Posts Tagged ‘baking’

My mother-in-law got herself ensnared in a cookie exchange at work… for the 3rd year in a row.  For many this is not a huge deal, but for others, including my mother-in-law this is a cause for some anxiety.

Last year I suggested she make some Mandel Bread.  No it is not bread, it is a cookie, it is made like biscotti and looks the same only it is of Jewish origin and has the benefit of flavor.  Everyone, including non-Jews love them.   There are several good reasons to use this recipe in a cookie exchange.  First, they are so easy to make it borders on ridiculous. Second, not many people in these parts have tasted them. Third, as previously stated they are always a hit.  Fourth, you can create a wonderful story when handing them out.  For example my Mother-out-law can explain how her son-in-laws family created these as a tasty treat when they were crossing the desert over 2000 yrs ago.  For 40 years they slaved over this recipe getting it just right.  It was perfected when they camped out at the Red sea waiting for Moses to ask God to part the sea so the Jews could get to the other side rather than be slaughtered by the Egyptians that were hot on their trail.  To be truthful if the Egyptians had been a little nicer my son-in-laws family would have been happy to share some of the cookies, (we are very generous that way) but no!  They approached with horses and chariots and swords just waving away, heck if they were going to get any Mandel Bread!  God came through parted the sea and the family passed through safely, once they got to the other side they munched on the cookies as they watched their enslavers’  get swallowed by the sea. Lastly it is pareve. (you can eat them with meat or dairy, a bonus to us Jews).

So I was touched when my Mother-in-law asked me for the hard-earned recipe.  I handed over the cook book to the right page and told her to just follow the directions.  Please understand, I’ve made this countless times and each time I follow the instructions exactly as they are in the cookbook.  Every time my Mother-out-law raves about them. 

A few days later mominlaw asks me if I use almond extract or vanilla extract?  This is a legit question because the cookbook was given to me by the author at my first wedding.  Before it was given the author opened the book to that specific recipe and where it said ‘1/4 tsp almond extract’ she wrote ‘I use vanilla extract instead’.    I proceeded to tell my mother-in-law (complete with four part harmony) the entire story about the Jews crossing the desert ahead of the Egyptians with their precious cargo of Mandel… and in two thousand years the only change that has been made is substituting almond with vanilla extract and I use the new updated version, or as I like to call it Mandel Bread 2.0!  Short answer?  I use the vanilla.

My Mother-in-law still seemed agitated.  “But how does that work?” She asked.  I was confused, so I replied, “I’m not sure what you mean.”

Mom-in-law: “I mean, how does it work adding that tiny amount of liquid to all the dry ingredients?”

Me: “Oh that, well yeah, you take a measuring spoon measure out a ¼ table spoon of the extract add it to the dry ingredients and stir, just as says in the instructions”

“That just doesn’t seem right to me, I’ll add the extract to the liquid ingredients and probably screw it up.”

“Or you could follow the directions like I do, you’ve always saying how great the cookies are”

I knew that all of this had nothing to do with the ingredients and how they work or go together.  My mother-in-law is an intelligent woman and can easily read and follow directions. Rest assured I knew that she was going to make the cookies and I also know she wasn’t trying to ask me to make them.  She was  just trying to throw up these self defeating walls to explain away her perceived eventual failure.

The stress of the cookie got the best of us and in the end I am making the cookies and mom-out-law agreed to not participate in the cookie exchange again next year.

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Do you prepare? When I am cooking I need to be prepared.  I have to figure out what I am going to make, find the recipe make sure I have all the ingredients and then I follow the recipe to the letter.  I bought a cook book and only after I got it home did I realize it was published in Britain and most of the recipes called for things like a dash of salt and a knob of butter and a smidge of things.  My measuring tools do not measure in quantities of knobs and smidgens.  The book looks impressive sitting on the counter but it will never be used by me.  My wife on the other hand walks into the kitchen with an idea and magically knows what ingredients will go with others to make something good.  She will walk through the grocery store and pick up some new item and says, “This looks interesting I’m sure I can use this with something” and in the cart it goes.  In this case it was orange curd.  Two weeks later she was making a cheese cake and decided to throw in the orange curd.  It was one of the best cheese cakes I ever had. 

When we travel the rolls are reversed I want to hit the road and go.  My wife likes to plan, when we went to California she took out a map decided where we were going to stay and called and made reservations.  (we made the trip in 3 days) Admittedly if she had not done that there was a night in Moab where we would have been sleeping in the car.  When we were dating and I was living in Vancouver I would buy a plane ticket two weeks ahead of time.  My wife would be bugging me for weeks, she wants to get the tickets a month in advance.

while I follow a recipe for cooking, I had no plans for the dog house I hadn’t figured out what materials I would need I just started hammering stuff together and it all worked out.  My best friend and I built a deck on the side of his parents house, no plans just an idea a saw and wood.  Last time I was in Montreal (20 years later) that deck was still there.

When my wife and I play video games she reads the directions watches all the clips and follows the plot, I just jump in start killin’ stuff and hope for the best.  When putting items together such as dog kennels, entertainment centers and the like we both believe the instructions are just manufactures suggestions.  I find it odd how we respond to different situations in such different ways 

We were out to dinner last night with some friends and in the course of a story he told us at one time he was a scout leader immediately I went back over 25 years and recalled a story I hadn’t thought of in at least 15 years. 

While visiting a friend in Ontario, we decided to go camping on Big Bear Lake.  We packed up a bunch of stuff took the little boat out and found a chain of islands used by the boy scouts for camping purposes . We found one complete with an outhouse, (for those who suffer from Crohn’s disease bathrooms are always on the forefront of every thought).  Even though it was an island there are still bears and other scavengers so we put up the tent put all our food in a bag and hoisted it into a tree.  Mike decided to use the outhouse.  He was in there for a bit when I heard him calling. He needed the toilet paper.  I tore our luggage apart but I finally had to tell him that we didn’t have any.  “Check the bag with the food”  I unhooked the rope, lowered the bag knowing it was all in vain, sure enough no toilet paper.  There was a long pause after I informed him of the bad news but he finally responded, “Can you bring me my checkbook?”  Brilliant I thought, he we are on a tiny island in the middle of a huge lake and we forgot toilet paper but managed to bring a checkbook.   “Nice going Mike, you forget toilet paper but bring along your checkbook.  I really don’t think you are going to be able to buy any toilet paper out here.”  Mike, while an odd sort of fellow was very resourceful as he replied “I’m not going to write a check with it, I am however going to clean up my deposit”  Really didn’t need to know that but I did have to give him credit.  Good thing debit cards had not been invented yet or he would have never brought a check book. 

Unknown to us, sometime after we made camp a troop of boy scouts made camp on a nearby island and must have been paying attention. The next day we took the little boat to a nearby ‘town’ purchased some toilet paper and headed back to camp.  Imagine our surprise when we found 6 rolls of toilet paper stacked up in front of our tent complete with a note.  Always be prepared,  Boy Scouts of Canada.

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