My son, who is my first-born, is full of surprises. Because he is a sweet and gentle soul, they are most often joyful surprises, for which I am daily thankful.
A couple weeks ago, he surprised me by announcing that he wanted to bake a pie. It turns out he had promised a baseball teammate a pie if the team won their next game, which they did. He now had to make good on that promise and wanted to go on-line to look for a recipe.
Once the first blush of amazement wore off, I suggested that he start with the dozens of cookbooks on the kitchen shelves, several of which are devoted solely to desserts. By the next day he had found a recipe that suited his fancy and was eager to go to the grocery store for the ingredients.
“Why don’t we see what we already have?” I suggested. He read off the list of ingredients and together we located most of them in the kitchen cupboards. We made our shopping list, including some ingredients that we had but not in sufficient quantities, and headed off to the store.
Thanks to a persistent illness that I’ve been fighting for a couple months, I was worn out by the shopping expedition. (My very enthusiastic and slightly hyperactive shopping assistants no doubt contributed to my fatigue as well.) I had to take a nap. But pie stops for no man, so we did a verbal walk-through of the recipe before I lay down on the couch in order to be available for baking consultations. Thankfully, I remembered to suggest that it’s always a good idea to place a cookie sheet under the pie in case it spills over a bit during baking.
The pie-making proceeded without incident. I hazily recall being roused to near consciousness a couple times to pronounce my blessing on the pie-in-process before I finally woke to the delicious aroma of brownie pie baking. The pie had been removed from the oven and the wisdom of my protective cookie sheet advice was loudly acclaimed, as the pie had evidently spilled over. Both kids were in the kitchen munching on the overflow and exclaiming how good it was. They even brought me some to taste, and I found it very good indeed.
Sometime later, I entered the kitchen myself to see this glorious confection. Most of the pie filling had bubbled out of the shell, leaving only a layer of brownie slightly thicker than the crust. (A post-mortem of the preparation revealed that a bit too much baking powder had been used.) No wonder the kids had been so thrilled eating the overflow! I thanked whatever guardian angel had prompted me to suggest the cookie sheet beneath the pie, shuddering at the horrendous oven cleaning I had so narrowly missed. We left for vacation two days later, having cleaned up all the cooking pans and dishes.
Fast forward to today and the inspiration for this posting: the penetrating odor of burnt sugar. We turned the oven on to preheat for a quick and lazy frozen pizza lunch and opened it several minutes later to dark, acrid clouds and the wail of the kitchen smoke detector. Once the haze had cleared, we discovered that my son had placed the cookie sheet on the rack below the one that held the pie rather than directly under the pie itself, so giant globs of overflow had baked onto the wires of the top rack.
So now the oven has been thoroughly cleaned, which is a wonder in itself, and the surprises of parenting just keep unfolding.