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Baking lesson really pans out

I never thought baking was a piece of cake, mainly because I'm half-baked. But I recently learned that I could have my cake and eat it, too, after getting a baking lesson from my grandson.

Xavier, who will be 3 in March, is hot stuff when it comes to the culinary arts. I, on the other hand, which should have sported a pot-holder, have always believed that if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Contrary to this brilliant advice, which has prevented me from burning the house down, I got into the kitchen to watch Xavier help his daddy, Dave, prepare a fish dinner. He also helped make pizza. But the piece de resistance, a French phrase meaning "resist a piece of anything I have made," was the cake Xavier baked with my wife, Sue, without whom I would have starved to death long ago.

While Xavier never got close to a hot stove and didn't have access to sharp implements, he did climb up on his step stool to help wash or mix ingredients for various dishes and pour them into pots, pans and bowls in the preparation of everything from entrees to desserts.

"If I'm in the kitchen, Xavier has to be there, too," said Dave, adding that his father, Bob, is a great guy but not exactly a culinary artist.

My late father, the original Jerry Zezima, was also a great guy and made the world's best salad, but he couldn't match the cooking skills of my mother, Rosina, a kitchen magician who should have her own Food Network show, or my sisters, Susan (who recently showed me how to make chicken that could wow anyone except, of course, a chicken) and Elizabeth (who once had to show me how to make a grilled cheese sandwich).

My one culinary triumph came about 20 years ago, when I was first runner-up in the pasta sauce division of the Newman's Own and Good Housekeeping Recipe Contest for a dish I called Zezima's Zesty Ziti Zinger. Paul Newman himself polished off a bowl of the stuff and raved about it. That the legendary actor is, at the present time, deceased is purely coincidental.

Because my next-best creation is microwave popcorn, I was in awe of Xavier's budding talent.

Among his toys is the Melissa & Doug Prepare & Serve Pasta Set, which I should borrow for another batch of ziti. But his favorite is the Melissa & Doug Baking Play Set, which includes a baking tin, measuring cups, a whisk, a spatula, a rolling pin and an oven mitt, which he wore when he and Sue baked a cake.

The ingredients were Betty Crocker Super Moist Rainbow Chip Cake Mix and Pillsbury Confetti Funfetti Vanilla Flavored Frosting.

As I watched, Xavier handed Sue two eggs, which he wouldn't break.

"If you did," I told him, "the yolk would be on you."

"Can't you find something else to do?" Sue asked.

"Not at the moment," I answered as Xavier stood on his step stool next to a bowl on the counter and poured milk over the eggs and cake mix. Then he used a spatula to create a creamy batter.

"Batter up!" I exclaimed.

Xavier smiled. Sue didn't.

They both poured the mixture into a pan, which Sue placed in the oven. When the cake was done, Xavier spread on the frosting, which he topped with rainbow sprinkles.

The cake was a masterpiece. And it tasted even better than it looked.

"This is delicious, Xavier!" I said, licking sprinkles out of my mustache.

The little boy beamed.

"I hope you learned something," Sue said to me.

"I did," I replied. "Getting a baking lesson from our grandson was the icing on the cake."

-Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes his hometown paper, theStamford Advocate. His column is distributed by Tribune News Service of Chicago and has run in newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of four books,Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestandNini and Poppie's Excellent Adventures, all of which are "crimes against literature." He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.


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