I spent yesterday evening baking a bright pink dessert at Betti’s house and exercising my abilities to laugh, love, and roll with the punches. It all started with Betti telling me she got a new recipe over Christmas and that that dessert was to be the next one we tackle when I go to her house. Both she and I love to bake so we were pretty excited to get back in the kitchen and make something that would, seemingly, be easier than our Christmas cookie baking experience, but our expectations were knocked down a few notches as we opened the bright pink, pear flavored extract to pour it into the dough mixture. When Betti opened the little bottle of extract she took one whiff and her eyes crossed…I was the next person to smell the extract and it was so strong that I started to cough. After smelling the incredibly potent extract, we were both a little lightheaded. Betti saw this experience as a teaching moment and taught me a new Hungarian word: ‘részeg’ [drunk]; who would have thought that one could get ‘drunk’ from smelling the pear extract for a dessert’s dough? Only in Hungary, haha!
The next adventure commenced when we put the first of the three sections of dough into the oven. While our beautiful pink dough was baking, an intense stench filled the kitchen. Now, I usually don’t have a sensitive sense of smell and I can typically handle intense scents, but this one was an entirely different kind of beast. I do not even know how to begin explaining it; all can I say is that it reeked. Mine and Betti’s faces crinkled up in disbelief over the smelly thing in the oven as we laughed and covered our noses with our shirts. Our giggles were relatively contained at this point, but we lost all control when Betti took out her phone to call her mom and ask if the dessert was indeed supposed to smell that bad! Between fits of laughter, she was able to ask the question only to be reassured by her mother that the dessert smells terrible while it is baking. When she hung up the phone, her expression turned to dread as she looked at the two remaining sections of dough and said that we have to repeat this experience twice more…oh boy.
With noses covered and positive thoughts, we began to make the cream filling; after all, what other things could be thrown our way? We were successful in creaming the butter and powdered sugar, but as we were stirring the vanilla pudding mix into the warm milk on the stovetop, Betti hit her forehead and said that she forgot to mix the pudding into a cup of cold milk before adding it to the warm milk. Let’s just say our first attempt at making pudding resulted in a runny, lumpy concoction that could in no way be classified as pudding—Bill Cosby would be sorely disappointed. Our second attempt at pudding went very well and we succeeded in making a lovely cream filling.
What was supposed to be an easy night of baking resulted in a very funny, very interesting, not-so-simple baking experience. Though nothing really turned out as we anticipated, we had a great time laughing at ourselves and the bumps we hit along the road to making a pretty pink and yellow dessert. In so many ways, my baking adventure with Betti sums up what I have often experienced over these past 4 months in Hungary. I have really learned how to laugh at myself and the situations in which I find myself because some of them, like a bright pink dessert stinking in the oven, are so bazaar that the only appropriate response is to cover my nose and laugh my head off. It is in these moments that I feel the most present and connected to the people around me, and therefore get an overwhelming sense of the love I have for the service I am doing here and the people who are with me along the way. The people who have quickly become my Hungarian family help me embrace the bazaar moments and roll with the punches by ever so warmly welcoming me into their lives and laughing with me through successes and bumps in the road, only to try once more for success. I have never been one to quit, but the ability to laugh at myself before I try again has been a fairly new development for me. Now I see the value and success in laughing at myself when things don’t quite turn out as anticipated; no matter what bumps I may face along the way, there will always be success.