me, if I ever have a book launch, will consider shaved armpits and a bowl of pretzels to be a success.

micheles-book

Michele also runs a holiday gift give-away at our local bookstore, where customers buy books for kids in need. Despite undergoing chemo and other yucky things, Michele’s still running the Holiday Angel program (for the fourth year). Then there’s me, who despite my best intentions, totally forgot to buy a book for the Book Angel program. Damnit! If only I hadn’t gotten distracted with mother-lovin’ pastry!

Wow, what amazing women. And here they were also giving me their mixers. I stand in humble awe of the goodness in this world despite the sometimes overwhelming feeling that we are being overcome by darkness.

And so I look back on 2016, thinking about Michele watching the election results on TV from her hospital bed and posting on Facebook while doing so, reaching out to this community we’ve built–part virtual, but 100% old-fashioned neighborliness. I watched the election results with my two boys and three other members of the Ballard Writers Collective, at the senior center where one of them, Jay, works. Peggy, who started the Ballard Writers Collective and who wrote the Holiday Angel article linked above, got down on her knees to beseech the heavens to change the red tide we were seeing on the big screen. I asked Jay to open the bubbly immediately rather than waiting. My boys and I left early. It was nearly cutoff times for ballots to be delivered, and we trudged past the Ballot Box at my beloved library, where there was a traffic jam and security guards and ballot collectors.

All of those people, delivering their ballots, thinking they could make a difference at this late point in the game, here at the end of the evening on the west coast. I scoffed.

And you know what? They can. Jeanette and Claire and Michele and Peggy show me that one person can make a difference. They do make a difference. They do. They do and they will! Me, too! If I can do this, anything is possible:

Cookies on my other grandmother's plates
Cookies on my other grandmother’s plates

 

* * * * *

Image Credits:

Cats: Peggy Sturdivant

Menstrual Kits: Seattle Limbe Facebook page

All other photos by Jennifer D. Munro

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5 thoughts on “Santa Visits the Lousy Cook–Twice!

  1. Now this is a POST. Loved reading it. You are indeed blessed with wonderful friendships and, may I say, eventful baking adventures.
    As to the mixers, did you keep both?

    • Kept two mixers for now, but I know the universe will make manifest what needs to happen with the second one. I am using both the mixing bowls, though! (I’m using the red mixer, the “indefinite loan” one from Michele, and of course she can come to her senses any time she likes and end the loan. Maybe. She might have to fight through an awful lot of pastry around here to get to it.)

  2. I have a KitchenAid, which was given to me as a gift because I bake all the time, and I hate it. Well, I hate it as a standing mixer but love the fact it can be detached and used as a hand held mixer. I’m 62, have baked for 50 years and started by mixing with a trusty wooden spoon! I watch Food Network, Cooking Channel, all cooking shows on PBS but still don’t see the big fascination with a KitchenAid. I like doing the mixing myself. A hint for your sugar cookies next time you have a problem, buy the roll of ready made Pillsbury Sugar Cookie dough. It’s good stuff, no one needs to know.

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