I am a kept woman, culinarily speaking.
When my friend Su came to visit last year, her first comment upon seeing our cluttered kitchen was: “You sure know how to pick ‘em!”
In this case, “them” did not indicate “kitchen counters,” as ours has been dreadfully miscast in the role of “reasonably sized repository for appliances.” Her point, upon seeing said appliances, was that she approved of my taste in their owner.
My allusion is growing more byzantine and/or braggy by the moment, but in short: my boyfriend and I have an espresso machine, a coffee grinder, a coffee bean roaster, a Vitamix and a combination bread/jam/dough machine in regular rotation on the counter. And by “we have,” I mean my boyfriend owns these things, and he uses all of them without any intervention from me. So I get fresh baked breads, piping hot lattes and nutrient-packed green smoothies daily. Su’s (fairly accurate) point was that I’m being catered to with a nonstop revolving menu of fresh crusts, coffees and kales.
In the words of vintage Beyoncé and my boyfriend-cum-barista:
Should I feel lucky? I do! But on the other hand, I feel guilty. The caterer/cateree relationship between my boyfriend and myself has become entirely uneven. To quote the old British sitcom, “Are You Being Served?” Yes, constantly! And it makes me uncomfortable. I felt a little bit better when another friend, hearing about our degustation disparities, politely claimed that a food prep-inclined person either gravitates towards cooking or baking. And once said gravitation has occurred, there can be no reasonable hope of crossover.
Therein lies the problem. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always been the baker. The activity calms me, and I love to experiment across the entire genre: decadent cakes with 20-odd microlayers that I adapted from passing comments in the Southern literature classic and Georgia middle school reading list staple “Cold Sassy Tree”; deceptively simple-looking baumkuchen; on-trend kouignoù-amann. I feel confident in both my ability to muddle through any given dessert recipe and in the clear correlation between confection-making and caring. I feel so strongly about the latter that I’ve extended the genuine offer to each one of my friends to make their wedding cake. (Then again, only 1 friend has taken me up on it, and that was for a wedding at the Tropicana Hotel Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. So perhaps my assessment of my own abilities should be recalculated.)
But my boyfriend’s sweet tooth is … the size of a newborn baby’s (a.k.a.: M.I.A. LOL). My boyfriend has reacted the same way to my offers to make dessert as my altar-bound friends have reacted to my theoretically proffered wedding cakes. Of course, everyone is too nice to say the true reasons for rejection, but it’s not too hard to parse. Possible translations of a polite demurral:
No, don’t make us a wedding cake! We’d rather:
a) chance it with a génoise-slinger who has a Yelp presence.
b) fulfill our confectionery needs at an outfit that offers cheery testimonials, pre-event tastings and a cerulean letter on its door (namely, an ‘A’ from the health inspector … as contrasted with the unverified practices that happen between a Vitamix and a Zojirushi in your crowded kitchen).
c) swallow our own tongues than suffer one bite of your sachertorte, which, in the words of Sophocles, brings to mind the turbid ebb and flow of human misery.
Again, none of these lines has been said to me verbatim, because my friends and boyfriend are too kind. But I can read it in their eyes.
So when my boyfriend and I moved in together last year, I schlepped my Bundt pan, chocolate mold and 3-quart ice cream maker to Goodwill. In full disclosure, I jettisoned the implements on the calculated decision that there’s a better version of each in my future (after attaining the reasonable projection of my life in which I run a Chuck Lorre-esque multi-cam/multi-bil’ TV empire and simultaneously win the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes).
But in the interim, my dessert tools weren’t worth the precious space on the counter. Our dessert of choice these days is Trifecta of Elements (N2, O2, Ar. A.k.a: inhaled air.). I miss my cake-baking! But on the other hand, these dinners and their maker have captured a pizza my heart.