Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cream Puffs and Inspiration

Every once in a while I get lonely for some of my favorite books from childhood, and I stop by the children's section in the library and look them up and pay one or two a visit. I don't usually check them out, as I'm already too ambitious as it is, checking out three of four novels when it's clear I can usually only finish two in the two weeks our library allows. But a couple weeks ago, I checked out Ginnie and the Cooking Contest, by Catherine Wooley. My favorite book featuring Ginnie is Ginnie and the New Friend, which I could have sworn was titled "Ginnie and Geneva," but my memory was wrong. How I loved that book, and how I wanted to be friends with both Ginnie and Geneva! (This one wasn't at the library, though.) It made me happy to revisit the book for the first time in over twenty years, and Lily was quite intrigued by it too, and kept picking it up and leafing through for the illustrations. I think she was a little puzzled by her mom reading a book about a little eleven-year-old girl, a book that's written for eleven-year-old girls, and was therefore obviously a wrong choice for either one of us.

Ginnie and the Cooking Contest
has a pretty basic plot, in which our heroine is bored with the winter weather, plops down on the couch with the evening paper, and discovers a cooking contest for local girls, with the grand-prize being a trip to Washington D.C. Just to make things interesting, there's also a subplot about Ginnie and her friends trying to raise money so that the community center can build an indoor pool.

There must have been other factors that brought me to it, but I credit this book with a lot of my early inspiration for going into the kitchen and trying to learn how to bake. Throughout a good half of the book, Ginnie is fairly obsessive about thumbing through recipe cards and cookbooks trying to find the recipe that'll win her the grand prize. I can't help but figure that my eight or nine-year-old eyes must have glazed over a bit at all the talk of cheese souffles and almond pastes, because I know I wouldn't have had the slightest idea of how those things tasted, and probably no interest in finding out. Early on, Ginnie is convinced she can win the prize with her recipe for cream puffs, which are a big hit with the neighbor boy. I don't know just what it was about those cream puffs that caught my fancy, but I have a very vivid memory of sitting on my grandmother's couch and thumbing through one of her cookbooks and finding the recipe for cream puffs and thinking they sounded pretty easy to make. (Evidently they are pretty easy, which is why Ginnie doesn't choose them for the contest.) What I also remember pretty vividly, is that for a while after reading the book, I became fairly obsessed myself with the notion of learning how to bake. I remember asking permission to make those cream puffs, yet I never did (and haven't still to this day). I also remember going into the B. Dalton bookstore at the Stonewood Mall in Downey and heading toward the back, because that's where the kids section was, and finding a couple of children's cookbooks. I remember that they were on a bottom shelf, and I had to crouch down to get to reach them. I remember asking for one, and then asking for one again at Christmas, and not receving it after all. I don't remember what happened to that early interest in baking. I think I must have forgotten about it for awhile, and then in high school, I did start to bake a little here and there, until somewhere along on the line, I got good enough to tell people that I love to bake, which I do, but not that well, still, and not very often. (Though I'm working on changing this, recently.)

My point isn't to sound pathetic because my mean old parents didn't take me seriously and indulge my early Betty Crocker tendencies. My point is that it's another piece in the puzzle that is parenting, and how I can't help but compare my childhood with Lily's. Because I know that if either Lily or Tucker, at eight or nine years old, or even a little earlier, were to have a sudden, overwhelming interest in baking, I'd hop us both into the car and down to the bookstore and we'd pick out a kid's cookbook together and come home and bake us some cookies, dammit. I'm just that kind of parent, all too eager and trigger happy to find out what my children's interests will be and encourage them with so much rah-rah enthusiasm that they'll probably lose their initial interest altogether. Damn, it's so hard to ride that fine line of encouragement vs. forcing-the-issue. With Tucker, it's still a little too early to tell, but one thing I am proud of learning about Lily's temperment so far is that I need to back off -- way, way off, all the way down there to the end zone, and just let her do things her way, in her own time. And for me, that's the hard part.

Anyway. In the end, Ginnie doesn't win the grand prize (sorry for the spoiler), but she does win a special prize created just for her, to honor the patience, care and effort it took to create the "down home goodness" of her homemade bread. Funny how twenty-plus years later, I'm still inspired my Ginnie, because while I don't have plans to make cream puffs anytime soon, I suddenly have a very, very strong urge to try and bake up some homemade bread -- like Ginnie's, it'll be the real kind, with yeast and everything. Maybe Monday will be the day? It's World Bread Day, I hear, and wouldn't I feel like such the blogger, taking part in this event.


Blogger Domestic Chicky said...

Sounds just like the kind of book I would have loved as a girl. I am putting it on my library list right now. Welcome to blogging! I've been in the neighborhood since February(lol), but had a tragic beta blogger accident and had to start over last month(sigh). You have 2 beautiful kids, and I can't wait to read more!

1:53 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Golly! The first ever comment on my blog, and such a nice one, too. Thank you very much, Domestic Chicky.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Domestic Chicky said...

Yay! I'm so glad! AND it turns out we're kinda neighbors! I live in Yucaipa-about 45m away. I'll be back-I love your living room personally, although I DO covet the pretty houses of those amazing crafty ladies!

12:49 AM  
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12:59 PM  
Anonymous Becky said...

I agree. A heavy-handed approach to "inspire" kids often backfires. But then . . .
I was watching the documentary "Ballet Russes" last night and one of the principal dancers was pretty much cajoled by her mom to take up ballet lessons. She said, "One did not contradict Mother." She hated to dance and would rather be outside climbing trees. But somehow, over the years, she began to appreciate ballet and developed an ambition to become a great dancer. What the hay?

1:05 PM  
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1:06 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Ugh, my first comment, shortly followed by my first blogger spam. :(
Domestic Chicky, I know Yucaipa...portal to Oak Glen, site of years of family autumn daytrips!

1:17 PM  
Blogger Domestic Chicky said...

I live right near that Stater Bros, on the way up. Actually, my husband is making pies for a friend of his families for apple season this year (at Law's). I had no idea he could bake!

5:57 PM  

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