IMPROVE THE WAY YOU COOK
“So, come on, what dessert are we going to make?” While hugging her laptop and a faded blue notebook – one of those school notebooks from the 80s – D. came charging in and plopped on the couch. Her idea was inspired both by the desire for a more economical approach, as well as, her wonderful little balcony, which is located in the center of Athens and offers a magnificent view of the sun setting behind the Acropolis. Thus, instead of a birthday cake, she was going to create a dessert buffet, which would be accompanied by various drinks and hints of alcohol.
Of course, we were risking looking like a scene out of a comedy, but thought that our plan was smart, original and fairly simple – at least at first. After extensive research online and many smudged or erased recipe lists in our notebook, we finally found the recipes for the desserts that… could bear the weight of D’s birthday celebration. Few and good. And easy, since as far as the baking portion of the project, D had already warned us that she would need a helping hand – well, actually, many helping hands. And as far as my inexperienced hands were concerned, it was decided that they would be baking apple pie.
I collected the ingredients on the kitchen counter: apples, sugar, cognac, water, butter, cinnamon, eggs, baking powder, flour and vanilla extract. For an instance I had a mini panic attack – and now what? Where do I begin? With the dough or the filling? What does it mean we grate the apples – where? How? The grater? The mixer? – or perhaps it meant tiny cubes, the way that gramma used to do it? Apple pie was my grandmother’s dessert, she just loved it. She used to say that it was an “unsweetened dessert” and, as she put it, it suited her temperament – just sweet enough so as not to make your stomach hurt, without placing limits on how much you can handle. Every year in March, on her nameday, she used to bake apple pie to serve to friends and family and the house would fill with the smell of butter and baked cinnamon.
At this point I begin, faithfully following the directions, unaware that I am mimicking her – her skillful hands grating the ingredients slowly and confidently, transforming this dough and filling into an “unsweetened dessert.” I place it in the oven and the apartment begins to fill with the scent of cinnamon and fresh butter. There is no need for sneak peeks into the oven-door window, the smell alone signals whether or not the experiment was successful. And so it is – in this empire of the senses, where memories are awakened by beloved scents, things happen “just as they should.” It is almost inevitable. We just need to make the decision.
In a little less than an hour later, my apple pie is ready to leave for D’s apartment, so that it may celebrate with yet another group of loved ones. Even if this autumn breeze grazes ones skin a little gentler than the breeze in March. Even though the hands that baked it were my inexperienced, clumsy ones.
L. bakes in downtown Athens