Kate Dudding: Cathy in the Kitchen

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I like to tell stories about family and friends who have died as a way of honoring them and celebrating their lives, and as a way to keep memories of them alive. I share them with you in hopes that they will remind you of your stories that you need to share.

Cathy, Kate and Carl, August, 1994

This story is about a woman who was my best friend for 15 years, and who died in a car accident in 1994.

My friend Cathy Chalek really enjoyed doing things for her many friends. She would listen to us tell her about our lives, and laugh or commiserate with us, as appropriate. She would lend us books from her large collection, books she thought we could useor would enjoy. (But rarely would she lend out any of her first edition mystery novels.) She would embroider counted cross-stitch gifts for us. And she would bake delicious desserts, to celebrate the events of our lives

Cathy was a very good cook. And she had a very well-equipped kitchen in which to bake. I'll bet that all of you have some of the things she had, but do any of you have all of the following (or have even been in a kitchen with all the following)?

an oven, a microwave oven,

a hand mixer, a stand mixer,

a blender, a food processor,

a bread machine,

an apple parer/slicer/corer,

an electric potato peeler and

TWO dishwashers ?

Well, Cathy had all of these, plus many mixing bowls and spoons and measuring cups. And she would never use anything twice while baking. If she used one measuring cup to measure the flour, she couldn't use it to measure the sugar. It was some sort of rule she had, or something... So this meant that when she finished making a delicious dessert, every surface in her kitchen would be covered by dirty dishes. But that was OK, because she had something else in her kitchen - her wonderful husband, Carl, who would clean up after her.

Now I can remember two times when this pattern of delicious dessert followed by a general disaster area was not followed.

The first incident was when she made a bombe aux trois chocolats in honor of Carl and me finishing our masters degrees. This is a French recipe by Julia Childs involving 3 chocolates, which was extremely appropriate since Carl and I are chocoholics. First you make brownies; when they are cool, you cut them up to fit in a mixing bowl, saving a large circle to fit on top like a lid. But before putting the lid on, you make chocolate mousse. Not a simple chocolate mousse, but a complicated one - first you make a creme anglais, then go on from there. After you fill up the brownie shell with the mousse, you put the lid on top and chill it. Then you unmold it onto a plate, and make a chocolate glaze, which hardened to almost a candy shell, to drizzle over the top. And with all that chocolate, you had to serve it with whipped cream.

I always tried to get all three kinds of chocolate, the chewy brownie, the smooth, sweet mousse and the crisp glaze, plus some whipped cream, in every mouthful. It really was as delicious as it sounds. (My mouth waters whenever I get to this part.)
Cathy and Carl

And as part of her gift to Carl, Cathy actually cleaned up after herself!

The second incident that didn't follow the pattern was when Cathy made an angel food cake, requested by our friend Tom Evans for his birthday. Cathy had never made an angel food cake before -- she even had to go out and buy a tube pan. But since she was a good cook, she didn't think she'd have any problems.

When she finished whipping all the eggs whites and everything else to make the batter, she poured the batter into her new tube pan. Now Cathy thought it was strange that the batter came to within an inch of the top of the pan. Generally cake batter only comes slightly above the middle of the pan. When a cake bakes, it first rises, then the heat solidifies it. But then she thought that maybe an angel food cake got all its height from the beaten eggs whites, and that the cake wouldn't rise in the oven, it would just solidify. So she put the cake in the oven, and set the timer.

Then she went off to do one of her favorite things. She found a warm, sunny spot in her house, settled down in a comfy chair with one of her cats on her lap, and startedto read one of her first edition mystery novels, while waiting for those first whiffs of baked cake to drift into the room. Cathy just luxuriated in doing things like this. I always suspected that she had been a cat in several of her previous lives. But she also had to have been an aquatic animal sometime, because she also loved to read while soaking in the bathtub...

Anyway, there she was reading while waiting for the kitchen timer to go off, when SUDDENLY the kitchen smoke detector went off instead. The cat went flying and Cathy and Carl ran to the kitchen which was filled with smoke. When they opened the oven door, even more smoke poured out. Then they could see what had happened. Her angel food cake had risen, and gone over the sides of the pan. Some of the batter clung to the sides of the pan, some hung from the oven shelf, and some had landed on the floor of the oven. And the batter that had landed on the heating element was causing all the smoke.

And as Cathy and Carl watched, the angel food cake continued to erupt. Cathy had made a volcano in her very own oven! When she saw this, she started to laugh. And before she would let Carl start cleaning up, she had to take a Polaroid picture of it.

Then, as usual, Carl cleaned up while Cathy went shopping for a full-sized tube pan (somehow she had purchased an undersized tube pan) and more ingredients. Then she made her second angel food cake in time for Tom Evan's party. And as usual, it was delicious.

The next day, at the lunch table at work, she told everyone the whole story, complete with picture.

So for the rest of her life, Cathy continued listen to her friends, loan us books, make counted cross-stitch gifts and bake delicious desserts for us (and Carl continued on cleaning up after her). But never again did she made anything as humorous and memorable as her angel food volcano cake.

Copyright 2003 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.


Kate Dudding (518) 383-4620
8 Sandalwood Drive kate@katedudding.com
Clifton Park, NY 12065-2700 USA
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