Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “short.” Use it any way you’d like. Enjoy!

Yes, yes, it is Friday, not Saturday. And this is a stream of consciousness, but there was a method to it this time. When I read the prompt I thought of shortening, as in Crisco or lard or butter. Then I wondered, Why is it called shortening? I Googled it, and there were several articles that said about the same one as this. Then I decided to write about something with shortening, and I wrote the following short (!!!) story in one session, with no editing, as a good stream of consciousness should be. And if you want the real recipe, here it is.

She stood on tiptoe, so she could reach the cabinet shelf that held the seldom used, but precious, heavy mold. Working it off the shelf, she gently lowered it to the counter where she admired it, as she did each time she brought it to life from its dark resting place. The heavy ceramic was dull beige, with two flattened flanges for handles. It was octagonal, and shallow, with relief patterns of thistles in each eighth partition. It had been her grandmother Fiona’s, and somehow the baking dish had survived numerous children, homes, chefs and ovens. It was clean, but she gave it a good wipe with a cloth, and she set it aside to begin the preparation.

Into the bowl of her beloved KitchenAid, she placed eight ounces of the rich, sweet, organic butter that she had just purchased from the farmers’ market at Brookfield. The only butter she’d ever had that was better was when she and J. Warren had traveled so happily through Ireland. She paused and stared at nothing for a moment as her mind wandered to those days. She turned the mixer to medium, and watched as the butter smoothed. Slowly she added the sugar and salt, then waited while the simple ingredients transformed into something almost fluffy. When it was nearly ready, she added a full tablespoon of their favorite Irish whiskey. She wasn’t sure if it was a tablespoon, she just guessed that it was close, as she poured it in. Smiling, she raised the bottle and drank another “tablespoon” for good measure.

She had already measured out the flour, and placed it on a paper plate, and slowly sifted the flour into the bowl while the mixer was running. Besides the whiskey, she also used a few ounces of rice flour, something Grandma Fiona would never had done. Fi would have drunk the whiskey, though, of that she had no doubt.

Once combined, she wrapped the dough, and let it sit in the refrigerator for almost an hour. In the meantime, she cleaned up, poured some more whiskey in a glass, turned on the oven and lightly sprayed the mold with vegetable oil spray — something else Fi wouldn’t have used. But I think you’d approve, Grandma, I really do, she thought to herself. With the whiskey warming her, she turned on the radio and did something that might resemble a dance around the kitchen.

When the oven was ready to go, she retrieved the cold dough. Quickly, so the warmth of her hands wouldn’t soften the butter, she patted the dough into the mold. She took a fork and made pretty stab patterns across the back, so the dough wouldn’t puff in the oven. Into the oven it slid, the door shutting with a firm thud.

She checked it half-way through the thirty five minutes of baking. One little area was starting to puff, so she pressed it down with a spatula, “Oh no you don’t, dearie. You have to be perfect.” Right on time it was golden brown. With mitted hands she grasped the ceramic handles and whisked the dish out of the oven and sat it on a wire rack to cool.

This next was always the scary part. She deftly slipped a knife around the edges. Using the handles again, she tapped the bottom of the pan against the countertop, keeping it flat. Then, she placed a flat baking sheet over the mold, held the two together, held her breath while also saying a short prayer, and flipped the mold and the sheet over. Her hand didn’t feel the confection drop. She continued to hold her breath, and about the time she wished she hadn’t had that last little sip of whiskey, she felt the pressure of the mold’s contents dropping onto the sheet. Did it come out in one piece?

It did! Success. Just one more tricky part, cutting the disc into eighths along the marking lines left by the mold. That, too, worked as it should.

With that, she left the baked good to cool some more. She made a carafe of fresh coffee, and while that was brewing, she changed into a nice spring dress. The turquoise floral pattern set off her still creamy skin and her gray-green eyes. She applied some light makeup and decided that she was fit to be seen. Not quite the pretty young thing of the decades of travel, but not bad for an old broad. She stuck her tongue out at herself for that.

She put the coffee into a thermos, but first added some of the whiskey. She wrapped up the dessert, each triangle in a pretty paper she had for just that purpose. Everything went into a small hamper basket, with cloth napkins.

She headed outside, basket in one hand, purse slung over the other arm. Walking a few blocks to Main to catch the cross-town bus took little time. The bus was near empty, but she still sat with the basket protectively on her lap. The smells from the basket were wonderful. It probably wasn’t terribly fair to her fellow passengers, but… she didn’t really care. She smiled to herself.

It was a lovely early spring morning. It was sunny, with a slight breeze. She was comfortable with just a cardigan for a wrap. She watched approvingly as the town moved passed her. It was starting to look almost habitable again, after the long winter. It didn’t take long to get across the small town, even with several stops to pick up and let go of passengers. Soon it was her turn to leave. She thanked the driver and stepped out into the sunlight again.

Little puffs of cool air brushed her cheeks, swirled her skirt, and skittered a few old brown leaves across her path. The trees were still bare, but hinted at great greenery just waiting to burst out. In about a week, she thought, we’ll have leaves. She quickened her steps. She was really looking forward to sharing her handiwork with him. It had been too long since they had last met, the cold of winter, among other things, keeping them apart. Well, he’d be well pleased with what she brought. She had learned years ago this was one of his favorites, especially the way she made it.

The old white Gothic revival church came into view. Its stark black trim outlining its form against the clear blue sky. She walked a little past and then turned off the main sidewalk to a little side path, and unlatched the wrought iron gate. She turned to fasten it back shut. She walked about thirty yards, on a diagonal, until she came to the stone she was looking for. She brushed some fallen twigs off the carving, and tsked. “Well aren’t you a sight,” she asked. “I brought your favorite, just the way you like it… and the shortbread, too.” She laughed at their little joke, broke open the basket, opened the Thermos and poured him a little of the spiked coffee. “I think Grandma Fiona’s plate made another great batch. Let’s try it, while we catch up.”

A passing school child, on the way home, thought the graveyard was a strange place for that lady to be having a picnic.

11 Comments

  1. This was extremely well written! I seriously was hanging on every word, waiting to see how the bread came out and who she was bringing it to! I’m more of a non-fiction girl on here, but this drew me in:)

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    1. Thanks! The comments on this are interesting. I used to draw, and this story is a bit like the “don’t lift your pencil from the paper once you start drawing” exercises we used to do.

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  2. Lovely story! I was thinking of shortening too. So I do not think it is odd. My mother used to make pie crust from scratch and she know how to tell if the proportions of ingredients were right by the feel.

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    1. Wow, that’s some pretty experienced crust making! It makes sense though, because flour varies by humidity, so the amount of measured flour that works one day wouldn’t work the next. Feel would be better. I’ve never made enough crusts to get to that level of expertise!

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      1. Me either. I once stayed up all night trying to make a pie crust and mother came over and wipped it together in a few minutes. Her pie crust was always light and flakey. She told me you can not handle the dough too much because it will become stiff. 🙂

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    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it enough to comment. Ain’t it just odd the way the brain works? “Short” and I come up with butter! 🙂 (I also came up with “hit” when the prompt was “sock” ages ago, so there’s that.)

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