Can you tell by looking at someone that they like to lick the beaters? Chocolate beaters were my faves. As a kid I could get my tongue up under and in between the beater bars until there wasn’t a drop of cake batter or whipped cream left. Gosh, Mom didn’t even have to wash those beaters, they were so clean. As I got older this childish habit became more sophisticated. I advanced to serving spoon and fork licker, too. I know. Shameful. But for the most part I kept – and keep – it from the eyes of others.
When our kids were little we lived in New Jersey for almost five years before we returned to New York. They were pretty happy years and the genesis of many of my cooking and baking triumphs and disasters. One of the triumphs was wild rice casserole. We’d made an adventurous journey to the land of my birth one summer and returned home from Minnesota brimming with legend and lore about this native grain. At one of the huge picnics my relatives held I first tasted the wild rice casserole.
If you have never had real, Indian gathered, wild rice from the soggy plains of Northern Minnesota, you’ve really missed something. The dark grain (a grass seed really) needs to be soaked and then cooked for an hour or more before the hard outer shell bursts and its rich nutty flavor is exposed. Grandma Blaine told me when she was a girl there was usually a pot of it on the back of the stove and she and her brother, Ralph, used to eat it with sugar and cream for breakfast.
I brought it home with me from that vacation. I’d learned how to put just the right amount of sausage and spices into the dish. And YES there was cream of mushroom soup in there,too. The hallmark of many a Lutheran ladies casserole made famous by the likes of Garrison Keillor. Too bad. The soup and everything else that went into that dish made for excellent eating.
And my family thought so, too. But after dinner they scurried off to various parts of the house and yard. Our dog, Boots, zipped out the door to play with the kids and I got to clean up the kitchen. Okay by me. I picked up plates, cups, dirty napkins - the whole big mess. Then I spotted the casserole encrusted fork. Nobody was looking.
Wow, a special treat for Sue. I snapped it up and put it into my mouth ready to savor the crusty bits of sausage and dark rice clinging to the tines. But something wasn’t right. As I rolled my tongue I thought how different the stuff on the fork tasted from the casserole we’d had for supper. I pulled the fork out of my mouth and turned to the sink where I saw . . .
The empty Alpo can sitting on the edge of the counter.
My mind refused to contemplate what I must have just done and my whole self stood frozen in time for about ten seconds. I gave thoughtful pause to what was in my mouth and sure enough – it wasn’t the yummy wild rice casserole. No siree, Bob. I’d just dragged a forkful of dog food through my teeth.
P-toohey!! Get it out, get it out! Paper towel, glass of water, fingernail scraping – I couldn’t rid my mouth of it fast enough. I’d suddenly developed an enormous empathy for the dogs of the world, too. NO wonder Boots loved table scraps!
When at last I’d cleaned my mouth, I resumed cleaning the kitchen, shivering every once in a while and wondering if this was enough to make me give up the beater/spoon/fork licker habit.
Probably not. My mac and cheese is just too good to leave on the spoon and my lemon cake batter - well, just forget about it. I only hope you can’t tell by looking at me that I can’t hold my licker.
Image: bigjom Free Digital Photos