The Accidental Texan: Part 3, Chapter 7

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Baking Cookies

Ever since she came home, Genevieve never missed a chance to run errands with her husband and child, as if she could somehow make up for the lost time. One evening Kelly called Eileen and let her know that she need not come in to cook breakfast the next morning, as the family was going to go into town early and have breakfast at the Corn Crib Diner while they were shopping.

Alexis was excited by the proposed trip. She went into town even less often than her parents, making the event very special for her. To be going with her parents together, and eating at a restaurant, made it even more special. Alexis could only vaguely remember the trips to New York with her mother, but she remembered that eating in restaurants was always quite enjoyable.

The next morning Alexis was the first one up and her parents awoke to the sight of their fully dressed daughter, complete with hat, sitting at the end of their bed bouncing up and down to wake them.

“My goodness Alexis! What time is it?” asked Genevieve groggily.

“It is time to get up. We are going to go into town and go shopping!” said Alexis. “REMEMBER?”

“Of course dear. Go back to your room and give us time to wake up. Read one of your books while you wait,” said Kelly, hoping he could make the trip into town memorable enough to match his little girl’s expectations.

“You know Genevieve, we are going to have to come up with something to make this little trip into town special for her. After all she is so excited,” said Kelly, after Alexis was out of earshot.

“Well, we could let her have some coffee with breakfast. She really has been bugging us about that lately,” suggested Genevieve.

“I hardly think our girl needs any perking up,” said Kelly. “Where did she get the idea of drinking coffee anyway?”

“Oh, Kelly, you of all people should have noticed that children like to copy their parents when they are Alexis’ age. We need to enjoy it while we can, before she gets old enough not to want to copy us in anything,” said Genevieve, flipping the coverlet off her legs and onto Kelly’s.

“But coffee? Don’t you think that might give her too much energy?” asked Kelly, shoving the bedcovers over to the half of the bed his wife just vacated.

“Mae Cooper allows Woody have a little coffee in his milk. She says it actually calms him down a bit,” remarked Genevieve.

“Oh, I see. Alexis doesn’t want to imitate us. She wants to imitate her friend Woody. And you are not just wanting to give her a treat to make today special, you want to see if coffee will calm our little dynamo down,” said Kelly, laughing as he rolled out of bed.

“Okay, so you caught me, but it would be better than that sugared bubbly water everyone drinks,” said Genevieve, expressing her distain for the sodas she noticed the Milsteads seemed to be addicted to.

While Kelly was submitting his order lists, and arranged for pickup later that day at the hardware store and the Feed and Seed, Alexis and her mother wandered through the stores, enjoying themselves, looking at the wares, and buying a few things for Alexis’ craft projects. Once the business part of the day was over, the family drove into town and found a parking space not too far from the front of the Corn Crib.

“Well, it looks like Kara has new curtains up. I wonder what prompted that? Those old yellow lace ones were there back before I was born, when Payton’s grandparents ran the place,” remarked Kelly.

“I will tell you about it later,” said Genevieve, cutting her eyes over to Alexis, indicating to Kelly that she didn’t want her daughter hearing what she could say. Genevieve knew from good sources that Kara Cribbs washed the historic curtains in too much bleach, with the purpose of making them fall apart, forcing her husband to buy new ones.

As she followed her parents into the diner, Alexis looked around and saw that unlike when she went to restaurants in New York, the booths and tables were filled with people she knew from around town. Several people, surprised to see the Archies frequenting the town’s breakfast ritual, called out greetings and waved to the family. Their progress slowed by Kelly stopping to talk along the way, they finally made it to a booth in the back where they could see the whole dining room; such as it was.

Genevieve, still tending to be a little shy in public, patted her hair nervously as she set down and focused her attention on Alexis, handing her one of the hand-lettered menus. “Here you go sweetie. Let’s see how well you can read this.”

