"So, yeah, I don't think I did this right. I've Googled the image results on these and they're very different from what I'm looking at. Night and day over here."
This is the first time I would have killed for a picture along with the original recipe. I was making melomakarona, a Greek pastry that's supposedly much easier to make than it is to pronounce. I realized that something wasn't right when the cookies, though tasting amazing having been loaded with orange juice and cognac, didn't look right. They were like little shortbread coins, buttery and dense, but it seemed they wouldn't be able to hold much of the honey syrup they were to be soaked with without collapsing into mush.
The recipe came from a co-worker of mine, a Greek woman whose husband is a Greek chef (the god of barbecuing, in the Greek Pantheon). The recipe had been scribbled down for me, translated from Greek into English. It had never occurred to me that things could have been lost in translation. It was blind faith in the kitchen.
"It sounds like you overworked the dough. It should be really shaggy and kinda sticky," she said matteroffactly.
"Oookay. Yeah. I have a solid uniform ball of dough." The directions did not mention anything about overworking. Just that the flour should be slowly sifted in. "Alright, well, then they came out as little shortbread-like coins."
"Coins? That's way too small. They should be kinda cakey and maybe half the size of a twinkie."
I looked at the picture she had drawn me to illustrate the shape of the melomakarona. The were the length of my thumb and were to have ridges after being pressed against the side of a cheese grater. "Cake like? The size of twinkie? I went by your picture."
"The picture is the shape and look, not the size or texture," she replied.
"When are cookies cake-like?" I rebuffed.
"Madeleines. And melomakarona."
I sighed internally. God damn it. The instructions, once again, didn't make any note of this. "Ah well, they taste great this way. They're my fauxmelomakarona."
"That is a mouthful," she laughed.
"Yeah. Mouth full of cookies."
Shitshitshitshitshitshitshitshit! I was barely over the speed limit!
I was losing it. Passing police officers on the road when I've done nothing wrong puts me into a full blown panic attack; post-traumatic stress due to overeager cops looking for speeders in Kern County, California. ("Over 200,000 speeding tickets cited last year!" says a billboard along the freeway. These cops have nothing else to do in the middle of nowhere.) Being pulled over nearly causes me to stroke-out and throw-up when I see those epileptic lights flash behind my car.
I rolled down my window and met the officer's face. He was wearing shades like Eric Estrada did back in the show CHiPs, and had a moustache like Tom Selleck. If I weren't terrified and pulled along the side of the road I would have assumed he was going to bust out a boom box and rip his shirt off.
Instead, I got, "License and registration?" I handed them over meekly, far too scared to speak. "Did you know you were speeding?"
I forced my voice to rise, "No. I mean, maybe? I don't think so."
"You were going 45 in a 40," he said. I could see my license reflected in his shades. I probably looked much better in that photo than I did at that moment, and that's saying something.
"Isn't that, kinda, the safe buffer-zone?"
The city is beginning to crack down on that he explained, and that the limit is technically the limit. Stupid economy encouraging cops to ticket more for breaking the speeding buffer zone.
He poked his head down. "What's that over on the other seat?" I looked over to my right where a plate of freshly made baklava and the plate of fauxmelomakarona sat.
"Oh these? They're desserts for a potluck." I looked at him and paused. It was a pause where every possible consequence and scenario that could ever happen played out in my head. "Greek baklava and melomakarona; cookies with cognac and orange."
"Never heard of them," he said.
I looked at my reflection in his shdaes and tried to see past them to meet his eyes with mine. "They're quite good." Another pause.
"Yes. Would you like to try one?"
At this point it was a risky game. Two conversations. The one we were having about cookies, and the one we weren't having about me giving him cookies and not getting a ticket. Or, I hoped this was the case, and that I wasn't about to go to jail for bribing an officer of the law.
"Sure." I unwrapped the plate and handed him one. I thought of giving him two, but it felt too eager. He bit into it. I couldn't see his eyes and he didn't smile. His look, circa 1980, was impossible to read.
"Look," he said handing me my identification, "I'll give you a warning this time. You were only a few miles over and most people assume that's okay because for a long time it was. Don't go over anymore because the next guy won't give you a warning."
"Yes officer," I smiled.
And so I got out of a ticket with baked goods.