December 19, 2004

Clever...Yet Evil

Yesterday, my neighbor put me to shame.

To explain: I like to bake. I really go all out during this time of year, too. The problem with this is that the husband and I can't eat all that I produce, even when I just stick to the basic favorites. Simply. Cannot. Eat. It. All. Or. Hips. Would. Go. Even. Wider. Than. Already. Are. Which would be bad. Neither do I want to listen to the husband complain about his lovehandles expanding. No one needs that. (And I'm positive he doesn't want to listen to my complaints about hip expansion, either, so fair's fair.)

This was a conundrum for a large number of years. We want all the goodies, but don't want fudge sitting around until February, either. When we actually attained neighbors that we liked (well, for the most part) a solution presented itself: I'd bake all the stuff we liked, would box most of it up and give it away as Christmas/Hannukah/Ramadan gifties. (The three major religions---as well as a token agnostic in the form of the husband---are well represented in the Cake Eater Alley.) This worked perfectly: we'd get the stuff we liked, but body parts wouldn't expand, and we'd get in good with the people who lived around us. Perfect, no?

Well, it was until the nasty Cake Eater Neighbor expanded his house, which included another huge kitchen for his (exceedingly lovely and very nice) wife's baking habit. She didn't like to bake in her old kitchen: it was too small. So, while their regular kitchen is now the size of a football field, she has another kitchen in their basement which is specifically set aside for her baking. A problem arose when she appropriated my habit of baking for the neighbors at Christmastime.

The first year she did this, I wasn't worried because everyone told me that my stuff was better. And I knew that they meant it. Great. I was confident in my abilities and everyone still wanted my stuff, and would go so far as to drop veiled requests for a larger share of the lemon bar stash and would wonder aloud about when the box of goodies would arrive. The second year was when the problem appeared: she decided that she was going to go whole hog and produced a huge tin of many varied sorts of cookies for our consumption. And they were good, too: the tin that was delivered to our house was snarfed down in record time. I had gained competition, it seemed, but the outcome of the race was unsure. Her first batch of cookies was nothing to write home about. But the second, noted above, they were good, and the presentation was excellent.

This year, however, she went nuts. The third time round, indeed, appears to be the charm.


Yesterday, high on Christmas Cheer, the obnoxious Cake Eater Neighbor delivered a oversized gift bag full of the following, most of it impeccably presented in clear, beribboned bags, replete with printed labels:

1. A huge bag of adulterated Chex party mix (which is really damn good)
2. A huge bag of this caramel coated puffy stuff mixed with cashews (the husband's favorite)
3. An oversized tin of Christmas cookies: macaroons, ginger bread men, coconut balls---and those are just the ones I've eaten. There's lots more in there. All perfectly baked and positively scrumptious.
4. A bag of pan baked chocolate chip cookies
5. An extra bag of those puffy white cookies that are coated with powdered sugar. And there are two chocolate cookies in that bag, too, that are also coated with powdered sugar. (She even thought to put the stuff coated in powdered sugar in a separate bag!)
6. A jar of elderberry jelly (she canned!)
7. And the most clever use of extra homegrown tomatoes that I've seen yet: a bottle of homemade Bloody Mary mix. (Which, I am sad to say, I'm going to regift: I despise Bloody Marys, and as the husband doesn't drink anymore and doesn't see the point in drinking Virgin Marys, well, there's no real use in keeping it around, is there? Besides, we'd have to buy celery. The ickiness of spiced tomato juice aside, it's still pretty darn clever if you ask me.)

How, I ask you, my devoted Cake Eater Readers, am I to compete with that?

My little box of extra goodies is going to look like crap when compared to hers. And I have to whine a bit, because she got the friggin' idea from me, and now she's completely outdone me. She's put me in the shade. I can't up or vary my recipes: we just can't eat any more than we already do and I don't want to switch things around just to compete. While I'm sure she's looking forward to my cookies and is completely unaware of the angst she's created in me because she is a really nice person (despite her atrocious taste in husbands) she's nonetheless boxed me in and I don't like it.


Posted by Kathy at December 19, 2004 01:47 PM


You are forgetting one thing: more doesn't always mean better. She's trying too hard. I am sure that your chewy goodies are far better than those she is offering up.(Blatant loyalty? I think not!) As a rabid baker myself, I can tell you that small batches produce much better results. Cooking as she is for such delivery, she is having to make these items in much larger batches. While I'm sure that she is a very nice person, I feel certain that you will not lose top billing in the neighborhood cookie business. Small batches make better goodies. Besides, your small tins can be seen as a genuine heartfelt and appreciative holiday gift - no strings attached. Her largesse, well-meaning as it is, may embarrass some of the neighbors as it is simply too much. Which puts them in the awkward position of needing to give something in return. Gifts between neighbors should be small but what you are doing.... Or so I think.

Posted by: Phoenix at December 20, 2004 07:48 AM

With my hypoglycemia, I'm glad I don't live near your neighbor. Except for (maybe) the Bloody Mary Mix, I can't have anything on that list!

Posted by: Fausta at December 20, 2004 01:34 PM
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