In 1991, I visited cousin Chloe, an aspiring actress who resides in the "city of angels." Not exactly kissing cousins, we did spend significant time together as children. Nervous as to what the uptown and the hometown girl might find in common, nonetheless, I was excited to make my first (and only) trip to Hollywood.
“I’m so happy to see you!” I exclaimed with a quick glance to see if perhaps my thighs had miraculously reduced in-flight. They had not. “You look great.”
Making our way to Chloe's very shiny, black, immaculate Mercedes, I thought, "Bet there's no Happy Meal remnants tucked away in these seats."
Blonde, buxom, beautiful, Chloe has always resembled a California girl, the antithesis of her red-headed relative. Conversation quickly turned to reminiscing younger days. We laughed recounting growing up adventures, dance lessons, sleepovers, prank calls to popular boys.
“Remember our first solo baking attempt?” I laughed.
“Oh, my gosh,” Chloe snorted, “Wasn’t that a hoot playing 'Martha's Kitchen'.” I couldn't believe Chloe still snorted.
In the 60s, Martha's Kitchen, a locally televised cooking program starred Martha and her sidekick Jenny. Chloe and I, forever endeavoring to master the cooking craft, and both would-be actresses, we feigned the gestures of our heroines whenever invited to bake. Desire to solo in the kitchen came to fruition one sunny Saturday. We rallied to the occasion, zealous to prove ourselves. First, we cast our roles. Chloe, one year my senior, would be Martha, leaving me to play Jenny.
We spoke to an invisible audience while gathering supplies; greased, floured cake pans awaited cargo and a mishmash of oddly-sized bowls held required ingredients. I commentated with each addition and stir. It was only the handwritten recipe’s final instruction which stumped us, "Add the rest of the flour." Time to take a commercial break.
Being the assistant (and because it was my house), I consulted the expert for clarity, shouting from the kitchen-turned-make-believe television studio.
“Mom, is this right…the recipe says to add the rest of the flour?"
"Yes. You add half the flour at the beginning, stir, and now add the rest." Logical to the expert, it didn't make sense to me. Not knowing if this was just something all bakers know, I repeated, "So, we really add the rest of the flour?"
"Yes, you do." The voice issuing from Mom's bathroom sounded slightly irritated, but still didn't make sense. Prolonging our commercial break, I asked again.
“Mom, really we add the rest of the flour?"
"Yes!!!!” The reply precluded further inquisitions.
Martha a/k/a Chloe and I resumed programming. Handing over the flour canister, I pondered, "How does the recipe know how much flour we have in here?” but resigned myself to the fact there were some things I just wasn't going to understand.
Announcing another commercial break, we were hardly able to contain ourselves for the 25 minutes of baking time.
"Ding!" A slight scuffle ensued when the timer resounded.
"I get to take the tins out!" Chloe shouted five steps ahead of me.
"No. I do." I raced, trying to find a passing lane.
The conflict was settled diplomatically: we would each remove a tin; I would go first -- it was “my” oven.
Our proud expressions quickly disappeared when we discovered our cake resembled stone (perhaps we were just ahead of our time inventing organic masonry.)
Mom just couldn't imagine what had gone wrong. "You followed the directions and asked me when you didn't understand."
"Mom, I still don't know how the recipe knew how much flour we had."
Suddenly, the expert's eyes grew wide and she headed straight for the flour canister.
"We did what you told us to do," Chloe piped in sensing perhaps a need for defense.
Lifting the flour container lid, Mom's eyes darted between looking at us, faces smeared with dried batter, clothes dusted with flour, eyes filled with tears and looking at the canister.
"Thank goodness I didn't have a ten-pound bag in there!" The expert reached her arms out and embraced Chloe and me. She explained our error until we understood and assured us our cake would taste great anyway (though even our sturdiest knife bent when trying to cut through it).
On the dreams-to-reality life continuum, Chloe and I represent opposing polarities, though we have perfected, at least to some degree, our cooking skills. Yet, the "Rest of the Flour" memory brings a sense of commonality and makes us laugh. Perhaps that was its purpose.
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