Yesterday, an accomplished but occasionally melancholic friend of Spouse’s had a birthday (the same guy who’d never boiled spaghetti (or any other kind of) noodles before). I decided to bake him a cake and Spouse bought him a bottle of wine, even though at the moment he’s not drinking any alcohol, not even beer, which Germans often don’t count as drinking alcohol. Spouse’s friend’s family used to run a locally famous cake and pastry bakery/cafe, so the pressure is always a bit high (even though the man needed instructions for boiling pasta). So far, I’ve earned praise for brownies (they’ve never had proper ones here, so it’s easy to wow them with a run of the mill brownie), a plain chocolate loaf with glazed icing, and some other simple cake I made last summer but have long forgotten about. He always says it like he knows a thing or two about cakes (he does seem to eat them non-stop, despite the fact that he is in the tippest top shape, mentally and physically, of any 79 year old you have ever met) and like, as a woman, I have nothing else to live for but praise for my baking.
(So, yes, he’s a great guy, but he makes me want to chew nails sometimes, because he’s my nemesis without knowing it or meaning to be so.)
Anyway, this cake was a catastrophe that only became apparent at his house, when I attempted to release it from the springform pan. Which is exactly what I deserved for making a cake from a recipe my MIL gave me more than ten years ago and I maybe made once before (also about ten years ago). MIL’s recipes are always missing half of the information… such as several of the ingredients, the quantities you are supposed to use, and while they contain helpful tips like bake in an oven, the time and temperature is generally missing. Generally, I manage to fill in the blanks correctly, but this time I botched it.
But, having braved catching the coronavirus to wish him a happy birthday (and, unlike his friend from town who arrived as we left, we did not phone the police first to ask if it was allowed (it was)), we sat in his backyard and shoveled into the mess. The birthday boy did bot seem to mind that the cake base under the cherries and baked vanilla pudding was not solid (the missing information, in addition to the amount of butter, flour, and sugar to use, was that the base should have been baked separately first at some temperature for some length of time before putting the pudding mixed with whipped egg whites on top and baking the ensemble for 1 hour at 212F) (which I should have known, but the recipe for the base was so odd and it was wafer thin to begin with, I didn’t think it could withstand double baking without turning to stone). I guess he was just being a good sport because he thought my womanhood might collapse into hysterics under the trauma of having baked a bad cake.
As we were sitting there spooning the cake in our pie holes, trying to ignore the general smell of the liquid cow and pig shit they’re spraying onto the fields right now (the field backing onto his backyard was so thick with it, it was glistening), the farmer came by with a whole new tanker full and started spraying. Which is not the usual protocol. By us, the spray by night and generally use an array of tubes that spray the muck directly down onto the ground. This was more like a firehose of liquid shit. We had to rapidly decamp for points inside, the smell was so overwhelming. (I had to wash all my clothes, too, including my jacket, because they soaked up the smell and would not let it go.)
Turns out the farmer was doing it on purpose because he hates the people who live the the row of houses along the edge of the field. He’d wanted to turn it into a parking lot (it’s 100 meters from the beach) and they’d blocked that. So now he farms as antisocially as possible. Including over-applying liquid pig shit on warm sunny days when people are sitting in their backyards trying to celebrate their 79th birthdays in the middle of a pandemic.
A few hour later, as I was coming home from a walk I took because I felt super ill after eating the cake (I’m allergic to wheat and have some serious problems with milk (a casein intolerance???), I stood aside to let a tractor pass me. And this farmer, who is far from anti-social, gave me a big smile and wave and I realized it was our neighbor, Ute, the one who raises cows. And I thought, maybe I have arrived here finally, really. Not only have local farmers sprayed pig shit at me, there’s one who sees me and smiles and waves.