Monday, July 7, 2014

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

While on vacation I planned to bake peach cobbler for dinner one evening. We were having 20 or so guests over for a casual get together and I thought that would be an appropriate addition to the meal. Knowing how popular the dish is and how many folks would be there I decided I would make three. We had brought a basket of sweet South Carolina peaches with us.

It was my day to make the grocery store run, so I gathered the list of items we needed for everything we were preparing and headed to the store. By the time I got back it was already after 2:30. Quickly I unloaded the bags, carefully making small piles on the counter of different ingredients I had purchased for the different dishes. Seemed everyone was going to prepare one of their "favorites" that evening. Since I knew I had to make three cobblers and realized what that entailed I thought it best I start on my part asap. 

Another reason I set about post haste to bake my cobblers was that another guest, an older woman, had visited the house where we were staying much more often than I had and in some ways felt as if the kitchen was "her" kitchen. She never said it but it was evident that she laid claim to that space early on. I had no desire to be in her way when she commenced making her famous potato salad.

I pulled out the pans I needed, preheated the oven, lined up the ingredients, and started peeling peaches. I would be able to bake the first two together, then follow that with a larger one. Anyone who has made a cobbler knows it is not a difficult recipe at all. However, it does involve several bowls to peel the fruit, mix the fruit with the sugar, mix the cobbler, and the pans to bake it in along with various and sundry measuring cups and spoons.

I had my peaches peeled for the first two cobblers, the fruit mixed, and was mixing the cobbler itself when she walked in the kitchen. "Well, well, well, what do we have here? Looks like a cobbler. Well isn't that nice." As I continued to put the first two together and get them in the oven I explained that I was trying to get them baked early so I would be out of her way. And, that I was going to bake three.

"Three cobblers? Well, we will certainly have enough for everyone and plenty left over."  I just continued with my baking. As I turned around after putting the two in the oven I saw she had taken it upon herself to start washing the paring knife I was using. "Oh, I still need that," I said pointing to the knife.

"Oh, I was just going to help. I know baking is such a mess and since we all have to use the kitchen," she stopped and smiled broadly as if to remind me where I was. "I just thought I would help."

I took the pairing knife and started peeling the peaches for the third cobbler. When I turned around again, she was washing the bowl I was using to mix my cobbler. "Wait, I need that. I am not through." I gently took the bowl from her hands and washed the soap out of it, dried it off, and moved it back to the table where I was working.

"Well, I'll just clean these," she said starting to pick up the measuring spoons and cups.

That was when I about lost it. It was three hours before guests were going to arrive. The dinner was very casual. I had made a concerted effort to get in the kitchen, get my baking done, as well as cleaning up, long before she needed to start. After I mixed the fruit and the sugar in one bowl, I mixed the dry ingredients for the cobbler in the second bowl to which I would add the milk last. I started cleaning up the various pieces of equipment I was finished with.

"Can I wash this now?" she asked holding up the large baking dish holding the melted butter for the third cobbler. 

"No, that is for the third cobbler. I will mix all that as soon as the first two come out of the oven. I promise I will clean this all up as soon as I am finished. 

"Oh, my my, how could I forget. You did say you thought we would need three cobblers tonight. What was I thinking?"

When I removed the first two from the oven and put the third one in, I found her looking at the deep dish fruit pies. "Well, I've never quite seen such as these. Mine generally don't look  like these, but then I use my family recipe that we have used for generations. It always wins at the county fair and all." 

That evening I came in from the porch to find her discussing my cobbler with another lady. The guest was very complimentary and said she liked my cobbler. I thanked her and told her I could not take the credit, it was the South Carolina peaches that made it so tasty. Then the older lady piped up, "I told her you added Amaretto to it."

"Excuse me?" I asked. "Where did that come from?"

"Well, she said there was some different flavor and I told her you used Amaretto."

I looked at the guest and smiled. "I'm not sure where that came from but there is some almond flavoring in the cobbler."

Then the older lady added, "Well I saw the almond flavoring bottle on the table this afternoon and assumed that you used that instead of Amaretto. Amaretto is almond, right?" 

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