Sunday, February 28, 2010

I sister, onions, turkey and cooking drama

my younger sister, Sharon, and her playful ways she would display her displeasure about me making simple, innocent, constructive suggestions about her kitchen habits.

The three times I recall of note are:

1- the time she and I were helping our Mom unload the groceries from the car. I had already brought in the onions and potatoes and Sharon (about two years old - I was about six) was putting them away in the bottom cupboard next to the refrigerator. On my second trip into the house I didn't see any potatoes or onions out so I asked her where she put them. She pointed at the cabinet and when I looked inside - as the poem says - the cupboard was bare. It is conceivable that she thought she heard a disparaging word (because the clouds were not cloudy all day) from me. Bereft of the proper words to cleverly hide the truth that she had just neatly poked them through a hole in the cupboard wall, dropping all the potatoes and onions to an impossible-to-get-to crawl space under the house, she just sunk her four teeth [two on top and two on the bottom, all in the front like a deranged beaver] into my shoulder blade and hung on until Mom heard my screaming and saved me. When a turtle does that you have to cut their head off to get them unhooked, but Mom wouldn't hear of it. It was just a suggestion.

2-We both survived and got a little older. We still had combined kitchen duties, possibly one of God's tests where what doesn't kill you, will make you stronger. It was Thanksgiving. We didn't have much money, so we were thankful for the turkey. Sharon was thankful for having an underachiever for a brother, so she could look really good compared to her sterling self. I was particularly thankful for the fact that I was the oldest child (by four years) and significantly bigger than my sterling sister.

Not being clever enough to avoid cleverly disguised, seemingly perfect set-ups (sibling harrassment opportunities), I came upon my sister, basting the family turkey, perched precariously on the open knee-high oven door in our 50's, bright turquoise, far-too-small, kitchen.

There was just enough room to squeeze behind her to pass through the kitchen. My sister had commandeered the opportunity to baste the turkey to a perfect golden brown and Mom had relegated me to taking the potato peels out to the trash. In retrospect, I probably could have gone around the kitchen, but the what-could-possibly-go-wrong temptation to casually, ever-so-lovingly, brush past her, took control of my body. As I squeezed behind her (I am absolutely confident I mumbled "excuse me") my "I am peeved with you showing me up to Mom all the time" knee reflexes must have jerked involuntarily and given her the the ever-so-slight shot to the back as I passed by.

This was 50 years ago. I was twelve and she was an evil, evil (did I say evil yet) eight years old. I have this painfully vivid memory of her involuntary Sarah Bernhart [Quote from Wikipedia: "Much of the uncertainty about Bernhardt's life arises because of her tendency to exaggerate and distort. Alexandre Dumas, described her as a notorious liar) acting skills kicking in. As I gave her the quite innocent knee-to-the-back love tap, she instinctively screamed loudly, fell backwards, flinging the turkey, the roasting pan, drippings, etc. across the floor, skidding to a greasy stop at my Mom's feet. No amount of protest on my part could properly explain the huge injustice I received as my clever little sister, writhed on the floor, in the turkey bastings, crying and screaming that I had viciously kicked her in the back. You are probably thinking, geez, it has been fifty years; get over it. You weren't there to see the Mona Lisa smile creep across her face as I was dragged off to the dungeons to be flogged. Note: We ate the turkey anyway. I ate mine standing up.

3. Somehow, we managed to bury the hatchet (just not in each other) and we lived on to another day later that year to combine our fine-tuned culinary skills to make a birthday cake for our Mom, while she took a nap. After all, Sharon had mastered pancakes and I had beaucoup (dj. Many; much: beaucoup money. n. pl. beau·coups also boo·coos or boo·koos. An abundance; a lot.) merit badges for cooking over an inverted coffee can in the wilderness.

We had the cake mix, we had a two part angel-food cake pan, but obviously, had no clear recipe to follow. We were practically valedictorian scholars, and so, boldly moved forth to surprise Mom with a homemade cake. Wrong mix. Wrong pan. No sense of time. After the pan suffered in the oven for about twenty minutes with the only heat coming from just the oven light-bulb, we realized our error. It was quite obvious what we had to do. If a person only had so much time to go from point A to point B and you had gone too slowly in the beginning - the obvious solution would be to go faster with the remaining time you had left, so you would arrive at point B at the right time. The same principal could surely be applied to cooking. Not noticing that half the batter had leaked out of the two-part pan onto the old style, non-self-cleaning oven bottom, we cranked the heat up to broil, to make up for lost time and proceded into the family room to watch "American Bandstand" - with forever young, Dick Clark.

Boy did Mom truly get a cake surprise for her birthday. This was before smoke detectors. I am still not sure if that was good or bad. When charred-cake black smoke
finally filled the house (except where we were in the lower-level family room with the sliding wood door closed) all Hell broke loose with Mom screaming for us to get out of the house, as it was on fire.

It, of course, wasn't. Just the cake - permanently baked and embedded into the pocked, porcelain interior of that poor oven -was a tad over done. I thought for sure my co-cook and I would share the blame on that one, but as I was the oldest (with a fire safety merit badge, no less) and the one that originated the cooking dilemma math formula, once again, I remember bearing the brunt of the responsibility.

My sister and I have lived long enough to fondly remember these childhood traumas with a bit of humor (and much Merlot). Sharon is one of my best friends now and may have slightly different, but deranged, versions of these stories. However, since this my blog, she will just have to start her own, and post her own version, won't she?

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