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.