It’s a testament to my optimistic nature, the triumph of imagination over reality, but somehow I forget that baking with a two year old is a really stupid idea.
It has glimpses of awesome, moments where I wrinkle my nose at the sight of my child stirring resolutely with a spoon as long as her arm, but mostly there is stress, and the ever increasing desire to scream into a tea towel.
Last Sunday, when Keith and Alfie went to a birthday party, I decided to take Esme and Miss Olive shopping for a few essentials and get our bake on.
I had humble aspirations, a quick and easy upside down cake because, well, it’s simple, quick and it’s a taste of my childhood. My romantic heart wants them to become the tastes of my children’s childhoods as well.
So shopping we went, and it wasn’t until a few aisles in that I remembered that only last week, Esme had plucked a seared pineapple ring out of her burger between her thumb and forefinger and flung it unceremoniously across the table.
I pushed the thought to the back of my brain because the front of my brain was busy trying to plot a tightrope path that meant neither child could reach the shelves.
I had thought that giving Esme the shopping list had saved me from 50% of The Grabby Twins, but either the aisles are narrow or the trolleys are wide because I was caught on the hop at the egg department when Esme announced in a booming voice that eggs were, in fact, her favourite and lunged towards a large display of free rangers on special.
After that, I was taking no chances.
Unfortunately having found all the other items on our list the niggling thought about Esme and pineapple was the only one left so I grudgingly parked the trolley in front of the display of tinned fruit.
Esme is very much a child who does not like to be second guessed so I knew that this conversation was going to take delicate handling.
“Esme, shall we get some tinned pears for our cake?”
“No, I want pineapple”
“OK sweetheart, but you remember last week, you picked the pineapple out of the burger that daddy made? Maybe peaches would be better for the cake?”
“I want pineapple”
“Esme, you don’t like pineapple. How about mango?”
“I want pineapple”
I admitted defeat and picked up a tin of pineapple. Apparently this was the right decision because according to Esme’s booming voice, pineapple is also her favourite.
Back home, I wrapped Miss Olive on my back and parked Esme in front of the goggle box while I prepared the kitchen. It was a simple cake, possibly the simplest cake ever conceived, but I was aiming for drama free baking and fortune favours the prepared mind just as surely as tired two year olds favour sobbing rage when frustrated.
I laid everything out on the counter, turned on the oven, put the stool in front of the sink, took a deep cleansing breath and called Esme into the kitchen.
What happened after that moment is a blur.
I know during the next 30 minutes there was measuring, a mushroom cloud of flour, the stealing of cocktail cherries and the delicate negotiation of when Esme was allowed to clean the electric whisk with her tongue.
Somehow, we came out the other side with a well baked, tasty cake, two injury free children and only the merest hint of lost shit on my part.
Apparently in the few days since burger gate, Esme really had rethought her position on pineapple because when we huddled over our still warm slabs, she declared it to be – you guessed it – her favourite and scoffed the lot before passing out in a cake drunk stupor.
Afternoons like these are rare beasts, and they explain why I will forget all about the stupidity of baking with a two year old, and do it all over again next week: Because mama can’t help but push her luck.