It all started late last summer when we discovered that our son was sneaking onto Netflix and watching countless episodes of Cake Boss. I should have been concerned when he wrote us a letter informing us that he knew "everything there is to know about cakes" which meant that he was qualified to design our wedding cake. But his interest seemed harmless - even adorable - and we had no idea that Cake Boss was only the beginning, the gateway show to Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen and The Next Great Baker and even the YouTube channel Nerdy Nummies and somewhere along the line, Zeca joined in this culinary crusade. This summer, they have said things like, "You don't understand! We want to really bake!", "We are not interested in everyday cooking!", "We want to create something special!" While I encouraged the basics, they requested fondant and angled spatulas and special piping tips for icing. When I suggested they make pesto for dinner, they said they would consider Fettucini Alfredo with pan-seared shrimp because anything simple was beneath them. So, under attack from these culinary crusaders, I acquiesced and told them they could bake whatever they wanted provided they worked together and then washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen afterwards. They joyfully agreed.
And so the troubles began...
Why make a sandwich when you can create a double decker lettuce, tomato, parmesan sandwich held together by a neon plastic sword?
What is not pictured? The trail of parmesan cheese from the kitchen to the dining room. Hansel and Gretel were amateurs with their bread crumbs!
Why decorate a cake with candy sprinkles when you can make your own glass candy?
Not pictured: The glass candy slivers that melted all over the front stoop after they smashed the candy with a hammer.
Why should they have to learn to frost a cake? That's why the Gods of Baking made fondant - it hides imperfections!
The second cake they made together ended in a huge argument in which the two kids screamed at each other over the following:
- One of them didn't even think to preheat the oven (Miguel)
- They did not level the cakes (Miguel)
- The piped icing was too runny (Zeca)
- The piping was uneven (Zeca)
I came downstairs to mediate but Zeca had already locked herself in the bathroom and Miguel was alleging that she had punched him and run. Their fighting triggers something deep and dark inside of me so I started yelling and, once Zeca came out of the bathroom, I gave them a lecture that ended with the best maternal comfort I had to offer, "Someday, we'll be dead and all you will have is each other. You better learn to get along."
Then, just last week, I heard Miguel call from the kitchen, "Um…mom…I think I need a little help…" I went down to find that he had opened the Joy of Cooking and was several steps into making a Souffléd Omelette. The kid can't fry an egg but was in the process of trying to make something with the word soufflé in it! We didn't have the proper baking dish and I suggested that we quickly melt some butter in a casserole dish on the stove which was a horrible idea because the dish exploded, leaving my entire kitchen covered in shards of glass. I spent the next half hour picking up buttery glass bits and breathing deeply to avoid yelling and sounding like an asthmatic rhinoceros in the process. A week later and we are still finding pieces of glass in rooms adjacent to the kitchen.
The thing about catastrophes is they do give perspective. I told him that he could not attempt a souffléd anything until he was able to prepare eggs at least three ways - fried, over easy, and scrambled. I said, "You have to crawl before you can walk," and he misread every single social cue in the situation that should have told him to keep his mouth shut and said, "Actually, I have quite a few friends who walked before they crawled." The rhinoceros returned and I gritted my teeth, "You have to crawl before you can walk. You have to frost before you can pipe. You have to fry a damn egg before you soufflé."
If we are not successful in banning cooking shows in our home, we might just have our own reality show soon enough.