Do you cook to the beat of your inner drummer?

Most of us have our own style when it comes to the culinary arts. Some people’s culinary beat features the rhythm of tearing open frozen meal cardboard containers, slam of the microwave door, peal of the buzzer announcing it’s done, and muttered ouches at discovering the box is actually hot.

birthdayMy rhythm whirled into motion on Christmas Day as I prepped the turkey for baking. My plan was to rub it with butter and add a few herbs for emphasis. My elderly parent watched me sprinkling on oregano and objected. “You aren’t putting that on the white meat, are you? Most people just put salt on the turkey.”

They do?

Sigh. Having two people each trying to do things their own way is erm, complicated. I compromised to keep us both happy. Salt for the turkey breast. Oregano on the dark (meat) side. Got the turkey into the oven. Next I slid in the pan with a thin layer of sponge cake dough onto a lower rack. It cooled for a half hour as dictated by the recipe for Buche de Noel. However while rolling it into a log shape, the cake broke into long wedges. I stared at the remains, groaned at the mess, and decided to pour hazelnut-flavored, chocolate sauce I’d made over it. Voila pudding cake!

My baking metronome kept ticking as I mixed up a batch of cookies, and added cranberries and orange peel. Mom thought I was a little, (okay, a lot crazy) to be concentrating on so many things at once, but I was letting out my inner chef and having a good time.

I discovered a cup of water, cup of sugar and bag of fresh cranberries become cranberry sauce with about 10 minutes of bubbling on the stove. (No, the bag wasn’t included). Canned cranberries not needed!

For once my meal timing paid off. The rice pilaf with real slivered almonds, and vegetable dish were both ready when the turkey was. Yes, I know my meat carving skills are lacking – I was once again reminded of that – sigh. But everything tasted scrumptious – even if I do say so myself!

I recall watching my grandparents executing their own two-part melody during Sunday and holiday meals. Grandpa took charge of the meat and the potatoes, Grandma focused on the rolls, veggies, and the gravy. It wasn’t Sunday dinner without the sounds of the wire whisk and the slow smooth pouring in of a flour liquid into the drippings and making gravy. I have tried to imitate her so many times and the gravy making gene apparently isn’t in my DNA set. Alas.

Being the oldest grandchild allowed me other privileges. Such as hovering close to Grandpa as he deftly cut the turkey or roast beef into thin slices, giving me small samples to taste test. And of course there was the buzz of the TV in the back with sports announcers barking out the latest plays and scores. Conversation going. Forks clinking and knives cutting the slices into bite-size pieces.

Possibly the maestro of culinary rhythm is my sister-in-law. She is a Pinterest fan and finds adorable things on there to concoct for her small son’s celebrations. The latest celebration featured trains and a train cake inspired by Pinterest

I hung around the kitchen watching her craft the choo-choo train. Offered my help, but she was in her element and rolling strong. The cake took shape with a small smoke stack and a cow catcher in front. Wheels. Intricately wonderful details that I could only marvel at. I helped in the background. No fear that this cake would have to be turned into a pudding cake!

Her culinary trek wasn’t without its interruptions. Spreading the frosting over the cake posed the biggest challenge to successful completion. I don’t think she viewed the final product as being quite what she hoped for. But to me, the choo-choo cake was the crowning touch of preparations that included using masking tape to create train tracks on the floor and signs that mirrored warning signs at railroad crossings. Warning! Birthday Crossing! Later, we family members gathered together to laugh and talk and sing Happy Birthday to a small lad who is precious to us all. And to enjoy the results of the creative beat that fuels my sister-in-law..

(C) 2015 by Mary Louise Van Dyke.  All Rights reserved.

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