Our family's journey to the heart of a handmade life

Attack of the Strawberry Fail Cake

Armed with the Noah’s Ark of road trip sustenance, (two each of Vanilla Starbuck’s Double Shots, Nature Valley Oats ‘N Honey, and Nature Valley Almond Sweet & Salty Nut bars, along with a hefty bag of Snyder’s of Hanover Honey Mustard and Onion pretzel pieces) Patrick and I hit the highway at the crack of 5:00PM. We had packed the night before so we could leave right from work; but walking into the building that morning, Patrick with his guitar case and me with a gigantic cake carrier, we looked like Antonio Banderas’ El Mariachi and his trusty sidekick, Suzie Homemaker.

Friday night was good, brimming with laughter, silly jokes, inappropriate crying, spiced rum and fried fish. The latter was delicious, especially when dipped in the accompanying tartar sauce, a matter of which I am very fussy. It must be slightly high on the Pickle Meter, and the mayo must be muted. And not too much onion. Or lemon. But it has to have enough lemon to help mute the mayo. Sigh. The strangest (or lamest) thing about my finicky tartar palate is that I have never attempted to make my own. So really, I can’t complain. ANYWAY, the tartar sauce was excellent. The fact that it came in tiny paper cups made it even better, as we affectionately dubbed it ‘the plop.’

I awoke Saturday morning to fresh coffee and warm French toast, courtesy of an early bird mother-in-law. (Okay, it wasn’t exactly morning, more like afternoon. The spiced rum of the previous night was bought specifically for us, so I, of course, couldn’t be rude.) It was wonderful to be cooked for. I was even scolded for attempting to do the dishes! The rest of the day was even better, mostly lazy and relaxing with sporadic bursts of random tomfoolery. Imagine a grown man donning his thirteen-year-old sister’s shiny leather jacket and trendy sunglasses, leaning against the wall thumbing his popped color and winking at the camera. And this was before cocktails.

I hijacked dinner later that night. My husband had played Rosemary Clooney that afternoon, which flipped the switch in my brain, as it’s my customary cooking music. Roma tomatoes were tossed in extra virgin olive oil, oregano, basil and a good bit of black pepper, then roasted in a 315 degree oven for three and a half hours. I served them over pan-seared chicken thighs that were finished in the oven, lightly seasoned with basil and garlic powder. My mother-in-law put together a lovely salad with mixed spring greens, red bell pepper and fresh tomatoes. It was a fine summer meal, despite its being served at nine o‘clock. I have serious timing issues.

Earlier in the day, I attempted a French yogurt cake. The recipe is simple, using only flour, eggs, yogurt, baking powder, and sugar, all in half-cup increments. The original recipe uses ’jars’ for measuring, meaning the French’s glass yogurt containers. In my eagerness to improve, I added strawberries. And in my poor judgment, I used an eight-inch cake pan instead the required nine-inch. Never, under any circumstances, for whatever reason, no matter what, NEVER alter a baking recipe. Not unless you do extensive research and find a tried and true variation. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

I will say that everyone that found it delicious, and good with a cup of tea. But still. Just look at it! It doesn’t get much more fail than that.

Well. As this is a decidedly belated blog, and I assume the details of a visit with the in-laws is not nearly as interesting to you as it is to me, I shall bring it to an end.

I leave you with this; my sister-in-law, Mary, in her part-time job as the grim reaper:

“An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.” Agatha Christie