…when I really shouldn’t be allowed to function without adult supervision. You know, days when you get just far enough ahead of yourself that it’s only a matter of time before you run right over the edge. That sums up today.
Some background. I hadn’t slept well a couple of nights ago, so last night I happily settled in early. I typically sleep with a window open year-round, and last night was so wonderfully crisp that I set the electric blanket for preheat and tucked myself in with a book and a cat. I needed to be at a friend’s house by 9 this morning so we could go pick up our Bountiful Baskets order. I set the alarm for 7 to be sure I got the amount of sleep I was craving, and still have time to shower, dress, have coffee, and feed the livestock. The word “coffee” is a bit of foreshadowing.
Well the cat and dogs decided they need to get outside at 6, after which I figured I’d just snuggle back in for a bit. I shut off the alarm clock because I was awake, right? It was luxuriously pleasant seeing the sun begin to lighten the sky, hearing the birds begin to sing. The robins in the front trees were followed by the chickadees and finches in the back. Their sweet songs evidently sang me right back to sleep, because the next thing I knew, Esmé the occasionally perfect dog was licking my cheek. My eyes drifted open and the first thing I saw was 8:45 on the alarm clock. I shrieked something I won’t repeat, flew out of bed, jumped into the same clothes I’d worn yesterday, and twisted my hair into a clip. I grabbed purse and keys, tripped over the dogs as we all tried to get out the back door at the same time, ran to the truck, and got to my friend’s house on the stroke of 9. She’d of course been up for hours and had a luscious pot of coffee made. I greedily gulped a cup, then another, why not, and off we went for our produce.
As soon as I got home I needed to get a couple of cheesecakes in the oven, one chocolate marble and one mango. I had a dim glimmer in the back of my mind that my actions and my thoughts were moving very, very fast. I drink exclusively decaf coffee for reasons that are not remotely interesting. My friend, well, I suspect you’ve guessed what she drinks. I was feeling pretty turbo-charged. Still, everything was going fine until I decided, for the sake of expediency, to melt butter for the crusts in a plastic measuring cup in the microwave. The butter quite literally exploded all over the inside. I grabbed a wad of paper towels and at least mopped up the most obvious blobs – a thorough cleaning could wait until later. Things reached critical mass when I chose to also melt the chocolate in the microwave, instead of over a bain marie on the stove. I knew much, much better than that (more foreshadowing), but caffeine was in the driver’s seat. The pedal was on the floor, and second opinions were not welcome. I at least knew to melt it in small units of time at a very low setting. But I was not in charge. The next thing I knew, smoke was billowing – I mean BILLOWING – out of the microwave, and the kitchen was full of smoke from about my waist to the ceiling.
What the……? I mean, I set the timer for 30 seconds and 20% power, right? Clearly not. The zero button is directly to the left of the Start button. Caffeine brain was annoyed by having to stop and sop up butter, so when she slammed the chocolate into the oven, hit 3 and aimed for zero, then heard the oven start up, she figured all was good and sped onto the next task.
I wish I could say it was the first time I’d had an I-know-what-I’m-doing moment around melting chocolate. In fact, it was the second time I’d burned up, I mean charred, a batch of chocolate, to the point of melting the bottom out of its container. Fortunately, I had more chocolate, and fortunately, I brooked no argument from caffeine brain and melted it as I should have in the first place. Both cheesecakes made it into the oven without further disasters.
Just after they went into the oven, and I was starting to breathe a sigh of relief, my sister called. I launched into describing a route I’d been looking into for a road trip we want to take this fall, and was distantly aware of the fact that I was talking like someone who’d sucked up some serious helium. I remember thinking I might want to offer an explanation just in case she was feeling a little alarmed, but I was still belted into the passenger seat. Hopefully she will read this and put the conversation in its appropriate context.
The moral of the story is, as usual, pay attention. When you’re cooking, baking, living, whatever. Pay attention. Don’t cut corners. Sometimes it really does matter that something be done as it should. That dry ingredients are sifted. That mixer bowls are thoroughly scraped before going on to the next step. That ingredients are melted appropriately. Things can spin out of control in ways that can be difficult to remedy. I’m really going to try not to need to learn the chocolate lesson for a third time. In addition to a real mess in the microwave, I’ve lost my most favorite large measuring cup. And I haven’t even mentioned how the house smells. In terms of enjoyment, the combination of burning chocolate and plastic is second only to burning tires.
My produce friend and I are going to a movie this afternoon. I just hope she doesn’t offer me a cup of coffee on the way. I’m already feeling like sleep might be about 48 hours away. It may take me that long to clean the microwave and de-stink the house. The dogs won’t even come back inside yet. Thank heaven tomorrow is another day. And it looks like I’m going to be there to welcome it. Maybe I should go outside and sing to the birds. And maybe not.