2011.10.12 Too chicken to deviate?

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

Before Maddie emailed on Monday with questions about substituting ingredients in a donut recipe, she sent me a link to a Craig’s List posting for a ride share. 

Maddie has used this method of transportation as she makes her way down the coast from Seattle to Santa Barbara by way of Portland and San Francisco (with a short jaunt somewhere in there to Vancouver).

I had suggested she look for cheap one-way flights (so much safer in so many ways) to get from Seattle to Portland and Portland to San Francisco rather than car rides from potential murderers with unknown driving skills, but she had already made her plans and was sticking to them.

Her email said, “You wanted me to fly...” and when I opened the link my heart leaped right out of my mouth and bounced down the street.

“Airplane rideshare offered to/from LA, SFV, & SB Friday afternoon/eve” was at the top of the listing and that was enough to send me. I didn’t need to know the pilot of a rented single engine Cessna was so generous: “I'd be happy to (informally) teach whoever sits in the front a few flying skills.…”

So, when she emailed about altering the donut recipe, it was such a relief. Domesticity! She’s in a kitchen somewhere and she wants to bake things! She’s not learning to fly from some potential nutcase who rents planes to get around.

“Can you substitute olive oil for vegetable oil in things like baked cider donuts? And if it wants baking powder and soda, do you have to use soda if you don't have it? And if it wants apple butter can I use apple sauce and butter or something?”

These are the kind of emails I live for!  Questions I can pretend to answer with some authority! Content that lets me know nothing bad is going to happen—she isn’t going to be raped, robbed or pillaged! The oven isn’t going to blow up, she isn’t going to choke on freshly made donuts. Life is calm, life is safe, I can cease my worrying. That level of excitement is just my speed.

I can do without emails like, “I don't know if I'll have service and I'm sure my phone will die so just don't worry unless you don't hear from me by Monday.” 

Maddie sent that before embarking on a weekend camping/hiking trip with Dan and Chris to find Boris in a cabin somewhere in Yosemite.

Yeah, that email put my heart at ease. I don’t know any of these guys, so I spend the whole weekend worrying. Too bad I missed the email that explained, “They were all geology people and all have worked at camp. I don't know Chris but I met Boris at Camp Davis this summer. He's living in Yosemite right now. You can just pretend that I'm at camp and not worry because it's about the same thing.” I didn’t see it until afterward.

For weeks now, I bet my mother has been having a really good laugh up there in heaven. Back in the days before cell phones, email, Skype and such, I put her through hell worrying about me as I traveled with guys she didn’t know to places she feared danger would befall me.

I’m sure she was thrilled when I settled down in Morenci and the chance of losing me to the Moonies or Hare Krishnas was reduced to zero. I know I don’t worry as much about Ben and Rosie since they married...except for the bit about them both living in hurricane territory.

Life with them is pretty mundane compared to “Adventures with Maddie.” Sarah emails asking for a split pea soup recipe to make for Ben; Rosie and I chat on gmail when I’m on hold with Blue Cross. Simple stuff–nothing that will cause a heart attack.

“I'm home taking care of insurance bills,” I write Rosie. “Gotta eat cake and get back to the library.”

Instead of asking what’s the problem with insurance, Rosie asks, “What kind of cake?“

“An adaptation out of Chinaberry,” I tell her, referring to the Chinaberry cookbook we both own.

She must be hungry; she peppers me with questions.

“What’s it like?” she asks.

 “Excellent,” I tell her, if I don’t say so myself.

“What kind of cake is it?” she asks again.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake—I used yogurt instead of sour cream, and strawberry jam and pecans instead of raspberries and almonds, I tell her. And only one stick of butter instead of the one and a half it calls for, and baked in a 9 x 13 pan because I don't have a springform pan.

“Do you often deviate from recipes like I did with the cake and Maddie with the donut recipe?” I ask.

 “Yeah....remember the first time I made that Chinaberry Chicken Parmesan recipe? Haha, I don’t think I've ever done that much deviating.”

“I only vaguely remember that, but I think I wrote about it,” I said. “Remind me.”

“I don’t remember exact stuff, but I pretty much changed every single ingredient but the chicken,” she said.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere—Don’t be a chicken in the kitchen? Don’t be a chicken in life?

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