For once, I thought I’d easily conquered not only the tart dough on round one, but also the entire multi-step process without incident, aggravation, mistake, or calamity. Surprisingly, despite the fact that I had to make an appetizer and the vegetable for the fifteen person dinner party hosted by our neighbors, I thought I had it all under control. I had prepped ahead of time, anticipated the hours I’d need, and ran my kitchen smoothly while Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man played in sleeping bags in the dining room. I didn’t feel nervous or worried — in fact, I thought I had it all together.
My French Friday with Dorie, at least this time, seemed an unqualified success, but even more, one that gave me a boost of confidence in my ability to manage several different cooking and baking tasks at once. Here I was making a double chocolate and banana tart in seeming flawlessness and control. In my hubris, I believed I was channeling Dorie and Julia all at once.
My tart done, bananas carefully arranged, I took the tart to the window with the most light to take the photograph. I didn’t anticipate the slippery tart pan and the plate, nor the toys under foot, and I slipped, sending several of my carefully arranged bananas onto the window sill. By some mysterious luck, the rest of the tart remained in tact, and I gamely rearranged the banana slices — amid cries of, “Yuk, Mommy, that looks yuk!” and, “Ew, what happened?”
It looked worse, really, than it turned out to be — and Gorilla Girl even noted hopefully that the tart still looked sort of like a flower.
When my neighbors dug into the tart after our mother’s day feast, they lodged no complaints, and everyone exclaimed about the hidden caramelized banana layer. Go figure. Beauty is, after all, only skin deep. Despite my less than photogenic tart’s appearance, the taste turned out to be far more important. What was inside was all that mattered this time around.
I suppose there is some lesson here — one for me to consider when things are less than perfect on the outside. During that evening with the neighbors, I listened to a mom talk about how she conquered her now-twenty year old son when he was a wee bit of a two-year old by letting him know who was boss. Her pride in her accomplishment was evident, but it reminded me of my always present uncertainty about whether my mothering instincts are correct. Perhaps, her strategy of confidence and tough-love along with the idea that if she named herself “successful mom” then she must be one. It’s a method that seems to work for some folks, like positive reinforcement.
As a doubting Thomas, however, I don’t think that self-talk is enough to make me believe in my skill as a mother. I’ll have to continue to rely upon trial and error, upon the pieces of the pie that fall apart, only to be dusted off, reassembled, and put back together. In the reassembly, perhaps there is some small measure of satisfaction, of recognition that despite the mistakes, things might turn out just fine in the end.