On the bright side – and there is always a bright side, isn't there – my wife and I for around a minute laughed harder, together, than we have in quite a while. This wasn't just a couple of casual chuckles, either; this was eyes-welling-up-with-tears laughter.
You probably would have laughed hard, too, if you were standing in your kitchen, over the stovetop, staring down at a pan full of fresh mammoth scat.
It really wasn't the waste product of the long-extinct, gigantic mammal, however, even thought an Inuit hunter did find an almost perfectly preserved baby mammoth exposed in the Russian permafrost a couple years ago.
No, "Mammoth Scat" is the name I came up with for the dessert that my otherwise-talented baker wife concocted one recent evening. I've never come across a pile of mammoth feces, but I'm going to assume that thousands of years ago the landscape was littered with massive, steaming piles of brownish, multi-textured mammoth droppings.
A potluck had been scheduled. A staff member at the University of Minnesota Crookston was leaving, and a gathering had been scheduled and everyone was asked to bring something to eat. So my wife started leafing through her cupboard full of cookbooks and, when nothing in the many pages inspired her, she turned to the Internet. Considering how grand her intentions were when she started her search for something to bake, I must admit I had to smile when she finally settled on something known as "Easy Cookies."
Next thing I know, she's in full baking mode, and I can smell the unmistakable goodness of brown sugary and cinnamony ingredients emanating from the kitchen.
But, soon, it all went to hell.
Around 20 or so minutes later, in the living room, I asked my wife when the Easy Cookies would be finished baking. She strolled into the kitchen for a gander, and with a couple of choice words, I knew something had gone awry.
"170 degrees? Why is it baking at 170 degrees?" she wondered with an abundance of enthusiasm.
She had, somehow, preheated the oven to only 170 degrees instead of 350, 375, 400...or whatever the Easy Cookies recipe called for.
So, without removing the pan, she cranked up the oven. A half-hour or so later, after more un-family-values words were uttered, a glass pan bursting with some type of hot, brown food sat on our stove. A pan of cookies, it was not.
"These are Easy Cookies?" I said.
It was supposed to be, she said, but the batter wouldn't stick together when she was trying to form it into cookie globs, so she dumped it the glass pan instead. So, before going into the oven – at 170 degrees for a while and then a couple hundred degrees hotter for a while longer – Easy Cookies had become Easy Cake, or maybe Easy Bars is the better way to label my wife's creation.
Page 2 of 2 - Thinking on the fly, my wife dumped the hot mess onto a big cookie sheet, spread it out a bit, and declared that she'd buy vanilla ice cream and bring it to the potluck the next day and put the ice cream all over the top in order to cover up what had transformed into the Easy Monstrosity.
A moment later, she was off to Hugo's. A few moments later, she was back home with a bag that I could tell contained more than just some ice cream. Clearly, sometime during her errand, my wife had decided that the ice-cream-on-top-of-the-mystery-substance strategy wasn't going to cut it.
She slid a frosty, frozen box containing some type of pre-prepared treat across the counter. "Turtle Cheesecake," she said. Then, an epiphany: "I figured it out," she added. "I forgot to add the flour."
So it wasn't just the oven temperature fiasco, my wife had also failed to add what may have been the most important ingredient to what in a more perfect world would have no doubt been some tasty Easy Cookies.
She had purchased ice cream, too. Without a word, she went out the back porch door and returned a moment later. Barely a minute later, some of our sons' friends were filing in through the kitchen door, and there my wife stood, dishing up ice cream in bowls, topped by flour-less, slow-baked Tasty Cookies that I had dubbed "Mammoth Scat."
I ate some, too. The next evening, I had a little more. It was the best ice-cream topping this side of a jar of caramel sauce.
It was, simply, the most unexpected culinary delight of my life, or, at least since the first time, as a little boy, I bit into a Brown Sugar Cinnamon-flavored Pop Tart.