My daughter likes to cook, and bake. And as I may or may not have mentioned in past blogs (I can’t really remember much of anything these days – thanks perimenopause), she is the owner/operator of one extremely exclusive, extremely strict – to the point of being oppressive and downright disparaging – restaurant called “Chez Tess”.
OK, so “Chez Tess” is just her cooking for our family and forcing us to eat her food – when, where, and exactly HOW she says (down to every last painful “no you can’t go to the washroom, it’s time to eat, sit down at the goddamn table” detail), but whatever. We’ve given this recurring experience a name because all such things need to be formally acknowledged and/or documented. Just in case.
So today, with the holiday season fast approaching – or at least a month to go – she declared (in no uncertain terms, as she usually does with everything) that it was “time” for Christmas baking to start. Now, any normal person would rejoice in the fact that their daughter would take it upon herself to plan and prepare an elaborate menu for cookie and dessert making, which she would do ALL on her own, which would indeed TASTE delicious – because she IS a good cook, after all.
Yes, any normal person in any normal family would be happy about this. “Bring on the treats,” those regular people would say, as they lounged on the couch in their onesies in front of the fireplace, a cup of tea in hand, reruns of Orange is the New Black, The Wire, maybe even Prison Break, or if they were smart, Idris Elba’s Luther playing festively on the big screen because that is a fucking awesome show, and Idris is super hot – sorry Chris, but he is.
But that doesn’t happen in THIS house, not with OUR family, and I’ll tell you why.
First of all, you must take into account that ALL of us in the Raynor clan are fairly fitness and health-oriented. Well, most of us are, most of the time. Charles does drink Red Bull like it’s water. And he thinks that Wendy’s salads are good for you – which they aren’t really. Anyway, we do own a healthcare facility that includes an office for my husband (the sports doc) AND a gym. Thus, us older family members try to practice what we preach. Unless we are thwarted.
So saying, the thought of dozens and dozens of mouth-watering delicacies being pumped out of the oven week after week after debilitating week – while tantalizing obviously, because who doesn’t love anything made with copious amounts of butter, sugar, and chocolate? – is rather disconcerting because we know that we won’t be able to stop eating them. I said we (read: I) were “fitness and health” oriented. I didn’t say we (read: I) were saints. And most of us (read: me) aren’t so good at saying “no” to things. Ask my kids, or my cats, or my grandpuppy – they get whatever they hell they want, whenever the hell they want it.
No, my motto is – in order NOT to eat crap, I just don’t make it. I have zero willpower. Sadly now however, someone IS making that stuff, and when the Chez Tess train leaves the station, it goes full steam ahead. Yes, when the chef at Chez Tess – which is Tess – sets her mind to it, progress blazes forward like a bull plowing through a crowded and super high-end and snotty china shop. As it happens (especially with this holiday season version of things), there is yelling, and swearing, and people are left with an empty and extremely discomforting “how will we every recover from this nightmare” pit-in-their-stomach kind of feeling. We hate to love it. Or love to hate it. I’m not sure which.
Second reason we are not so happy about what is about to transpire: Chez Tess…well…as you may have gathered, can be a little over-the-top. It’s not a normal “let’s make a few dozen sugar cookies with red and green sprinkles and put them into some sort of ‘cookie exchange’ where you end up with a few dozen cookies in total that you then only bring out when you have a Christmas party or something – you don’t eat them all yourself” kind of affair. No, it won’t be the “here you go, here are a few treats on a doily, enjoy these various confectionaries this one or maybe two times”. No, it won’t be that.
At Chez Tess, the desserts are made in fairly large quantities, and at fairly regular and really-too-close-to-be-healthy (like once every few days) intervals from now (end of November) until Christmas, and even beyond because how else can a person handle this shitty winter weather?
