I'm usually the one who brings the potato chips to potlucks. I wouldn't describe myself as the least domestic of women. During the dark ages of my middle-school years, my sister and I discovered an amazing recipe for chewy, buttery oatmeal cookies that adults were willing to purchase from us. We spent our weekends baking and perfecting their texture and taste until we actually created a pretty consistent demand for our product.
After college, when I tired of eating made-up soup concoctions, ramen noodles and bland veggies, I cut out beautiful food pictures from magazines and began to try out tasty recipes. I had a wonderful roommate who taught me how to set up a flavor bouquet for sautéing with peppers, garlic and onions, and another who actually showed me how to clean, skin and cut up a squid, then batter and fry it into delicious calamari rings. These were exciting times in food.
These days, I am expanding my baking skills. I've dreamed of presenting beautiful desserts to others at holiday times or after a delicious dinner at my house. The details of baking seemed more difficult to teach oneself than cooking. I don't remember who first told me about them, but when I heard about Wilton cake-decorating classes offered at a local crafts store, I knew I had to try.
It was a welcome change from my regular world. After a hectic week, I could end each Friday for a month by escaping into a room of individuals making sugared roses pushed daintily out of bags of colored icing. I could enjoy creating sweet cupcakes and sumptuous cakes that would ease my mind and stir my creative juices, allowing me to gently unwind from the week. Plus, I'd be able to show off my skills to others. At least that's what I thought, anyway.
Turns out, cake decorating is not as easy as it looks. It takes patience, preparation, imagination and organization. I found I was an eager yet lazy student. I looked forward to classes but scrambled at the last minute to gather all my tools. Inevitably, I never got everything done in time.
My saving grace was my diligent and generous co-worker who'd agreed to take the class with me. Armed with a background in elementary education, coupled with years of engaging children in counseling offices and church groups, she knew how to prepare for the details. She read the instructions carefully, completed her homework and appeared in class with her homemade icings in nicely mixed colors, neat cakes that had been correctly pressed down and a stiff apron ready for the show.
Me? I borrowed items from her. My cake arrived still warm in the pan from a frantic baking right before class. My cupcakes were ugly. The icing was store-bought. My nerves were frayed.
Feeling like the kid in class who is always a step behind and can't figure out why, the teacher casually blessed my icing flowers with a simple, "Pretty" as she walked slowly around the class inspecting our efforts. I glowed with pride.
Sometimes in life you have to be satisfied with the little achievements. I'll never be a renowned cake decorator, but perhaps I'll feel the satisfaction of being a little above average among regular folk. At least that's what I'd like to think. Work with me, people ...
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc, is a local therapist and writer. Email her firstname.lastname@example.org.