I had a happy and busy kitchen going on the night before Thanksgiving. My dear friend, Diane, was there and she really wanted to help me. So I gave her all the ingredients for the chai mix. “I make a huge batch for holiday company and Christmas giving,” I told her. “So just follow the recipe—times 8. Here’s a measuring cup.”
Well, she barely got the first two ingredients mixed together before that 5 gallon container I gave her was overflowing. What in the world was happening over there on the chai counter while I was over on the potato salad counter? ”This seems like a lot of chai that’s coming together. I’m going to have to get you a bigger container.”
“Well,” Diane answered…”I just put eight of these in and it just makes a lot.”
“Oh wait,” I said. “You do know the measuring cup I gave you is a two-cupper?”
“Oh no!” she exclaimed. “I have put 16 cups of powdered milk in this thing (instead of just eight) and now I have mixed 16 cups of French vanilla creamer in there!”
“O dear!” I said “Now you’re going to have to do the whole recipe—times 16! Do I even have that much cinnamon and ginger and cardamom? That will be my life savings in cardamom. And the sugar! Oh, that will be 40 cups of sugar! Do I even have 40 cups of sugar?! It’s 10 p.m. Is the corner market open?” I got out my grandmother’s old porcelain washtub and we were making enough chai for serving at the king’s coronation. We stirred until our arms felt like we’d been lifting in an Olympic trial. And where do you even store that much chai?
We really didn’t have a pan big enough to keep adding the ratios of ingredients we needed, so we just added instant milk and tea, till it kind of “looked right.” Glenn was our guinea pig and he said “ I believe this is better than usual!”
Then it was the evening of our “Christmas at the Colleys”. That’s the night the whole church is invited over for supper, along with a whole bunch of other people. We have an amazing time with our favorite family…God’s family. Another best friend, Jennifer, really was so very kind to persist in offering to come help me the day of the party. She helped me put up wreaths and tie bows and assemble cocoa servers and all kinds of things. But the main thing I saved out for Jennifer to do was to make three large cherry dump cakes. Here’s the complex ingredient list. I was doing it times three.
- 1 (30-ounce) can cherry pie filling
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 stick salted butter.
So you pour in the cake mix. Then you dump the cherry pie filling on top of that. Then you cut up the stick of butter on top and you put it in the oven for about 45 minutes.
I just said “Here you go,” to Jennifer and handed her all the ingredients. She said “I’m just going to do one at the time.”
“No, No,” I insisted. “I never do that. Just do them all at once.” I got her three 9X13 Pyrex dishes and let her go. I should have taken pause when she wanted a huge mixing bowl. But I missed that cue. I went upstairs to clean up a mess around Eliza’s dollhouse. We had about an hour-and-a-half before the house would be teeming with people. All was well.
…Until I came back down and Jennifer said “Come see if this is the right consistency.” Ummm… how do you miss the consistency of a dump cake?
Jennifer was holding a heavy, mammoth bowl of dark pink pudding-like yum,-yum. Its contents were three cake mixes, three giant cans of cherry pie filling and three sticks of butter. It looked like we were having a cherry jubilee pudding festival. It really looked like we were going for the Guinness Book of World Records—largest pudding. But it was so pretty.
“What on earth did you do?”
“You said a dump cake, so I dumped.”
It’s true. I did not say “layer.” I said “dump.”
Now Jennifer and I have been through a few adventures together and I could not stop laughing. But I had to stop laughing… and think. A hundred-plus people are coming over for supper in an hour. I have a pecan pie, a few little cookies, and a strawberry cake. “But what is that among so many (Jn. 6:8)?”
“I’ll go to the store really quickly and we will start all over….I know, I’ll get one of my friends who lives over by the bakery to stop and pick up some cakes. Or maybe Glenn, who is outside stringing lights could just hurry up and go shopping with my list.”
Jennifer, ever the resourceful one, said, “Let’s add some milk and just put one of these in the oven and see what happens and then panic later.”
Forty-five minutes later, and just in time for the wonderful shoulder-to-shoulder fellowship, this Christmas dish came out of the oven. And if Lucy and Ethel didn’t come up with the prettiest cherry soufflé ( I mean, eventually, three of them) that you have ever seen!
People said “What is this stuff? It’s not cake. It’s not really pie. It’s not pudding. But it’s good.” Scotty said “This tastes kinda’ like dump cake, but it’s not that….The texture is off.” It was even pretty. When I turned the leftover one out of the fluted-edged pan, it retained the shape. It’s in the freezer and it might be a layer of a pretty holiday mousse dessert in a few days.
And then there was the broccoli rice casserole that Han made for me to feed the kids while she was working last week. “Mom, it’s been a little hectic here and I wasn’t paying attention and I put potato flakes on top of this instead of potato chips. So I really don’t know what you’ll want to do with this. But here’s some ham. I didn’t mess that up.”
Well, adding milk seems to solve pretty much all the ingredient assembly cooking “fails” lately. I’ll do that. So I poured a little milk over the top of that casserole and it became a wonderful broccoli-cheddar shepherd’s pie. Those kids and I ate every bite.
But what in the world is happening on every kitchen counter behind which I step? And what is happening to my every kitchen helper? And what is the magic of milk? And how can I keep laughing this hard?
Well, I’ve pretty much decided that there’s always a fix to any cooking mess, if I have the right folks in my corner and if I have milk. Here are a few pithy truths from the kitchen faux pas.
- Sometimes, some pretty good things can come about as a result of mistakes.
- Often, the things that make you panic most feverishly, also make you laugh the hardest.
- If your husband is willing to be your guinea pig, you are most blessed.
- A recipe is not just about having all the right stuff. It’s also about following directions. Life’s recipe for success is like that, too.
- Milk is sometimes the answer. The sincere milk of the word is always the answer. We should desire it (1 Peter 2:2).
- Every messed-up dish in my world is heartier and better than any dish I’ve ever tasted in any 3rd world country.
Having pondered these dishes that didn’t turn out like I’d planned, I am thankful for my kitchen and even for my kitchen fails. I’m thankful for great and voluntary kitchen hands—sisters who pull me on through the mistakes and flops, large and small. I thank Him for my kitchen because it’s a great place to grow closer to each other and from which to serve with sisters.