This, however, has not been my consistent experience in the kitchen. I've weathered more than my share of cooking disasters, so when my heroine's brother enters the kitchen for the first time (or, in historical terms, approaches the hob-grate) in “This Wicked Gift,” I naturally thought of the charred side of Christmas. And lo, that is about how well her brother performs:
Lavinia woke to a cloud of thick, choking smoke. Her first panicked thought was that the books downstairs had somehow caught fire, that their livelihood, half owned by creditors, was going up in flames. But then her conscious mind caught up to her racing fears and she correctly identified the smell.
It was the more mundane—and rather more unpleasant—scent of burning porridge.
Frowning, Lavinia pulled a wrapper over her nightdress and padded out into the front room.
James, his hands blackened with soot, was juggling a pot. The vessel let off billows of gray smoke, its sides streaked black.
“Ah,” he said essaying a weak smile. “Lavinia! I made breakfast for you.”
She didn’t dare respond, not even with so little as a raised eyebrow.
He peered into the pot, frowning. “There’s still some white bits in here. Isn’t it odd that porridge turns yellow when it burns? I’d have thought it would go directly to black.” He prodded the mass with a spoon, then shrugged and looked up. “Want some?”
Over fifteen years, Lavinia had become quite fluent in the foreign tongue known as Younger Brother. It was a tricky language, mostly because it employed words and phrases that sounded, deceptively, as if they were proper English.
For instance, the average woman off the street would have thought that James had just offered her burnt porridge. Lavinia knew better. What James actually said was, “Sorry I stole your money. I made you breakfast by way of apology. Forgive me?”
So in honor of terrible cooks, both real and fictional, I present:
Worst. Cookies. Ever.
Stir together 3 C flour, 1 t baking soda, ½ t baking powder. Forget you already added baking soda, so add another tablespoon.
Cream together 1 C butter, 1 C sugar, 1 egg (include generous portion of shell). Unlabeled soy sauce looks just like vanilla, so add a teaspoon.
Blend dry ingredients with butter mixture. Drop in cookie-sized blobs on baking sheet. Bake at 375 F.
Start reading novella by Mary Balogh--or Nicola Cornick--or, ahem, Courtney Milan. Forget cookies for three hours, until the smoke detector goes off. Open windows and turn on fan to dissipate smoke, even though it is extremely cold outside. Sheepishly remove charred bits from oven and wish that we still kept pigs.
JK Coi: LOL, thanks thanks for the great exceprt, Courtney! And I'm sure those cookies are going to be...fun to make, if not great tasting :)
Courtney Milan's novella This Wicked Gift is part of a Christmas anthology called The Heart of Christmas, with authors Mary Balogh and Nicola Cornick and is in stores now.