Why would writing a blog about work be so difficult for me? I started answering the phone for the family business when I was in grade school, and by the time I was 12, I was putting in time at the office. I’ve worked in retail, fast food, and as a waitress. I’ve been a staff writer at a regional newspaper, an office supervisor, a logistics planner, a metallurgical technician, an editor, event planner, photographer and public affairs specialist. I’ve driven a fork truck and side loader and soared up over mining trucks in a cherry picker. Now I’m an author with short story collections available on the Internet and a book to be published sometime this spring or summer. But nothing is jumping out at me.
So I’m going to tell you about how my sister tried to teach me to do her work.
You might remember from my story, “The Anniversary Cake,” that my sister baked and decorated the cake for their 50th anniversary celebration. My sister was better in the kitchen than I even before she spent several years working for a caterer. And no place was this more evident than in baking cakes.
Not that I couldn’t bake a cake. I mean, you just open the box and pour it into a bowl and add the stuff the box tells you to add. I could do that. What I couldn’t do was get the darned thing out of the pan in one piece to make a traditional layer cake. I solved the problem by buying some attractive glass baking dishes. My kids endured years of sheet cakes for their birthdays.
When my brother-in-law, then in the Air Force, had to do TDY at a nearby air base with Thanksgiving coming up, it seemed like a good opportunity to invite my sister and their kids to spend some time with us. We’d cook Thanksgiving dinner together. It’d be fun!
“I’ll do the side dishes and you do the turkey and cake,” I suggested.
“I’ll do the turkey, but you have to help with the cake.”
“May I ask why?” My sister knew about the cake curse.
“I’m going to teach you once and for all how to take a cake out of the pan and decorate it.”
I went cold. This was not going to turn out well. “But you know what happens when I try to make a layer cake.”
“Nonsense. It’s easy. I’m going you to show you, step by step.” She selected two identical pans and greased one of them with shortening. “Now you do the other one.”
I did, and she inspected it to make sure I’d covered it sufficiently. Then she sprinkled her pan with flour. I did the same, and again passed inspection.
Finally she poured half the batter in her pan and I poured the other half in mine. We slid them into the oven together, and when the allotted time had passed, pulled them out and tested them with toothpicks. After a short cooling period came the moment of truth.
My sister flipped her pan upside down and lifted it off, leaving behind a beautifully formed layer. She nodded for me to follow her example. Hands shaking, I flipped my pan upside down EXACTLY AS SHE HAD. And when I lifted it off, the cake split right down the middle.
She stood with her mouth open.
And as you know from reading “The Anniversary Cake,” the curse is effective even when I don’t actually bake the cake. Apparently all I have to do is touch it for something horrible to happen.
My sister now believes in the cake curse. When she comes to visit, she brings her own kitchen. She and her husband park their RV in our drive, and I am not invited to help her bake.