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Touring Wisconsin Food

Tag: butter-cream frosting

Gifts For Her

Mother’s Unusual Gifts For Her Daughter – How We Play With Food At The Fair

This past week my daughter and I exchanged gifts. They were unusual gifts, and yes, we did have to buy them, at least I had to buy some of mine.

Our friendship gifts were not what you’d guess, unless you too had a child who needed help with a project. My gift to her was my time, my attention, and my patience… and of course, the cost of project materials.

Her gift to me was her attention, cooperation, perseverance, and her smiles. For a pre-teen these can be extremely expensive.

And our project? It was a completely zen endeavor, having no meaning, usefulness or legacy other than the silly delight it engendered in two hapless souls.

You see it in the picture here. It looks like a contraption of some sort. It’s candy, Jello, and butter-cream frosting on slabs of Styrofoam. Absolutely gross if you think about it. And it’s 10-year-old Lauren’s 4-H Club entry in the county fair competition.

Keep reading for more about how we play with food.

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Kids’ Cake-Decorating Contest At The County Fair: A Study In The Philosphy Of Perfection

My 9-year-old daughter, Lauren, and I sat in the Dane County Fair Exhibition Hall B surrounded by perfect cakes. They had smooth, glass-like sides. Their tops had imaginatively-elaborate decorations of molded shapes and figures that seemed to defy gravity, -decorations that made Lauren and I gasp, “How did they DO THAT?!”  Beside Lauren was her own cake, -a simple, round, white cake frosted on top with a rainbow and a small black pot of gold. Its butter-cream frosting looked delicious, -definitely mouth-watering, but it was not perfectly smooth. The pattern of spatula lines could easily be traced. The colorful rainbow was fun and frolicky, but its edges bled a bit. The green frosting around the base of the cake was uneven, more like a moat on windy day than a lake of Yes, a 9-year-old had surely frosted this cake. And it was beautiful. We had thought the cake perfect when we left the house. Lauren was hoping she would win the 4-H Club, cake-decorating contest at the Dane County Fair. But now, surrounded by perfection, we discussed failure as a first step on a path to perfection.

I tried to explain the ages-old, Japanese artists’ practice of completing a work of art and then in the last stroke, adding some small mark to make the work imperfect. Lauren asked why the artist would do that. Rapidly trying to remember a concept I once thought I had understood, I said, “Well, the artist didn’t want it to be perfect.”

“Why not?” she’d asked.

“Because,” I replied, “then it wouldn’t be perfect.” I was obviously getting this all wrong. Somewhere in those words was wisdom, but it remained cryptic as always. Lauren gave me that well-practiced, would-be pre-teen look of Mom’s really making no sense now.

4-H club friends came over. They could see our disappointment. I asked how people got the sides of their cakes so smooth. “A damp, patternless Viva paper towel,” was their answer. Apply the frosting, then smooth it down with the damp towel.  Well, now we know. But could a damp paper towel really accomplish all that?

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