Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Strawberry Shortcake Debacle

Baking is one of my favorite hobbies. I started making birthday cakes for people at work mostly so I could bake and try out decorating techniques (that never really worked out) on unsuspecting people who just wanted the sugar. I have always liked to bake and that extended to the interminable summer dinners when I lived with my parents that seemed to consist largely of strawberry shortcake.
My dad is what my mom calls a ‘hobby farmer’ which means in addition to the variety of animals we also had some small crops. Among them were strawberries. Have you ever had to spend your summer under a hot sun hoeing weeds around freaking strawberry plants? Not fun. Although I, cleverer than my siblings, discovered pretty fast that if you weren’t helpful, Dad didn’t want you to help. So a couple perfectly healthy strawberry plants were slaughtered while I feigned ignorance over what was strawberry and what was weed. I was relegated to the house. Drat.
Part of the trade off was that I hulled, washed, mashed and froze the berries when my brother and sister brought them inside. So much easier, thank you. One night I also volunteered to make the biscuits for the strawberry shortcake.  
They came out of the oven and were so beautiful; lightly golden brown and light and fluffy.
We all poured strawberries of the warm biscuits and dug in. And then noticed something odd. Have you ever heard of Pop Rocks? They were this great candy the fizzled and popped in your mouth, kind of like Rice Krispies to nth degree. Well that’s what the strawberry shortcake was doing. And then the biscuits turned purple.
How strange. What was going on here? 
The mystery of the fizzing purple strawberry shortcake was soon resolved but people were not happy to have their dessert delayed. Particularly not my grandfather. My mom quickly made another batch of biscuits and in end everyone had their non chemistry experiment sweet fix. But what had gone wrong?

I learned an important lesson that day; there is a difference between baking powder and baking soda. Huh. Who knew? Well probably a lot of people did but not I. I do now though.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Frozen Bunny

In honor of Easter which always seems to be accompanied by bunnies and chickens and bunnies that cluck...

We had lots of animals growing up. Most of which weren't pets. Included in the category of 'not pets' were the rabbits. Them was fer eatin'. I am not a fan of the rabbit meat, quite possibly because taking care of them was one of my chores and I knew all their names.

Rabbits breed like, well, rabbits. So we had lots of them. Mostly Dad tried to control the birth rate but every once in a while a couple of them would get out and get busy ... And if we didn't know one was pregnant we wouldn't also know to put a box in its cage. Which means that we lost a lot of little baby rabbits. Sometimes to the monther who, like all rodents, ate off their heads*, and sometimes to cold.

On one of these occasions my sister Bernadette rescued one of the dead. Bernadette's wanted to go into medicine for as long as I can remember and she wanted to put the dead bunny in a jar with formaldehyde. Until said fromaldehyde could be fetched the bunny went into a Ziplock freezer bag and went into one of the deep freezers. Stopping somewhere on his way home from work to get the fromaldehyde was not high on my dad's list of things to remember so the bunny lived in the deep freezer for a pretty long time. We, being the extremely sick children our parents raised us to be, got it out every once in a while.

We'd wait for company to come over then sneak out the bunny when no one noticed. Then we'd cup it in our hand, stroke it, and approach the poor unsuspecting person and say something like "One of our rabbits just had babies. Do you want to see it?" Almost always the answer was yes and was accompanied but some sort of cooing.

Then as the poor innocent mind reached out for the bunny we'd toss it him. 

The cries of shock and horror and scrambling to try to catch the dead rabbit were always hilarity inducing. And when the person didn't catch it, or did but dropped it after the shock of the cold weight registered, the very very frozen rabbit would thunk on the ground and clatter a little bit.

The looks of reproof and awesome horror only egged on our laughter. We were never repentant and it probably didn't help any that our parents looked on such antics with fond patronism. A friend of mine refers to my parent's home as 'the dark farm' but I prefer to think that we simply grew up with a healthy knowledge and understanding of death.

Interestingly enough people still want to see that baby whatever we have at the moment. Granted the baby whatever is almost always alive now though. Maybe it's time to put the fear back into people. I shall have to think on this.

*Rodents often eat their young. There are numerous reasons for this but for some reason, if the mother is not able to see the young, said young are safe. This is one of the reason that our rabbit breeding boxes were full boxes that allowed little light to enter. I had hamsters once and one got pregnant and I woke up one day to watch her eating the babies. It was quite traumatizing.