Thursday, July 15, 2010

What seems easy to us ...

Yesterday, for a rather momentous occasion in my life, The Husband and The Kiddo conspired to make brownies.

The Husband cannot in any way, shape or form be considered a cook, or even a foodie. Bless his heart, pork skins or honey-buns are good eats to him. So it was understandable, as I prepared to leave for work yesterday morning, that he seemed consumed with knowing the right recipe for making brownies.

So I hauled out my two big fat cookbooks that are the staple of many a kitchen and laid their red plaid covers on my counters. "There, that's the easy recipe for brownies, and that's the one that takes the mixer," I told him.

Panic etched into his face. "Have we got all the stuff to make this?" he asked.

"Sure." I started dragging out the cocoa powder, which I use instead of baker's chocolate. "Er, you'll have to follow the directions here to make the equivalent of the baker's chocolate."

"You mean I have to cook that before I cook this?" he asked.

"You could pick up some baker's chocolate from the grocery store. But I usually use this because it's just as good."

"Okay," The Husband said doubtfully. "So you mix the cocoa powder and the butter -- does it come out in a hard block?"

"Uh, no. It looks like melted chocolate. You just add it to the flour."

The panicked look came back in full force. "Where's the flour?" he asked.

I pointed it out. "Well," I said, trying very hard to keep any trace of anything that could be misconstrued as judgment out of my voice, "there ARE mixes you can buy, where all you have to do is add an egg and some water and oil." When he looked crushed that I didn't have faith in him, I added, "But brownies are VERY hard to mess up. You really can't mess up a brownie."

Later that day, the texts I got from him:

"Where's the baking powder and the vanilla?" he asked first.

I texted back that our flour was self-rising, so no baking powder was needed. Then I gave him a mapquest version to find the vanilla lurking in our cabinets.

A few minutes later, he texted back, "Is it okay if I use vanilla EXTRACT?"

I texted back that vanilla extract was perfectly acceptable.

Then I got a weird question, something about did he have to mix the water with the chocolate. For the life of me, I couldn't understand that one, not until I got home and he pointed out the recipe. The directions had called for the baker's chocolate to be melted over hot water, but it didn't add anything about using a double-boiler.

The brownies smelled all chocolatey and wonderful when I walked in the door. They were dark and chewy, and boasted extra chocolate because The Kiddo had decided they needed chocolate chips in them.

The moral of the story? Never assume that things are easy.

I've been making brownies since I was a bit bigger than The Kiddo's age, and helping in the kitchen before that. I'd always assumed that anyone could follow a recipe, but recipes have every bit as much jargon as we writers do.

I've been writing since I was nine years old -- The Kiddo's age, in fact. For me, while stringing words together in a coherent novel can be tough, usually if all I need to do is dash off a letter or write a report, it's no problem. I have frequently found myself impatient with family members who beg me to write a letter.

For me, writing came so easy that I forgot how hard it was for most everyone else. By thinking it was easy, I was doing two things: 1) selling myself short, and 2) holding other people up to a standard I wouldn't want to be held to myself. My barely smothered scoff at the request of my Cum Laude graduate sister to write her a letter would be no different than if she scoffed at my reluctance to use power tools.

For The Husband, making those brownies from scratch was a hard and scary and intimidating thing to do. And let me tell you, I appreciate the effort from the very bottom of my heart.


Piedmont Writer said...

You can't use power tools but you make brownies from scratch. You are an enigma Cynthia. A very lovely charming southern enigma.

Were the brownies edible?

Never assume that things are easy. This was a great moral. I've been going through a "thing" myself this last week.

Cynthia Reese said...

Anne, I never knew that it was a big feat to make brownies from scratch, not until last night, and thank you for the compliments!

Yes, the brownies were edible -- more than edible, in fact. They weren't my brownies, but they tasted like a rather rich chocolate cake.

Linda G. said...

Aww, that is so sweet! See, if I'd been your hubs, I would've snuck out and bought a box mix, and then burned the evidence before you got home. ;)

Patty Blount said...

You just discovered the basic tenet of technical writing #dayjob It's easy to overlook things as "obvious" until a fresh set of eyes tries to use those instructions.

Glad you got a birthday treat!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Aw, they're so cute when they're trying extra hard!

*applause for the Hubby*

And I love your point about not assuming that something is easy just because it is easy for you. :)

Cynthia Reese said...

Linda G, this is the exact reason I don't trust you to meet me halfway for that fried chicken you want so badly! ;-) I'd be driving up ALL the way!

Patty, obviously I'm not cut out to be a technical writer, because I never once questioned how you'd melt chocolate over hot water! Tee-hee!

Susan, they ARE adorable when they try hard -- now why can't they realize that and do it more often? ;-)

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Aww, that was really sweet, and a good reminder. Though look at you, overachieving and learning stuff on your birthday. Like all of my favorite sitcom episodes rolled into one. :)

Kelly Breakey said...

Some times it really is the thought that counts.

But secretly I am so glad that your hubs and kiddo kicked butt on the brownies.

Bravo to them.

Anonymous said...

I like the way Linda thinks! My husband is the cook/baker of the Posey Clan.