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A Page From Betty Crocker’s Cookbook

Recently, while sitting in my chair drinking the last of my breakfast coffee, a thought staggered into my mind. I must confess most thoughts are quite lonely once they enter my mind, but this one had a nagging element to it.

Experience has taught me I should never give in to these strange trespassers. Every time I entertain any of them, I’m the one getting burnt.

This time was different. Don’t ask me how it was different, or how I knew it was different, it just was. Of course, looking back I could have been wrong.

The thought: "why not surprise my wife by baking her a cake?"

I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same thing when this suggested itself to me. But, the more I thought about it, the more delightfully delicious it sounded. How can anything go wrong if I am doing it for my wife?

The only question I needed to answer was what kind of cake should I bake.

After a long period of ruminating, I settled on a lemon sponge cake with peanut butter icing. This was going to be the best surprise my wife has ever received from me.

Sitting in a prominent place in the kitchen is my wife’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. I don’t know how long she has had that book, it’s been in our kitchen for as long as I can remember — which really may not be that long when I come to think of it.

I took the book, sat in my favorite chair and opened it. How do you read a cookbook? As I leafed through it, it did not have any rhyme or reason to me. In musing on the book I said to myself, how important is it to follow directions?

Placing the book back in its revered spot, I concluded that since this was my cake, I didn’t need help from anybody else, particularly Betty Crocker. This is the difference between men and women. Women need a lot of directions, while men enjoy the liberty of doing their own thing.

I knew exactly what I wanted. A lemon sponge cake, with peanut butter icing. What could be simpler?

Retrieving a large mixing bowl, I assembled all the ingredients I needed; flour, sugar, eggs, milk and baking powder. Everyone knows you cannot bake without baking powder.

I have no idea what baking powder is, except when you bake you use baking powder.

I put everything in the mixing bowl. The only thing I wasn’t quite sure of was the measure, but how hard could that be anyway? Betty Crocker mentioned a cup of this and a cup of that, but never defined what she meant by a cup.

I went to the cupboard and looked at all the cups. There were all kinds and sizes of cups and I did not know which one to use. I eyed a large coffee cup and said to myself, this will do just fine.

I dumped 6 or 8 cups of flour into the mixing bowl, I can’t remember how many. Then I cracked a dozen eggs and put that into the mixing bowl as well. Pouring a quart of milk into the mixing bowl, I whipped everything into a nice batter.

This was to be a lemon sponge cake but I could find nothing marked lemon in the cupboard. I opened the refrigerator, and as luck would have it, I found a quart of lemonade.

I poured this concoction into the largest cake pan I could find. As I was about to put it into the oven, I remembered the baking powder. How is this cake going to bake if it doesn’t have the baking powder?

Setting the cake pan down, I grabbed the baking powder and liberally sprinkled it on top of my batter. I have no idea what baking powder does but I put enough on my cake so it would do a good job.

Into the oven the cake went, and with a flick of the wrist I turned the temperature to 450 degrees. Remembering this was a big cake, I readjusted the temperature to 650.

The bigger the cake the hotter the oven, is what I always say.

Now all I needed to do was wait for my cake to bake. As I was waiting, I heard rumblings coming from the oven but just chalked that up to a good cake baking.

I guess I fell asleep, because the next thing I knew there was a strange odor permeating the air. It smelled a little smoky and then it dawned on me. My cake, it’s done.

What I pulled out of the oven did not resemble any cake I had ever seen. It looked like a burnt pancake, twice the size of the cake pan, with some kind of disease on the surface.

No amount of peanut butter icing in the world could camouflage this disaster.

It was about this time I began reassessing the idea of reading directions. Maybe instructions have a purpose after all.

I remember something the Apostle Paul said. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV.)

To live right without getting burnt you need the right directions.

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