Saturday, December 17, 2011
"The Queen of Desserts" may have been an apt title to describe my Mother, although I was fortunate to marry a wife and have a daughter who are both known for their delightful culinary skills in that department as well. Mom put a lot of creativity and work into the fine art of the dessert and its presentation.
My parents entertained frequently and throughout the year Mom would labor in the kitchen turning out Hungarian Crumb Cake, Baked Alaska, Chocolate Crunch, Angel Food Cake with ice cream and strawberries, cobblers of various kinds, Apple, Banana and Rhubarb Custard pies, shortbread, doughnuts and steamed pudding. At Easter she would make her special sunflower coffee cake, resplendent in yellow icing, with brown chocolate sprinkles at the center.
At Christmas the work would start weeks before, making Russian Teacakes, Almond Roca, chocolates, peanut brittle, fudge, divinity, mints, rosettes, nuts and bolts and fruitcake. We kids would help pull taffy, decorate cookies and wrap the candy. Many of these treats were shared with neighbors, friends and relatives, but there was always plenty for our own consumption. Mom took a great deal of pleasure in finding new recipes and trying them out on our family. I never remember anyone complaining! She would have loved Martha Stewart and all the cooking shows that are available these days. Back then she was her own "Martha Stewart".
It was the spring of 1974 and I had just turned 13. That time in one's life where you're an expert on just about everything and have no problem letting others know about it. Mom had been carefully crafting a new recipe and it was the day of its debut for our family before she rolled it out for company. After the main course, she brought out a tray of fine looking, elegant goblets. These tall vessels contained a beautiful parfait. Bright colors of layered jello, pudding and custard topped with whipped cream and a cherry rounded out the presentation. We couldn't wait to get started! Mom set the tray down and handed one of the parfaits to each of us. She then asked us if we had noticed the new goblets. I can't say that we had as we were more interested in the contents. Mom was always buying dishes in large quantities as it was not unusual for us to entertain 12 or more people at one time. She had found a sale on a dozen of these tall elegant goblets and was rightly proud of her find.
Paying some attention now to the goblets, I announced that they sure looked like plastic to me. The sides appeared far too thin to be glass. I took my spoon and lightly tapped the side of the goblet. "Steve", Mom said, "You be careful, that's glass". "That can't be glass," I said, as I tapped a little harder. "It sounds like plastic to me". "Please be careful or you'll break it", Mom continued. I insisted that it was plastic. Eager to prove my point, I tapped with a little more vigor . . . Clink . . . to my surprise, there lay a small chunk of glass on top of what was left of my dessert. Oops! . . . I guess I was wrong. I felt bad, but the damage was done and super glue was not going to fix the problem. Mom was very disappointed, Dad was upset and I was embarrassed.
Did Dad take me out to the wood shed to teach me a lesson? Did Mom make me buy a new goblet? Did I have to do penance for the next year? None of the above. Mom came up with a very clever punishment and one that may have been more meaningful in the long term than some of the others. She washed out the goblet, complete with the shattered piece and placed it on the dresser in my bedroom. Everyday, when I went to get a pair of socks or underwear, there was a clear reminder that just maybe I didn't know it all and there's a reason that we are given people in our lives for guidance and advice.
How many times in life or in business have we thought we knew it all? Maybe a partner, business colleague or friend has clearly warned us, even numerous times, that the results of our actions could have devastating consequences. We plow forward, tinkling the glass until it's too late. The damage is done.
I still like my desserts but I try to be a little more careful about how much I think I know.
Special Gift just for you from the Rendall Vault:
1 cup margarine
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
Beat margarine until smooth
Sift dry ingredients 4 times
Add to margarine, work with hands until mixture cracks
Roll out to about 1/2 inch and cut in shapes or squares
Bake at 325 for 20 minutes
© 2012 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.