It’s mid morning but already the sun is beating down on their heads and freckling their little noses. They are barefoot and sitting cross-legged in the sandbox, intent on their latest recipe creation, trying to get it exactly right.
Lara is seven, dark-haired, serious and focussed. Ainslee is five, and no less intense at the moment, although her attention will waiver shortly to the hot sand between her toes, to how her blonde curls itch and cling to the back of her perspiring neck, or the great amount of grit she’s managed to collect under her fingernails, or the fact that her clothes are sticking to her hot skin and begging to be removed. Anything really can distract her, so Lara tries to keep talking.
“Place the ingredients in your blue bowl and mix everything thoroughly. Our bowl is shaped like a sand bucket so that it holds a lot of batter. An egg beater would be good to use, but a big old wooden stick is okay too. If it gets hard to stir you can stop and rest, but it’s best to keep going or you won’t get it finished in time for supper. Now this needs something to stick it all together. Water, and a squish of cucumber juice with lots of seeds, and what do you think? One egg or two?”
“One BIG one”, Ainslee decides (because one is all they dared to snitch and thus all they have) and she cracks it open into the pail, bits of shell and all, and watches while Lara stirs it into a satisfying yellow slime. She dutifully adds chunks of green beans, tops of carrots, bits of green leafy lettuce and some colorful petals as Lara instructs her. They are on tv, and she is the helpful assistant. They are making the best cake ever.
Earlier they had furtively raided the hen-house, a flower bed, and finally the garden, taking turns being on the look-out for grandma since she frowned mightily on raiding activity of any sort. They had also gathered a few raspberries for garnish, but those are long gone except for the faint red stains on Ainslee’s chin. Mom never pays much attention to what they’re doing as long as they’re not fighting and they promise to keep the sand clean. Whatever that entails they can’t imagine. They both agree that grandma should be on Dragnet. The police could probably get a lot of information out of her with her eyes in the back of her head and all.
“Anything else?” Lara asks her helpful assistant. She sincerely hopes not, because her arm is starting to ache. Her sister looks around to see what they’ve missed and sprinkles some blades of grass and a few pebbles into the mix. All the evidence of their secretive collecting appears to now be safely enveloped into the sandy mix. As they’re finally turning their lumpy composition on to the baking pan (a long flat board which must be maneuvered very carefully to avoid splinters and slivers) Ainslee suddenly remembers a key ingredient.
“A pinch of garlic!” she screams. “We almost forgot!” It’s by far her favourite part of the cooking process, the last but most important component of any successful dish. Her favourite part of the cooking show. If it’s not part of the recipe she is always sorely disappointed. She pinches her finger and thumb in the dry sand and waves her hand over their divine creation and pronounces it perfect.
They admire the sodden mess for a minute, carefully tilting it away from them so that the camera can get a better shot for all the folks at home.
“Ladies and gentlemen”, Lara announces, “the Best Cake Ever!”
“Gentlemen don’t even watch this show”, Ainslee informs her as she pulls her shirt up over her head and tosses it into the grass.
“Hey! Assistants don’t take their clothes off on tv!” Lara exclaims.
“I’m not playing anymore”, Ainslee tells her. “And I’m too hot. I’m going to stick my feet in the frog pond.”
She walks away as Lara smiles and apologizes to her viewers for her assistant’s crazy behaviour.
“See you tomorrow!” she tells them gaily with a royal wave. And then she leaves the set as well, and runs off to join her sister.