The trouble started Tuesday morning when I was supposed to be making beignets for my son’s Trip around the World class, which has been studying France. His teacher does a great job of exposing the class to the aura of a country—its language, culture, literature. Tuesday was French Food Day.
Since his basketball games and practices started, my son has been quite busy—too busy to do more than quickly look up French foods on Monday afternoon before the game (or after the game? It all blurs after a while). Beignets came up in his web search, so we agreed on that. After all, I’ve made beignets successfully before, right? Mais oui! I even had a box of Café du Monde beignet mix in the corner cabinet.The only drawback was—actually, there was more than one drawback, but this was the biggest one—I’ve also made beignets unsuccessfully. More than once, the beignets haven’t puffed up properly, even though the oil temperature was hot enough and the beignets were rolled out to the right degree of thinness. It’s been a while since I made beignets (also known as “French doughnuts”). Had I forgotten about my beignet failures? Somehow, success seemed the only outcome on Monday afternoon.
The other drawback was that beignets ought to be served warm. Since my son’s Trip around the World class wasn’t until 10:10 and his first class started at 8:30, it was difficult to make that work. Regretfully, my son and I concluded that I would have to make the beignets after he’d left and bring them just as his class was starting. This delay seemed sad—particularly since he’d enjoyed making magdalenas for Spanish Food Day. My husband dropped one or two helpful hints like, “I wonder how long it takes to make beignets” before driving our son to his homeschool classes. But I was focused on getting a shower, first, and getting more words added to my novel, second. (This November, I am attempting NaNoWriMo.)
Soon a third drawback presented itself: we were almost out of vegetable oil. Generally, an entire bottle of oil is needed to fill the electric skillet, which I use to fry the beignets. I might have had time to run to Walmart and buy cooking oil, but my shower would have gone by the wayside. Also, I thought it would be fine to cook the beignet dough, which you roll out on a floured board and cut into 2 1/4-inch pieces, in previously used cooking oil. We were planning to recycle the used oil, but my husband hadn’t taken it to the recycling place yet. It gleamed golden in the morning sunlight, tempting me to skip the trip to Walmart.
Come to find out, the quality of the oil may make a difference in beignet success. Aside from one or two that puffed up properly, my beignets didn’t turn out well. No matter how much I “basted” them, my little squares of dough remained mostly uninflated. Who can say why? By the time I was dropping the beignets into the oil and watching them mostly not puff up very well, it was nearly 10:00. At 10:10, I was frantically tearing open a bag of powdered sugar and frenziedly sifting sugar over any beignets that had the tiniest bit of air inside them. It takes 10 solid minutes to get from our house to the large church where his classes meet . . .All that to say, it was 10:15 by the time I was peeling out of our driveway and driving as fast as I dared down the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was 10:25 by the time I ran panting through the door of the church—no makeup, hair still damp, powdered sugar dusting my blue jeans, frazzled look on my face. I didn’t even bring all the beignets I had made because some of them were so flat. One or two were perfect, but the rest? A “mom fail” for sure.
It was definitely a “They died of shame” moment—only I managed not to die of shame. (Here I refer to one of my all-time favorite movies, The Edge, with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.) Somehow, I persevered through the embarrassment of being late and the failure of my beignets. I took the elevator to the second floor and chatted with two polite girls who wanted to know what was in the basket. “I’m sure they’ll still taste good,” said one of the girls reassuringly as we exited the elevator. I peeked my head in the door of his classroom and glanced meaningfully at my son, willing him to walk across the room and take the basket of beignets—now cooling—from my hands. He looked at me in relief (I’m not sure he realized what a near miss he’d had) and announced to the teacher, “Beignets.”
“Beignets!” exclaimed his teacher in an appreciative voice. I shook my barely brushed out hair at her and said in a low voice, “They didn’t turn out.” Then I rushed down the stairs. Unfortunately, I ran into someone I knew at the bottom of the stairs; this was unfortunate because, aside from throwing on an old shirt, jeans, and sneakers with no socks, all I had done to improve my appearance post-shower was to brush out my hair. I tried to chat normally about the upcoming Geography Bee. I went to my car. I drove to the grocery. Before going in, I did my Bible reading on my phone. Mornings like this make me read my Bible.
I felt a bit better after the Bible reading and worked up the courage to enter the store. This Ingles has a Starbucks, and I decided that a gingerbread latte was in order; I hadn’t actually had any breakfast at this point. I bought the bargain turkey that my mother had told me about yesterday. (At 54, I still do the things my mother recommends. Dear Lord, what will I do when she is no longer living on this earth? How will I know what to do? Maybe my daughters will tell me.)
I got gas, and I came home. The kitchen didn’t look quite as bad as it had when I had sprinted from the room at 10:15. After his dentist appointment and haircut, my efficient husband had cleaned off the island somewhat. He had made a stab at cleaning off the counter where the powdered sugar bag lay, ripped open and spilling out its contents. The floor still needed sweeping. And mopping.
Now I’m in a funk, but that isn’t fair to my husband. Every single difference that we have was highlighted today. Sometimes our differences cause us to repel one another, which is unfortunate. Maybe Wednesday will be better?
Do. Not. Die. Of. Shame.
Afterword: There were still a few beignets left in the basket when my husband and son came home. I could have chosen to feel insulted, but I decided to eat them instead. Whatever problems my beignets had, they were entirely eclipsed by the unfortunate effects of eating escargot on one of the students. My husband remarked, “It was a good day not to be the hall monitor.”