Wednesday, 27 November 2013 13:41

Sometimes simplicity and common sense is best

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On Elsie’s first morning on Mayne Island, having woken late, she found Husband had already been up since, oh, 6 a.m. or so.

He was sitting in a chair in the living room. And he asked, when Elsie entered the kitchen, whether she knew how to work the espresso machine that came with the vacation home they were renting.
She imagined his three long hours of longing. Three hours of tamping, of frustration, trying to fiddle with the delicate parts. Three hours of low blood-caffeine levels.
“I’m really desperate,” Husband said.
“You couldn’t have used the Cuisinart (drip) machine, then?” she asked, pouring a stream of filtered water into the coffee maker’s inner workings and scooping level spoonfuls of grounds into the basket; prepared, as wives are want to be, to add another scoop if needed.
“Well, I’m not that desperate,” said Husband. And with that, Elsie dropped the lid, pressed the START button, and listened for the pleasing splurting and hissing sounds that followed.
“I don’t even know how to use our espresso machine at home,” Elsie said. “So how would I know how to use this one?” By now she was feeling more than a little bit of reverse sanctimony. After all, after 36 years married, all she required in the morning was a bowl of her 15-step porridge and a really good cup of ordinary coffee. Coffee dripped through grounds. Not espressed via a more-complicated-than-necessary process of pressure and steam.
A few minutes later, spooning up her porridge, as Elsie sipped her freshly-dripped coffee, she observed a plate that once held a square of banana cake, that now contained only a scattering of crumbs. Husband had eaten breakfast, on holiday, with no espresso. Which was, she had to admit, a little sad.
Being a kind-hearted wife, she said, “I’ll text
Maria (the daughter of the friends who owned the townhouse and, by extension, the espresso machine), and find out the instructions.”
Next thing she knew, Elsie’s cell phone was ringing. Randy: the only person on earth who knew the quirks and foibles of the machine which, by now, Elsie has begun to think was more eccentric than it really had any right to be.
Handing over her phone so Husband could be instructed directly, she thanked Randy, for the help, and for the getaway house.
Elsie sipped her coffee. She found a second square of banana cake. She couldn’t help overhearing the phone conversation.
“Yes. Yes. I’ve done that. It doesn’t seem to work.
If I take the filter out of the dispenser, it fits in nicely, but when I return the filter it won’t screw
into place.”
And so, as Husband tried this, Randy advised that, and as Husband tried that, Randy advised this.
Then, because one or the other or both of them were ready to erupt with the steam which the espresso maker would not, Randy gave up on his end, saying there was nothing else he could advise.
Dejected, Husband hung up the phone.
He sighed.
He sighed again.
The day, if not then entire trip, now seemed a little doomed.
And then it struck Elsie. Plain as the day is long, she said, “What if you simply removed some of the coffee? Perhaps you have over-packed the basket?”
“Hmm,” said Husband. And Elsie could almost see the gears in his head consider whether or not to take a non-espresso machine user’s advisement.
But he did.
And when he did, CLICK! the part fit perfectly and he did exclaim, “Well, will you look at that?”
Sour Cream Banana Cake

2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped chocolate

Sift together first five ingredients.
Whisk together buttermilk, mashed bananas and vanilla.
With a handheld mixer on medium-high, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Into this, beat half the flour mixture, followed by the banana mixture, and the last of the flour, until just combined. Fold in pecans and chocolate.
Transfer batter to a buttered and floured 8x8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350F for 55-60 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Set pan on a rack 10 minutes. Loosen sides with a knife, turn out, and cool completely.


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