Sunday, July 1, 2012
So for Fathers Day, Alison wanted to surprise Jeff with home-made tiramisu. You may remember that we did this, but we failed to use espresso, and we had a bit of an issue with remembering that the egg whites needed to beaten to within an inch of their lives to properly make the custard. We ended up with a batch of batter that didn’t quite make the cut, but we saved it, thinking we could try again. So, after her Thursday Tae Kwon Do lesson, Alison and I decided to surprise Jeff after his softball game. On the way home from her TKD, we stopped at Target and got a fancy hand-held mixer. We had a great debate over which one to buy and involved a Target worker for advice. We settled on slim, futuristic looking stick instead of a hand mixer or the fancy one with a bowl and a ton of attachments. I get some espresso and marscapone from the shops near our house. When we got home, we found Jeff with dinner ready and waiting for the next installment of our Harry Potter movie marathon. He’d also chilled a bottle of chilled champagne, which disappeared almost like magic. As soon as he left for softball, we scram up the stairs, pull out the stuff and I start whipping our leftover mix six ways to Sunday. No good. Turns out we needed a whisk attachment for our futuristic mixing stick. I sigh. And reach for the hand whisk. I swear it cringed when it saw me coming. I set to whipping but sent Alison to the neighbor’s to borrow a regular hand mixer. Alison comes back right as the carpal tunnel was setting in. She has a beat up old mixer and a story that the neighbor had told her. The mixer was the neighbor’s mother (who we know and like) who it turns out has had a stroke and now doesn’t recognize her daughter (our neighbor.) Why would the neighbor tell such a tale to my 11-year-old daughter? Can’t say. But I can tell you that it’s been bothering her now for days. “Mom. I feel really bad for Miss Debbie. Her mom doesn’t even know her now and she lives alone with Chelsea, who needs a lot of help,” Alison said. It’s true that Debbie has some tough challenges. We help when we can, and I’m glad to see Alison have some compassion. But there’s only so much you can do. I make a mental note to check on her and go back to the tiramisu. Turns out the mixer is older than dirt. It gives out a few half-hearted coughs, rotates 6 and a half times and just whines at me. I pick the hand whisk back up and send Alison to the neighbors on the other side of our house. Just as I was losing feeling in my arm, she returned, telling me that Mark and Jerry were rolling on the floor laughing. Turns out she regaled them a story of how wild-eyed I was trying to turn eggs into mountains of foam. Apparently Alison thought there was foam coming out of my mouth. I make a mental note to avoid Mark and Jerry for a few weeks. It’ s true that the kitchen was a mess with discarded mixing implements laying around like dead soldiers on a battlefield, white, stringy foam dripping from their failed tines. I may have been sweaty and red-faced from exertion and frustration. I’m pretty sure I looked more like June Cleaver than Old Yeller, regardless of Alison’s first-hand account. Anyway, the new mixer worked. Well, it spun and whirred. It did not, however, turn my egg whites into mountains of the required light foam. After about 17 hours of alternating between mixer, whisk and mixing stick, I silently told myself to, uh, forget about it. I folded in the cheese and egg yolks. Alison was pounding the hell out of lady fingers and soaking them in espresso in anticipation of the custard. Three-quarters of the way through, we ran out of espresso and cookies. At this point, I may well have been wild eyed and edging closer to the dog than June. We used coffee leftover from the morning, and I sacrificed Alison’s Japanese cookies. They had some kind of cream inside but they were the right color. We filled the cups with the custard, the cookies and the coffee, sprinkling the layers with the cocoa powder – the only ingredient left standing. “Mom. Are you OK?” Alison asked me. “Sure I’m OK. Why?” “Well, your eyes look kind of crazy. You know, kind of like when you were talking about that tree that won’t die and you got all crazy?” she said. “ It’s kind of freaking me out.” I don’t know where she gets her flair for the dramatic. All I know is we put a dozen or so cups of our near-tiramisu in the fridge about 10 minutes before Jeff got home from softball. They hadn’t set up by midnight. I no longer care. I hate tiramisu. The next time we make it, it’s going to be in a pretty little container with a Fresh Market sticker on the bottom.