Food: Dealing with a bad case of jiggling nerves
Have you ever done something so utterly stupid and totally ridiculous that it left you asking “What was I thinking?”
In my younger years, that question was a frequent one in my mind. I won’t enumerate here all the instances which prompted that particular query, but there were plenty. And quite frankly, I thought I had matured enough to banish that question forever but no, sad to say, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
I should have known a stupid moment was coming on when a buddy stopped by to show me some fireworks he had recently purchased. I have to admit, and I know this sounds un-American, but I don’t care for firecrackers. The ones the professionals light off are OK, but the amateur pyros scare the heck out of me. And that was certainly the case when my friend pulled out a giant stump-like ‘cracker about 20 inches around and 18 inches high. It was called “The Black Mamba” and its packaging displayed a giant, fanged-mouthed snake with the exclamation “A real thriller!”
“I’m going to set this off,” my friend proclaimed as he rummaged around for a lighter while I stood nervously by, protesting. “No no really I hate these things. Please don’t I hate these things. Really come on don’t light it I hate these things,” I kept babbling, but my protestations went unheard as the firecracker was set up on a bare patch of gravel and the tiny red fuse was lit. That’s when I wanted to take a more affirmative stand, but it was too late. At first, the thing only smoked but then there was a spit of fire, a sizzle and it was off. And I mean OFF.
The bangs and loud cracks emitted from the Black Mamba were beyond deafening and thick gray smoke rose up like a giant shroud as the giant firecracker set off, unfurling in a coil-like circle. I stood slack-jawed as the carnage went on and on, my hands over my ears, thinking I had entered a chaotic war zone. I couldn’t hear, or think, or breathe and I just wanted it all to stop. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the thing died down to a sputter and then was out, but the audio cacophony continued. Every dog in the neighborhood set up a fierce and persistent barking well into the evening, and even a pack of coyotes yapped eerily in the distance. I’m pretty sure I heard wolves, too.
That night as I lay in bed, my ears ringing with a tinny cadence, I once again thought ‘What was I thinking?”
But, as luck would have it, I had an opportunity to ask myself that question the next day as I was coming home from an assignment and saw a tiny baby skunk waddling down the road. I was enchanted and immediately thought this little specimen would make a great photo.
I turned around and parked ahead of the little creature and as it shuffled toward me, I marveled at its petite cuteness. When it decided to head into the long, roadside grass, I had to get a little closer and that’s when I heard a rustling from the bank above the road. I looked up and saw the pointed face of Mama Skunk staring straight at me, eye level, followed instantly by an erect tail, the wispy fur fluttering in the breeze.
It’s been a long time since I’ve moved that fast. In fact, I thought it was not possible, but I made it back to my Jeep before the stinky consequence I deserved was delivered. It wasn’t until I got home and was settled in my easy chair that my old niggling question arose again, and I buried my head in my hands in total humiliation.
I have to admit, I’m still recovering from these instances, and I’m looking forward to some time off for the Fourth of July holiday. This week, I included a cake I like to make to celebrate this holiday. I’m going to a cook-out and this confection gets lots of oohs and ahhs when it’s brought out for dessert.
I’m fervently hoping this respite will quiet my still-jiggling nerves from these recent encounters. Between the Black Mambas and skunks, my confidence is about shot. I don’t think I can take too many more “What was I thinking?” moments, if you know what I mean.
Fourth of July Cake
1 yellow or white cake mix
1 (8-oz.) container frozen whipped topping
1 pint blueberries
2 pints strawberries
Mix and bake cake according to directions in a 9×13-inch pan. Let it cool and then frost with the whipped topping. Carefully place blueberries in a square in the top left corner of the cake. Clean and hull strawberries, then cut in half. Lay cut strawberries on cake in a stripe-like pattern. Refrigerate until it’s time for dessert.