Reading slowly over the menu and asking her parents’ help over unfamiliar words, Alexis saw what she wanted for her breakfast. “Mommy, Daddy, can I have biscuits and gravy for breakfast?” she asked, when they asked her what she wanted to order.

“Yes, you may,” said Kelly, hoping that Alexis wouldn’t be disappointed with the quality of the food, after being so spoiled to Eileen’s cooking. When they finished, the family made their way back to the car, with a proud Alexis, who felt very grown up leading the way.

As Kelly parked the family car at the base of the front path, Alexis saw Eileen’s bike leaning against the hedge. As soon as her father turned off the engine, Alexis opened her door and rushed for the house. Kelly and Genevieve watched their excited daughter running up the path, noting that she didn’t pause to wipe her feet before running through the front room on her way to the kitchen. “What was that all about?” asked Kelly his wife.

“Eileen promised Alexis that she would teach her how to bake cookies today,” said Genevieve with pride. “Alexis is taking such an interest in cooking nowadays. I am very surprised. I know that I didn’t have any interest in cooking when I was her age. Maybe someday she will be a world famous chef.“

“I would guess you never possessed an interest in cooking regardless of your age. I know our daughter will be whatever she wants, but if she became a famous chef, she wouldn’t be able to hide from her fame in a small town like a celebrated artist I know,” remarked Kelly, swatting his wife’s shapely behind, as she started up the path.

“Now don’t start that! It is the middle of the day!” said Genevieve, remembering that it apparently was a middle of the day romp that brought them their precious child.

As the couple approached the screen door, which their daughter so recently blasted through, Kelly noticed a note pinned to the door. It was written on the lavender stationery that Dana affected, and penned with her trademark purple ink. “What now?” he thought as he plucked the offending note from the door.

“Oh, dear, what high horse is Dana on now?” asked Genevieve with trepidation, knowing that her sister-in-law only posted notes for them to find when she found a bone to pick with them. “Can you read it?”

Kelly held the paper up so that his wife could see the wildly scratched writing. “No, I can’t read it, but it really looks like she is quite upset about whatever it is. It looks like she might be quoting bible verse here on the edge.”

“Well, you can pretty well expect that it is something we are doing to raise Alexis wrong,” sighed Genevieve, wondering for an untold time why on earth her sister-in-law suddenly moved back home to Misty, and if it really was to make her brother’s life miserable.

 Dana no longer truly cared about the plight of less fortunate people since she returned to Misty. Her compassion and all the aspects of her personality, which once made her so popular during the Mexican revolution, seemed to have disappeared when she renounced Marxism.

Walking into the kitchen Kelly saw his daughter standing on a chair watching Eileen measuring out flour, and putting it into a sieve, sitting in a mixing bowl. He leaned up against the doorframe and motioned to his wife to join him in quietly watching the student and teacher.

“There … that is one cup, and then we add just a quarter cup more. You see Alexis; these metal cups are sized just right. My mother used a teacup and just guessed at anything less than a cup. It is the same with spoons, mother just reached into the flatware drawer and got out a big spoon and a little spoon to cook with, and all the other amounts were guesses. Though she did a lot of guessing she was the best cook in the world. Now we add a quarter teaspoon of salt, and a quarter teaspoon of baking powder.” Eileen continued, as she lifted up the metal sifter and started gripping and releasing the handle. The motion depressed a lever that caused the blades of the sifter to sweep around its wire screen bottom, forcing the flour, baking powder, and salt through the mesh, mixing it together while aerating the mix.

“We are going to set that to one side, and measure out the rest of the ingredients,” she said, and began to show Alexis how to measure out three quarters cups sugar, a half-teaspoon vanilla, and a tablespoon of cream.

Taking an egg from the basket of eggs sitting on the counter, she said, “We will use two of these eggs you gathered this morning. But we only want the yellow part,” explained Eileen.

“That is my favorite part,” exclaimed Alexis. “I like it on toast. But I didn’t have eggs for breakfast this morning. I ate biscuits and gravy. The biscuits and gravy wasn’t as good as yours, but it was a good try. I got to have coffee too.”

