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.