Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Balancing Act- Eat More Cake

Traveling can be challenging-- packing, setting the alarm for the crack of dawn, fighting the morning traffic, endless security lines, the mad rush to find bin space on the plane to stow your luggage, sitting next to an annoying person, then finally dying of thirst while hailing the attention of the flight attendant who's engrossed in the latest Enquirer. Like I said, challenging. Now, imagine adding to the mix, the amazing feat of having to do all of the aforementioned, while carrying a California Mission Fig and Blueberry Torte. Yes, I have truly lost my mind. The steps I'll take-- to not disappoint! How could I say no to the nice lady I met in the suburbs of Chicago? I was stunned by her generosity and genuine enthusiasm for life!

After a whirlwind week of early mornings, too many late nights yelling about Napa Valley at the top of my lungs (don’t ask), hoards of rich food and wine, my hour train ride out to the suburbs was a nice respite. Peace and quiet. Me, and my book, Julie & Julia. I was looking forward to a day without hustle and bustle. And, my wish came true: a civilized, successful and enjoyable day. It’s always revealing when you step off the merry-go-round of life, and see that serenity actually can exist. Enter, Ambrosia Euro-American Patisserie , located in Barrington, IL. Stopped in for caffeine, ended up enjoying bite-sized sweets, and chatting with the owner, Debbie, about life in general, and Napa Valley wine. Debbie and her family are celebrating 25 years of owning this exquisite pastry shop, a definite meeting spot for locals. As we said our goodbyes, she thrust a white cake box into my hands. I exclaimed, “What is this? I can’t take this!”. Debbie rebutted, “No, you must. It’s a California Mission fig tart mingled with Michigan blueberries.” We went back and forth, "But, I am travelling, no can, do.” Debbie replied, “ Oh, sure you can. The tart does not need to be refrigerated, and besides you said you were on your way to visit your family. You have to bring this to your Mom.” Okay, this is where Debbie sucked me in. She was right. What a cool gift to bring home to my family all the way from Chicago. I am nuts, for sure.

Envision: exhausted, worn out Wife of A Tea Drinker, sitting in the back of a taxi on the way to the airport, staring at a white cake box beside her. Hmm, maybe I should give it to the nice taxi man. He had giggled while he watched me heave my 500 pound computer bag (stuffed to the hilt) into the back of the cab, while balancing a cake box. Nah, I am not giving it to him. Instead, I sat there and planned my next step--security line. Having never travelled with a Mission Blueberry Torte before, would I run into trouble? I approached the lines, viewed my options, forged ahead with my computer bag slung over my aching shoulder (white cake box in hand) dragging carry-on luggage behind me. I stared ahead, stood up straight, exuded confidence, and attempted to make myself invisible. Impossible. Everyone wanted to know what was in the box. Would I share? Was I on my way to a party? Could they take a peek? Little old ladies smiled at me endearingly, bringing me back to why I was doing this in the first place, bonus points with the family. Okay, onward. As my torte exits the x-ray machine, the TSA security man yells, “Bag Check!” And rattles off some procedure that he would need to do (sounded like an ABTAB). I began to sweat. I am an idiot. I am an expert traveler, and here I am trying to smuggle a torte onto the plane. I looked up and the security man was laughing. "Ha. Ha. Just joking, give us a slice and we will let you through". I was not amused.

Next up, bathroom. As I was careening through the masses of Friday travelers, I muttered to myself, “I have to pee like a race horse”. I did not realize I was saying this out loud until those endearing looks of admiration turned to shocked stares. I hurried to the bathroom. Now, how the heck was I going to do this? Prioritize: computer bag goes into the stall with me; perch the cake box on top of my luggage right outside the door. Then, I narrowed my eyes and glared at the women in line, “This cake better be here when I get out!”. They snickered. From the stall I heard them conjecturing about the contents of the cake box. Was it a coconut cake, or maybe almond? Damn, I had to hurry it up-- these women were NOT to be trusted. They had sugar and carbohydrates on their minds. I had to move fast.

I won’t bore you with the details of boarding Southwest, but as I heaved and struggled down the aisle trying to find a safe place for me and my torte, no one offered to help, but several people threatened to steal my cake. I finally got settled; but was afraid to fall asleep. The flight attendant circled and the man next to me leered at the box on the seat between us. I placed my hand on top of it, and kept one eye open. I arrived in Buffalo in one piece, and was relieved when I saw Mom pull up immediately. As I gingerly and dramatically placed the cake box onto the front seat, I stated proudly that "I made it!". Mom did not seem the least bit surprised that I had a cake box. No comment. I had to laugh. I love Mom, never fazed or rattled by the unexpected. We enjoyed the torte later; it was delicious and tasted of marzipan, which is so comforting. Today, we are looking forward to our mid-afternoon slice and a steaming cup of Drink the Leaf tea.

Remember when the going gets tough, always bring cake.


Tea Drinker said...

Will a slice be returning to Napa?

Tree said...

Don't bet your life on it, unless you plan on fed-exing me, my luggage and the rest of the cake home.

Kristin Klassert said...

Love the story! I always bring cupcakes to the Chambers office when we have sales meetings, and I get all sorts of strange looks and comments carrying cake boxes. Annoying yet somewhat endearing :)

Anonymous said...

What an adventure! I could have told that story, how everyone would want that pie really bad. Sounds like days I've had. But I would have given pieces away and eaten the rest. It would be too much to try to save it like you did. --Teaternity