Twenty years ago, my mother set sail forever on her great Alaskan cruise. This was not a fantasy getaway or anything; instead, it was just her typical weekend sojourn in the kitchen, attempting to conquer whatever-it-was she’d seen that week on the cooking channel. Most of the time, this really worked out to my advantage. However, not many weeks have escaped us since The Great Baked Alaska Tragedy in which Mom hasn’t smuggled the incident into casual conversation.
“…and so I convinced The Bell to order her sandwich on wheat bread after that. Why do kids like white so much anyway?”
“Kristan, that reminds me. There’s fresh Amish Friendship Bread on the counter. Grab a piece, but stick it back into the oven when you’re done so it’ll keep at the right temperature. We wouldn’t want another Baked Alaska incident.”
No, we wouldn’t — not that it would matter, though. I mean, Mom couldn’t possibly get more mileage out of What Happened even if it’d happened twice. (I think.)
On that fateful afternoon, two decades ago, Mom completed her Baked Alaskan project. For those of you who haven’t been fully briefed on fad dessert trends from a million years ago, BA is really just a giant blob of ice cream covered in whipped something-or-another and then briefly thrown into an oven. It’s supposed to resemble an ice berg, but looks more like a gallon of delicious Blue Bell trapped in a hardened, sugary prison. Something along those lines. Anyway, when Mom was finished, she arranged her masterpiece on a set table and painstakingly took a candlelit portrait. I’m serious. Then, after stuffing the dessert into the freezer for safe keeping, Mom waited for her dinner guests.
That’s when I arrived with my best friend, who not only sampled the dessert, but also left it out…
At the time, I felt awful about it, and, man, Mom was rightfully pissed off. I slinked away for the rest of that weekend in order to avoid The Wrath of Mom.
Today I retrieved the cranberry salad from Mom’s fridge as we all crowded around the holiday table. When I closed the door, I cracked up because stuck behind a magnetized framed, there was the portrait Mom took of her beloved Baked Alaska — from the late eighties, during the last breath of the Reagan admin, just months before the Berlin Wall was torn down, when George Michael and Elton John had yet to officially leap out of the closet. There were a few recipes tacked to the door with various magnets, a drawing Isobel did a while back, and that photo of the baked sore spot. Point: Mom was NEVER gonna let the Alaskan thing go.
“Did you find the salad?”
“Well, close the door all the way and MAKE SURE IT’S SHUT. We don’t need another Baked Alaska moment on Christmas.”
Or New Year’s…
Or next Wednesday.
And yet, the teeth-grinding, fist-clenching, eye-squinting Mom-isms would be missed if they were suddenly gone.