Payroll is a topic of great discussion amongst the Reds faithful, but as a person who hates math, and structure, and telling people that I won’t give them money, and people telling me that they won’t give them money, it is easier for me to retreat to the kitchen.

I’m not falling into traditional gender roles here, because unless what’s being created involves dumping a can of soup, opening a bag of shredded cheese, or minimum manipulation of cookie dough, the recipe remains on Pinterest. Sometimes I bake on a monthly orbit to the oven, but most often my time in the kitchen is crisis-related.

My greatest food output was during the Presidential election recount of 2000, when I lived at the post office so as to ship off hamfistedly decorated gingerbread cookies to people who then never spoke to me again. This was closely followed by the COVID shutdown, when I ran out of snap-shut cookie containers, but every store was out of every thing, so I was left to lay up an increasing tide of chocolate chip bars and Jello powder-based cookies in casserole dishes and travel mugs. We all suffered in different ways in those days.

I stick with trusted recipes for such important occasions as Christmas and World Poverty Recognition Day, but baking for stress usually calls for adventure, at which point I take down a binder of recipes I collected as a young bride and have been grimly plowing through ever since. Multiple failures have thinned the Pinterest herd to variations on the same two or three recipes; if sugar, cream cheese, chocolate, coffee crystals, or butter are involved, so much the better. Anything involving nuts, fruit pieces, coconut, or more than four steps is right out.

Bitter experience has taught me a lesson my mother learned when I was tiny and she handed me a KitchenAid beater and I made a face as a licked it, alerting her to a vital missing ingredient: If the dough is off, the cookies won’t improve in the baking.

The batch I made last week (I scraped my car again, some more) involved a lot of Crisco and a suspicious amount of nutmeg, and the output in the mixing bowl made me wonder if I should even bother to bake them up. Husband consumption of what remained on the spatula confirmed this impulse, although his review of my kitchen output is always wisely couched (“This is good, but I like what you made the first time you scraped the car better.”)

But baking the cookies meant that I would also have an excuse to make icing, thereby also achieving the important secondary goal of clearing out a sad little half-brick of cream cheese living out its final days in the back of the fridge. So 5 sheets of haphazardly slapped lumps of dough made their way in and out of the oven, and they were– not bad. A pleasant surprise. They were the 1999 Reds. They were Jonathan India. Not a championship endeavor, and certainly not something I expect to repeat any time soon, but I’ll take it. I’ll share it with my friends. I’m glad they happened.

But overall: If the dough is off, the cookies won’t improve in the baking. Nothing about the addition of heat and time will remove the mis-measured flour or add more vanilla. You cannot throw crap work samples into a job application and expect to get an offer; if you put a shadow of effort into any relationship, it will quickly fray. You will “grow apart” and wonder why.

And you cannot place a slapped-together, injury-plagued roster on a baseball field and expect the ball to go anywhere but where you don’t want it to go. There may be a few series when you can’t tell the Crisco is replacing butter and the nutmeg amount is outsized. But by the end of the season, the properly balanced, carefully prepared fare will rise.

23 Responses

  1. LDS

    Nice analogy but just as I suspect may be a better baker than implied (though I envy your husband’s discretion), there are usually ways to salvage the recipe. As there were this year.

    • Jim Walker

      They failed to realize their older more expensive ingredients had aged out or were never as good as they thought and failed to replace them with newer, younger, less expensive and ultimately better ingredients already on hand.

      • Mary Beth Ellis


    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That’s a good point, LDS. It’s a combination of Bell, and the payroll, and Bob, and the MLB, and….
      Probably should have been clearer on that πŸ™‚ thank you for chiming in! I’m always interested to hear other theories or takes!

  2. MK

    Read the article and it is 3 minutes I will never get back.

    • Tservo

      Strangely, I felt the same about the 3 seconds I spent reading your comment.

      And the 5 seconds it took to respond.

    • LDS

      Seriously @MK, it’s called “Baseball is Life” not Reds off season trading targets. I thought well written thematically though I disagreed with the conclusion. One of the things so many of us here tend to forget is that the content to which we react is much harder to write than our various comments. And that’s true, regardless of the subject, the forum, or even the author.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        You are very kind. Given my sordid past of political writing, though, maybe MK here is just burning off some purgatory for me πŸ™‚

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      MK, I sincerely thank you for helping me work on one of my biggest flaws, which is over-sensitivity to criticism. It’s true I probably should have made this leaner and clearer with some judicious editing. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you.

      While praying for you after I read this, I asked God to add 3 minutes to your life. I hope He does returns.

  3. Mark Moore

    The phrase, “more than four steps is right out” must be said in a proper Monty Python and the Holy Grail way.

    It is about the dough in so many ways. Perhaps if you borrowed the Urban Assault Kilt it might help? Or have The Pilot get you one for the upcoming Christmas celebration. After all, we might not even have baseball at that point …

    My wife bakes as therapy and outlet. Our current situation dictates she doesn’t do it nearly as often as she used to. It also means that we’ll share liberally with the neighbors (which I know will please them).

    Keep the light on for us, MBE. I think we’re going to need it during this long offseason.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks, brother, and I do appreciate the kind words. The Tactical Kilt may be in winter storage, but it might reappear for the very serious work of wearing it around the house.

  4. LDS

    Two thumbs up (nods to Siskel & Ebert)

    • LDS

      Actually a reply to Jim Walker earlier.

  5. TR

    My comment is off the topic but I was not aware Mike Shildt was fired last month as the manager of the Cardinals after they won 17 straight and challenged the Brewers for the NLC title. I guess Mike didn’t have a good friend in the St. Louis FO.

    • Mark Moore

      Yepper … pretty much a head scratcher for me.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I was surprised by that too. It takes a lot for me to feel sorry for Cardinals fans, but that came close. Rude.

      • TR

        Most of us probably agree that managers have a minimal overall affect on a seasons record, but filling out the daily lineup card that results in a club record of 17 straight wins and then soon after being fired is strange.

      • David

        I think that there is something else going on in the Cardinals front office, regarding the firing of their manager. Someone here hinted (in October) that they may be up for sale. Seemed like a shabby way to treat a pretty good manager. I can’t bring myself to dislike the Cardinals as much as I dislike the Cubs and their fans. I have sat next to Cardinal fans at GABP and at old Riverfront on several occassions, and most times they were pretty friendly and polite. And they don’t like Cubs’ fans either. πŸ™‚

        And Mary Beth, your essays are always funny and charming. Thank you always for the time you put into your writing.

        If you write it, they will read it.