By Jenny Kalahar
Roscoe is a small fellow who lives in the basement of the abandoned bread bakery on the west side of town. He’s a brown-flecked, well-rounded, smooth-furred rat who has collected, among many other things (being somewhat of a packrat), a large selection of cookbooks.
During his nocturnal travels, he’s sniffed out and found the discarded tomes boxed in alleys for the trash collector, left on park benches, at enclosed bus stops, beside dumpsters, and beneath trees by the pond’s edge. They are both hardcovers and softbounds, old and newer, and of every size that Roscoe could manage to drag home by his four front teeth.
I know Roscoe fairly well. We’ve shared recipes and baked goods. He’s really not a bad culinary crafter. I’ve helped him carry home books from time to time when he’s found one or more that were too big for him to manage, and he’s rewarded me with whatever concoction he’s created that day or the one before.
I once rented a certain animated movie about a rat chef and asked him over to watch it with me, Patrick and my dog, Weegee. We had popcorn and kibble (Roscoe loved both) and made an evening of it. And ever since that night, Roscoe has been working on writing his very own cookbook. He’s going to title it, Roscoe’s Recipes of Toothsome Delight. But don’t hold him to that, he said. He’s probably going to come up with something a bit shorter and more to the point.
I asked him if he would write down the recipe for one of my favorites so that I can share it with my human readers. He agreed on the spot, but then twitched his nose and whiskers in worry.
“I suppose that means they’ll want a human-sized quantity of my shortcake and not just the amount of it that I usually bake up,” Roscoe realized. “And I suppose they’ll be baking it in a real oven, too, and not just atop a bare utility light bulb.”
“Probably,” I said. “Can you convert the amounts so that it still comes out tasting as delicious as it does in a rat-sized cake?”
He wiped the back of one of his paws against his forehead as though thinking this problem through. After a minute he nodded quickly, his eyes flashing with intelligence, and then he was off for home.
He returned yesterday with a penciled recipe on a three-by-five card that he’d folded quite a few times and then carried in his mouth. I removed it gingerly and then opened it to find this was what he had written:
20 stomach-aid medicine caps of flour (2 cups)
3 teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt that comes in a round blue box with a girl on the front of it (not that stuff they put out to melt ice)
6 ½ medicine caps of my favorite ingredient (sugar) (1/3 cup)
40 pawsful of margarine or butter (4 tablespoons)
1 regular chicken egg, still in the shell and not rotten or anything
13 medicine caps of cow squeezings (milk) (2/3 cup)
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and my favorite ingredient (sugar).
Cut in the margarine or butter. Add the chicken egg (make sure it is not rotten—you’ll be able to tell when you crack it open). Add cow squeezings (milk). Mix it until it looks pretty well mixed in your bowl.
Pour this into a shallow, greased pan that is not too big or too little (9 inches, round)
Bake 20 minutes in a medium temperature in your human-sized oven. (350 degrees)
Use some sort of mitt or towel after it has baked 20 minutes to pull it out and put it on your table or countertop.
While your cake is still warm, split it down the center and then add the filling. Oh! I should have told you this, but you need to be making this next bit while your cake is in the oven. Gee, I do hope you read this whole recipe first before you started mixing and baking and all of that!
Okay. Here’s the filling recipe.
4 big coffee cups of hunked-up rhubarb (4 cups of diced)
10 medicine caps of water (1 cup)
10 medicine caps of my favorite ingredient (sugar) (1 cup)
20 pawsful of flour (2 tablespoons)
40 pawsful of margarine or butter (Roscoe says this recipe is better when you use a nice butter)
1/8 teaspoon of salt in the blue box with the lady on it
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Mix rhubarb and water. Cover your pot and cook it 10 minutes on a medium sort of temperature on your human-sized stovetop burner.
Blend together my favorite ingredient (sugar) and the flour, add the rest of the ingredients to this mix, and then put it into the rhubarb pot.
Stirring constantly, cook it at a lower temperature for 4 minutes. It will smell wonderful and look delightfully gloopy!
Turn off your burner and remove the pot from the stovetop.
Pour this filling between the layers of your still-warm cake, and then the rest all over the top of it. Scrape out your pot with a spatula to get every bit. Then lick the spatula so that nothing goes to waste. I hate waste! And I love to lick the spatula.
Serve it warm or cold, but always to your very best friends and always serve them before you take a plate of it yourself. You’ll want to be watching their faces carefully when they take that first, delicious bite!
***Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. She is the author of a fantasy novel about teens stuck with the worst-ever magical power, This Peculiar Magic. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog.
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