On this year’s menu – yes, it HAS been announced – there will be pumpkin with maple cream-cheese frosting cupcakes (to round out the end-of-fall/everyone loves pumpkin season), peanut butter cookies (both have already been made and mostly consumed), pumpkin cheesecake (you can never have enough of that flavour apparently), carrot cake, a possible carrot cake/ pumpkin cheesecake combination (think a tofurkey-type deal) because wouldn’t that be an awesome and completely artery-blocking adventure?, regular shortbread cookies or maybe chocolate-chip shortbread cookies or both (probably both), dirt cake (because that’s too easy NOT to make), gingerbread cookies (that’s a staple), cherry cheesecake (the unbaked kind in honour of my deceased Aunt Joan who used to make it annually for the Christmas pot-luck, but really because Tess craves the canned cherry pie filling like a crack addict craves crack), regular pumpkin pie, apple pie, strawberry/rhubarb pie (those last few Tess will probably buy because there is only so much time in the day), brownies (Dustin and Tess will likely make those together because that’s Dustin’s specialty and Tess just likes to eat them), a few varieties of “loaf” – probably banana et al. (because I carelessly buy too many bananas every time I go shopping and we can’t waste/kids in Africa could eat them/we would be terrible people otherwise), and a sheet of squares here and there. I’m hoping for Nanaimo bars or maple or date squares or maybe just a plain old chocolate cake. They are all my favourites. Like mother like daughter, I guess.
Now, in anticipation of ALL of this, we went to the store today to get a few ingredients to get the ball rolling. We didn’t get everything, mind you, because that would be a LOT. Besides, we like to make it a habit of going to the grocery store at least a few times a week. It’s an undertaking that makes me want to shoot myself in the face.
But like the smart mother that I am, I use every opportunity to teach my children something. This time, the lesson was about money, and how NOT to spend every cent you have. Truth be told, we’d originally gone to the store just to get ketchup – because remember, we are fitness “people”, not fitness “angels” – and a few of us (I won’t name names here Chris and Tess, cough, cough) refuse to eat eggs without it. And a person HAS to eat eggs. They are a complete protein package in one slimy little white and yellow ball.
“You have forty dollars to spend, no more,” I said as we walked through the aisles and my daughter started piling things into the basket. “Besides, I thought we came just to get ketchup?”
“You know we never just buy ONE thing when we come to the store. And I guarantee, you have more than forty dollars. You always pretend to be broke, when you really aren’t,” my daughter scoffed. She knows me too well. “And we NEED to get baking supplies…”
“Noooo, please. Not baking supplies. That could take all day.” Standing in front of the chocolate chips alone, she will go back and forth, back and forth, changing her mind about the kind she wants, the same way she changes her mind about the type of hair conditioner she should use – the price of which increases exponentially every single time she picks. “You DO need to learn the value of money, you know. You can’t just start ballin’ right out of the gate.”
With this declaration, Tess stopped dead in her tracks. “Don’t talk like that, Mandy. Don’t EVER talk like that. You are white. Accept it.” Yes, my daughter calls me by my first name. She has since she was fourteen months old. Her first words were “no way” and my name came a close second. And yes, I realize that’s it’s possibly why we have the really great “she’s the boss of me” relationship that we have now, but what of it?
I’ll have you know that I CAN be forceful – when provoked. “Anyway, you need to learn that you can’t just have whatever you want whenever you want it.” I know that conflicts with my admission earlier, but what do you want? I forget things, remember? “Prioritizing is life skill that everyone should have. Especially once you become a mother. It’ll be like one kid wants you to go to their dance recital, but it conflicts with your other kid’s football game, which conflicts with your other kid’s soccer tryout. And you just want to stay at home in bed reading a trashy romance novel. So what do you do? I’ll tell you what you do, Tess. You do it ALL (minus the staying in bed reading the trashy romance novel) even though all the running around and speeding across town is very stressful and in the end, everybody hates you anyway because they couldn’t have you completely to themselves. Well, welcome to motherhood. You NEED to learn these things now. The routine mental torture and castigation by your spawn takes a while to get used to.”
“Whatever, just stop talking like a bad rapper, and go get some castor sugar, if you are smart enough to figure out what that is.” Of course, I’m smart enough. I’m her mother. If she is smart, then I am smarter. Or if I am smart, then she is smart. Or maybe it’s that I was smart, but over the years, she has usurped that smartness for herself, and now I’m just a mindless void. I don’t know. Never mind.
Doesn’t really matter. After the holiday version of Chez Tess is over – which will be sometime in March when the snow melts – I will probably be ten pounds heavier, which will mean that those new pants I’ll buy myself for Christmas (even though they will have to be a size bigger) will be much needed, and not just extremely well-deserved.