Faith: Salt and Sugar

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A year. An entire year. That’s how long my friend and I had been trying to coordinate calendars. Seeing as we’re both goal-oriented women we weren’t about to let the passage of time keep us from time to sit around and talk. You can conclude what you wish about our schedules, etc., but suffice it to say we wanted to not just have an appointment squeezed between others, obligations and obstacles.

So, with the highly anticipated visit upon me, my nest now empty, I now find myself reprogramming what used to be automatic “Not Now” replies. Now when someone wants to “get together” I’m more likely to ask for a time and place.

So there I was the morning of the meeting. I retrieved my trusty little Mr. Coffee Jr. and got to brewing. I’m not exactly a Starbucks barista so I was hoping my friend’s coffee fixing would not require “shots” of anything. I don’t know how to do those! So inebriated with the exhilaration of domesticity, I grabbed a cookbook to make a simple coffee cake before her arrival. The only thing missing was whistling while I worked. Hate to admit it, but that’s not in my talent repertoire.

I laid out the ingredients on my counter making sure that I put each to the side after using it. During one of my ultra-super organizational phases several years back, I tired of the visual clutter from original product packaging and went to clear containers on which I marked the contents. The only problem with that system was that I grabbed a dry erase marker instead of the ole’ dependable Sharpie. Not a shrewd move. And that’s how the story begins.

As I progressed through the recipe, I was pleased to find how much fun it was to cook again. I grabbed each item, salt, sugar, flour, eggs, cinnamon, baking powder, etc and began my kitchen symphony. Did I ever mention how alike sugar and salt look?

And then, I poured the batter into the pan. Beaming with pride at my efforts, I spread the soon-to-be-miracle – or tried to. I’m not Martha Stewart, Paula Deen or any of their remotely distant relatives but I have cooked enough to know something was awry. My visual inspection of the batter-to-pan process confirmed an anomaly. Gloppy, yes. Smooth and flowing, no.

The raw batter should not go untested, I thought. Any psuedobaker knows the thrill of eating dough that contains raw eggs. I swiped my index finger across it anxiously awaiting what I knew would have to be the world’s best homemade coffee cake.

And then I choked. Seriously.

I couldn’t spit the dough out soon enough. I ran for water. I sounded like a cat hissing at a piece of prey on the other side of the glass divide. In teenspeak, it was an epic fail.

Horror of horrors! Time for a do-over and I began the process again. This time I doublechecked to make sure I added sugar in the correct amount instead of adding salt in its place. It was an unintended mistake but I’ve found in my life that confusing “look-alikes” can create unintended consequences. In this case, the result was a culinary disaster. I’m glad it was not a more earth-shattering situation.

The new coffee cake made me proud. My friend was impressed with my coffee making ability and the visit was worth the wait.

From now on, the Sharpie marker STAYS in the kitchen junk drawer! And I’m keeping the salt and sugar far away from each other.

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FUN: You Can’t Buy the Ingredients She Uses

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I call her “Dr. Sallie.” Our appointments are sporadic and unscheduled. But somehow I always see her when I need to.

Dr. Sallie and me. I'm glad she dishes out encouragement!

Her gift: cooking tips, encouragement and embarrassment prevention. I got all three earlier this week!

Her office: the cooking display at my grocery store where she prepares recipes for hungry shoppers to sample.

“Hey darlin’, Happy Labor Day,” she calls to me.

Actually I was going to skip stopping at the display since she was busy chopping ingredients for her next culinary concoction. But I figure it wouldn’t take much time to say hello and let her get back to work so I roll my cart over and stop.

“Come here, honey,” Sallie says motioning for me to turn around and lean backward TOWARD her.

Now I’m wondering what’s going on. Soon I feel her tender touch at the back of my neck as she starts to tuck in the tag at the back of my shirt. In case you don’t know, there’s a very important commitment women have with each other. It’s in the unwritten rules in the woman’s code of sisterhood: Thou shalt not let any sister [whether you know her or not] walk around with her shirt or dress tag exposed.

I’m not exactly sure why this is so important but it is – so trust me. Women do this for each other all the time. And Sallie took care of me, so embarrassment avoided. Besides, I certainly don’t want to appear however exposed tags make one appear.  Women know these things.  It’s in the code.

Soon my friend, whom I’ll call Gloria, rolls up to the action. We share a few laughs and then notice Dr. Sallie is visiting and chopping simultaneously – both with great concentration.

“You know,” my friend says while Dr. Sallie  slices eggplant, “I’ve heard that adding salt to eggplant when you cook it makes it less bitter.”

Dr. Sallie agreed and we three  chit chatted for a few minutes. I even got Dr. Sallie to let me get our picture together. Yes people stared, but I didn’t care. She is an important woman in my life. She could be enjoying retirement and filling her schedule with other activities but she’s there, routinely behind that “Lucy-like The Psychiatrist is In” stand. She always knows what I need to hear. She’s a survivor – in health, in life and in general.

I thrust the camera into my friend’s hands.

Next I feel a secure mother-like hug as Dr. Sallie obliges pulling me in front of her.

Gloria snaps. We review. Then we shop.

“Thanks for the ‘therapy’,” Gloria says with a smile and a wave as she heads toward the bakery.

What would I do without Dr. Sallie?

I don’t know.

But I’m always glad when “the doctor is in!”