So we make the biscuits, which end up like hockey pucks. I tap mine against the plate, puzzling. It was a pretty standard recipe. Then I think: looks like a leavening failure. I take a look at the baking powder container. It expired seven years ago.
A few days later, I'm in the baking supply aisle of the grocery, plucking a tin of baking powder from the shelf when I turn to see one of the dreaded Preschool Moms standing next to me.
My kid attended a co-op preschool, which meant that parents were assigned as "helpers" every day; and I surely did my time alongside the other moms. The Preschool Moms wore sweatshirts with snowmen on them, drove stalwart minivans and pushed monstrous strollers equipped with Juicy Juice boxes, Tupperware containers of Goldfish crackers and Cheerios, loads of BandAids and Bactine, extra socks, etc. They were sexless and vapid, discussing their Disney World vacations for weeks before departure and months after conclusion, complete with plenty of pictures.
I wore a tattered Levi jacket, drove an old Honda coupe (no air bags) and was equipped with a can of Diet Pepsi.
"Want a sip, kid?"
The Preschool Moms and I didn't much cotton* to one another, but that was years ago and I thought I was done with them for good.
Yet here I am, standing next to one of them in the grocery store. We say our reluctant hellos, and shuffle in the aftermath, both of us knowing a short conversation is mandatory. Then she sees my tin of baking powder and asks, "Doing some holiday baking?"
Thinking it funny, I tell the biscuit story and explain this a replacement for the 7-year-old petrified tin in my pantry. As this sinks in, the dreaded Preschool Mom, with her Santa sweatshirt, looks at me as if I am a turd floating in a punch bowl.
She blinks purposefully for a few seconds, lips pursed, before clearing her throat and saying, "I purchase all new baking supplies every single year in October--right before the baking season starts in earnest: vanilla extract, decorative sprinkles, cream of tartar, food coloring, baking soda, and certainly," she pauses to sniff, "baking powder." Yet another pause. "You can't be too careful."
I compliment her on her savvy, halfheartedly adding that I should be so thorough. We thankfully say good by and avoid each other for the rest of the shopping trip.
To be sure, the Preschool Moms always produced perfect baked goods, uniform star-shaped cookies with fluffy frosting and mile-high cupcakes festooned with icing smiles. My shaped cookies either stuck to the pan, got smooshed on one side, or were an uneven brown on one side and an underdone white on the other. I gave up trying with those years ago. As indicated by the accompanying photo, my cakes are always ugly.
So I've learned to keep it simple: peanut butter cookies with the fork cross design and Duncan Hines yellow cake mix; but this year, I tried a new cookie recipe that totally kicks ass. Everyone who bit into one of these babies swooned.
Behold brown sugar cookies.
The recipe calls for baking powder. The can that I purchased that day as the dreaded Preschool Mom sniffed at me was still unopened in my cabinet. I peeked at the bottom: expiration date: Dec. 2009.
I just hope I don't run into that silly little broad again when I go to replace this one.
*apologies to James Carville.