In this life, there are people who really, really excel in the culinary arts. People who use ingredients that have names I can’t pronounce and MAKE THINGS with them! Real edible things!
In this life, there are also people who have a gift for baking birthday cakes so beautiful and ornate that I shed a tear or two when they’re cut and handed off to grimy little preschooler hands.
And in this life, there are people who, well, THEY TRY HARD, YOU GUYS! But then they go one tiny step further and decided that hey! while I’m ahead (or not), let’s just pretend to be a food blogger! and post less-than-mediocre iPhone pics! of food! Because if a Purple Bug/Lemur/Anteater Cake isn’t something to pin*, than what the heck is?
(*Dear grandparents and other blissfully-Pinterest-unaware blog readers, “pinning” refers to the act in which one saves a lovely, possibly photoshopped, picture of something of interest onto an online gathering place of overachievers and wannabes. Said item of interest typically is coupled with a caption so promising that one cannot resist. Because when you stumble upon “CRACK KALE! Just like crack, once you start, YOU WILL NEVER STOP AGAIN!!!”, there is really only one option, now, isn’t there? You pin it. Which, in case you’re wondering, is pretty much the equivalent of actually serving the wholesome vitamin-rich kale to your family. Without the hassle and everything. Because who needs another addiction anyway? Let’s continue.)
Okay. So, while it may be hard to believe, I must confess that I am not known for my cake decorating skills. This particular cake materialized after Mary Grace scrounged up some of her favorite plastic animals from random corners of the house, dumped them on the kitchen table, and asked for them to be transformed into a cake.
I know you’re salivating. It’s okay, there’s more. Because this was just ONE cake of her sixth birthday extravaganza. (Welcome to America, the land of excess. And apparently very “creative” celebratory desserts.) When my parents came to visit a few days earlier, the Birthday
Princess Entomologist requested a dirt cake with “gummy everything”. And that’s precisely what she got: gummy frogs, gummy worms, gummy bears, and gummy eggs. With a side of dirt cake.
Moving on. Onto bigger things. Things with masa! And corn husks! And lard! Actually, no. No lard. Hang with me.
After all of the edible dirt had been consumed and the last bit of Bug/Lemur/Anteater cake had been polished off, something got into me. It started as a nagging sense of loss- specifically, the loss of a reliable source of homemade tamales. Because, prior to our move, at least once a week, the mom of one of my patients would roll up in our parking lot at work with her trunk overflowing with tamales. Tortas. Plastic cups of fruit doused with chili powder. As the ancient adage goes, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”… my tamales were gone! And I needed more!
So I got to work. For hours. HOURS. I purchased real corn husks. I boiled dried chilies. I made my own masa dough! But there was one small hiccup in my master plan- every recipe I came across called for lard. Uh, no thanks. Full disclosure: I do not know know what lard actually is, nor was I prepared to find out. Because, the word. In my brain, it falls into the same category as the “m” word (hint: starts with “m” and rhymes with “hoist”). In my humble, slightly immature opinion, it just seems like the world would be better without it.
So I powered through, creating my own definitely-not-authentic substitutes here and there, and so many hours later, these found their way onto the dinner table. And do you even know what they tasted like? You guessed it! Or maybe you are lover of lard and completely doubted me from the get-go. In which case, I don’t really blame you at all. Regardless, they tasted like tamales. I made tamales!
And, though I’m sure the internet world is in dire need of more subpar pictures of haphazard birthday cakes and inauthentic (but delicious!) Mexican cuisine, I have officially decided to leave my career as a food blogger on a high note. Effective immediately.
(Until the day I decide to get really loco and make homemade Salvadorian pupusas. Which don’t call for any lard. So, maybe next week?)