Eileen smiled recognizing the opinion sounded like something Alexis’ father would say, and was sure that he said it during their breakfast downtown that morning. Happy to know that her cooking was appreciated, and was glad that she could still cook better than Kara Cribbs, even if Kara married into a restaurant cooking job.

Putting her musings to one side, Eileen showed Alexis how to crack an egg by tapping it on the counter, warning her not to crack eggs on the rim of a bowl least she get shell into what she was cooking. She let Alexis try to separate the white from the yoke, by holding the egg in her hand and letting the white run through her fingers to a catch bowl below.

“I hope she washed her little paws,” whispered Kelly into Genevieve’s ear, with more than a little pride in his voice.

After several eggs sacrificed themselves to the lesson, Alexis produced two perfect egg yokes, sans whites. Eileen frugally salvaged the rejected eggs, and placed the bowl in the brand new Frigidaire, to be repurposed into scrambled egg sandwiches for Alexis’ lunch.

“Well, we are ready to start putting it all together,” said Eileen getting the pink Sunbeam Mixmaster out from under the cabinet, and hoisting it onto the counter top. Fixing the beaters into the motor and placing the bowl on the stand base, she continued. “We need to make our butter soft, so we will put it into the bowl and cream it.”

“Do you want me to get the cream?” asked Alexis, helpfully.

“No dear, creaming is just a cooking term, it means to make it soft and beat air into the butter. So we lower the head of the mixer like this, and turn the mixer on at a low speed,” said Eileen as she followed her own instructions and turned the back part of the mixer, which was in actuality a very large black knob, marked with the purpose of each speed.

After a minute or two, she switched off the mixer, and tested the consistency of the butter and judged it to be suitable for the next step. “Now we take the other ingredients and beat them in one at a time. Beating is faster than creaming. We will start slow so that things don’t get slung out from the bowl.” Alexis’ eyes were riveted on Eileen’s actions, as she beat in the sugar, added the egg yolks, vanilla and cream.

“Now that we have got the wets all mixed up, we can add the flour mixture,” said Eileen as she picked up the bowl of flour and carefully added it to the butter mixture in stages, letting Alexis, turn the mixer on and off. Eileen pulled three cookie sheets from the cabinet and set them out on the table, realizing for the first time that there was an audience for the lesson. Alexis clambered down from her chair and climbed up on one next to the cookie sheets. Eileen smiled at her employers, as she put a large piece of butter between Alexis’ hands and instructed her how to warm it with her own heat, and then rub it all over the cookie sheets. Once the sheets where buttered. She cleaned off Alexis’ hands with a rough blue striped dishrag.

“Alexis, here is a little trick my mother taught me. You take two spoons and use them to shape a bit of the dough, and then you use one spoon to push the dough out of the other onto the sheet,” she said. “I am going to place a few lumps so you can see how to space them.” Standing behind Alexis, she held Alexis’ hands and showed her how to shape the dough and place it on the pan. When the first sheet was finished, Eileen checked the oven to make sure it was at the 375 degrees that she set the dial at before making the dough. Putting the cookies into the oven she set the timer for eight minutes.

While the first batch of cookies baked, Alexis filled the remaining pans with football shaped wads of dough. When the bell of the stove’s built-in timer rang Eileen took the baking sheet out and placed it on a rack to cool, cautioning Alexis and her parents not to touch it. Repeating the process twice more, she let Alexis use a thin metal spatula to remove the cookies from the sheets and stack them on plates.

Eileen poured a round of milk for the family, and started cleaning up while Kelly and Genevieve complimented the cooks on their great sugar cookies. Genevieve insisted that Eileen take a batch of the cookies home to her husband and sons.

Since he was heading back into town to pick up the order he left at the feed and seed store that morning Kelly gave Eileen, the cookies, and her bicycle a ride home in his truck.

Categories: Books, Novels by S. L. Pirtle, The Accidental TexanTags: , , , ,

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