This Thanksgiving season started like most do, with a flurry of emails amongst women dividing up the cooking responsibilities. This year I got away pretty easy. I only had two tasks; pick up a Honeybaked Ham and bring my Praline Caramel Cheesecake. I felt guilty and yet gleeful knowing that I had not been saddled with cooking a turkey, or bringing the sweet potato casserole.
The Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving I called my local Honeybaked Ham store and asked if I needed to pre-order the ham or if I could just “run-by” the store and pick one up. The store clerk sounded casual and relaxed as he said; “Oh, you can just come by the store we have plenty of hams here”. Well, that just sounded too perfect. I put Lucy and Max (my two toddler children) in the back of my mini-van and off we went to go pick-up a ham. It never once occurred to me that other people might also like to eat ham on Thanksgiving and that most likely many of them were also planning on going to the store to purchase one. As we pulled into the parking lot I realized that there were a lot of cars – an unusual amount of traffic – and then I saw it. The line. A line that stretched from the meager Honeybaked Ham storefront all the way around the entire strip mall and towards the back. Hundreds of people all waiting for a tasty morsel of Honeybaked ham. Instantly, without hesitating, I made the decision that we would NOT be having ham for Thanksgiving.
Although my Thanksgiving day preparations suffered an initial set back I wasn’t concerned. I had made my Praline Caramel Cheesecake several times and it always looked and tasted beautifully. Besides the family was still planning on turkey and the ham was just an “extra”. The cheesecake – my beautiful cheesecake – would be my stunning contribution to the meal.
I returned home and carefully prepared my cheesecake. When I finished it, it was a thing of beauty. Recipes rarely, if ever, turn out like they appear in cookbooks but this cheesecake did. It could have been featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine. I was so proud of my crowning culinary achievement that I took a picture.
My heart filled with pride. Look at this glorious thing I’ve created. I carefully and meticulously placed it in the refrigerator. The next morning I rushed to the refrigerator to check on my prized cheesecake. What I discovered would be the beginning of this most tragic tale. I did not realize the night before that when I put the cake in the refrigerator it was not level and when I checked on the cake in the morning some of the caramel had spilled over a small section of the edge. It was no longer perfect. My creation had a flaw. I was disappointed. However, it still looked beautiful it just had more of a “homemade” look to it now and that was okay. I carefully packed the cake for travel and we put it in the car.
Three hours later we arrived at the family lake house in Winnsboro Texas. I was eager to bring my cake into the house to show off my stunning accomplishment. After bragging that my cheesecake was a sight to behold I unveiled the glorious item. I’m not sure words alone can describe the horror that was before me. All of the caramel and the pecans had completely slid off the cake and had pooled inside of the cake carrier. I was stunned, shocked, speechless. My aunts, recognizing that I had gone into a culinary shock quickly stepped in to rescue my creation. They reassured me repeatedly that “nobody would know”, that we could “repair the damage”, it was still “lovely”. We scooped all the caramel and the pecans into a bowl, reheated it and reapplied the topping to the cheesecake. It now no longer resembled the glorious item that had first come out of the oven – it didn’t look anything like the picture in the cookbook. It was a normal, homemade cheesecake. God had fully humbled me. There was nothing left to be proud of – I had made a cheesecake.
Had the story ended there it would be sad, but far from being tragic. It would be just another funny story of a culinary mishap. But the story doesn’t end there.
My cheesecake had yet to make it’s final journey from the lake house to the farmhouse, which was only 2 miles away. I picked up my son and my husband grabbed the cheesecake. We took two steps out of the lake house front door when I heard behind me a crash and my husband exclaim; “OH!”. I spun around and there it was — on the ground. My cheesecake had suffered the final blow, it was upside down on the sidewalk. I felt warm tears pool behind my eyes as my husband deftly and gently picked up the cheesecake put it back on the plate and said; “Oh sweetheart, I am SO SORRY. You know, I don’t think you can tell. It looks okay – let’s serve it. We’ll tell everybody the truth after they eat it.” He paused, looking into my eyes to see how I was handling this painful attack on my ego. And from deep within I started to laugh. It was, after all funny – he had dropped my cheesecake. My cheesecake that within a matter of 36 hours had gone from glorious culinary perfection to being upside down on the sidewalk.
We took the cheesecake to Thanksgiving day dinner. We served the cheesecake. It tasted great. Everybody loved it. And as we all sat back from the table with full bellies and warm hearts I confessed my sin.