The first thing everybody who knew my then to-be mother-in-law said, “She makes wonderful desserts!” I thought that alone was a good reason to marry her son.
Never having baked a cookie in my life, I got married about two years ago. I was living in India with my in-laws- grand-parents-in- law, parents-in-law and two brothers-in-law studying in the US who would visit in holidays and of course with this blog’s raison d’etre, my husband.
Each day, a new dessert would mysteriously appear on the dining table. Butterscotch cup-cakes one day, mocha pudding the other, apple crumble the next and so on. In a culture wherein obesity is a physical manifestation of prosperity especially for married men, who cares about calories as long as something is nastily delicious? All the people in the house from my grandmother-in-law to my husband (otherwise a big proponent of cooking with olive oil) would hover around that table under some pretext, salivating.
And then the morning arrived! I caught my mother-in-law in the kitchen concocting the cake mixture. Controlling the urge to blurt out, “Give me the evil recipe!” I asked “Can I help you?” As I assembled flour, butter, sugar and baking agents, and saw the batter pop in the oven; I realized the bloated monster was no magic.
In India, the perception about cakes, as with everything foreign, is that baking cakes is something exotic and dangerously difficult. All the members of my husband’s family (including me, I admit) feel pride in telling people that our mom makes puddings and pies. How cool!
Our afternoon snack was not raw fruit but its shredded version drowned in sugar syrup over some sort of spongy loaf. Whenever we would yell, “Mom, I’m hungry;” she would reply, “Eat cake.” And we would be happy and think that our mom is the best and that we are children of royalty.
Since my husband and I moved to the US, I have made cakes hundreds of times, mostly when I could not avoid the chore on some cousin’s birthday or anniversary. Then, I started to slather them, sometimes with chocolate sauce, sometimes with custard and sometimes simply with cream topped with berries.
Now when people compliment me for desserts, I react with a snobbish grin. They plead to share the preparation method; and I enjoy narcissism and sadism at once saying, “Oh, I just made that up.”
After last class, I feel thankful I do not frost my cakes with props. If something goes wrong, I cannot afford to be object of mockery at my level of reputation as in http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/2010/02/literal-letter-of-law.html. On the other hand, if the decoration turns out to be too tempting, I don’t want to picture my hubby in the pitiable child’s fate http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-of-cake.html.
Some context on my husband: He looks up nutrition facts of every edible product in the supermarket to show-off his knowledge about saturated fat. Yet he gleefully savors three-fourth of the desserts although at first he tells me not to make them because they’re unhealthy.
May be to flaunt a more versatile repertoire, I challenged myself to make blackberry jam. Initially its wine color that got stronger as it was simmering mesmerized me. Nevertheless, beyond the first stint nothing about it fascinated me. Crush fruit, add sugar, boil and call it fancy names-marmalade, jelly, or spread.
If there was some charm for sweet left, Murphy had to prove his law to me. I read a story in my Bible- Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul about how a couple used to make ice-cream whenever they fought and how in the process, they got distracted and forgot about the dispute. So I got an ice-cream maker thinking it would bring everything in my world in order. Only to realize we started a new fight about which flavor to make. Vanilla, then.