As I find myself departing from my early twenties and entering my mid-twenties, I often consider my status as an adult skeptically. It’s still difficult for me to read an analog clock and to tell left from right. There are days when the closest thing I eat to a fruit or vegetable is a healthy serving of ketchup. I have shrunk expensive sweaters in the wash, murdered countless houseplants, and waited months before changing my sheets. All of these doubts and insecurities of adulthood culminated last Mother’s Day.
Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were celebrated quite enthusiastically throughout my childhood and The German’s mom has been very thoughtful and supportive since my relocation to Germany. Therefore, I wanted to do something nice for her and I decided to bake monkey bread—small pieces of dough formed into a circle by a Bundt pan and covered in ooey, gooey cinnamon sugar. It’s basically everything that food wet dreams are made of.
In twenty-four years, I have done a good amount of baking. Not a lot, but a good amount. However, due to its sugary nature, I completely overlooked the fact that monkey bread is bread and yeast—a key ingredient in bread—is tricky, tricky. I woke up on the morning of Mother’s Day and eagerly began my preparation for baking. I pulled out all the ingredients, bakeware, and recipe and began reading—only to learn that dough mixtures with yeast need to sit overnight to work their microorganism magic. I panicked and since it was Sunday in Germany, there were no shops open to get ingredients for an alternative treat.
After a deep breathing exercise, I sat down on my computer and found a recipe which didn’t require the dough to rise overnight. Thinking that I was especially smart, I began following the instructions: add this, add that, mix it with an electric hand mixer. Next, the directions stated that once the dough was “lightly sticky,” it should be taken out of the bowl and kneaded by hand. I pressed a finger to my mixture and found that it stuck to me like Elmer’s glue. After adding more flour, I tested it again. Still sticky. As I continued to blend more flour in with the hand mixer, the dough seemed to be getting thicker rather than less sticky. As if confirming my suspicions, a blob of dough wrapped itself around the beaters, spun quickly around, around, and around, launched itself into the air, and landed on the kitchen floor with a loud PLOP. With half of the dough laying on the ground, my panic returned and deep breathing wasn’t going to help this time.
In my upset state, I decided that the hand mixer would not work anymore and moved onto the next step. Just like I’ve seen my grandma, I spread flour onto the counter to prevent sticking and scraped the dough out of the mixing bowl onto the prepared spot. After rubbing a little flour on my own hands, I pushed the heels of my hands into the warm dough. It stuck to everything; the counter was covered in dough and my fingers were glued together. Hoping that a little mixing would improve the situation, I wildly attempted to knead the paste. Soon, however, I admitted defeat. I scraped the dough back into the mixing bowl and tossed it into the warm oven to rise. Following, I crusaded through the rest of the recipe: cutting up small bits of dough, forming it in the pan, pouring the buttery sugar mix over, and baking it. Knowing the monkey bread was unlikely to be edible, I rushed to a nearby bakery before The German’s parents arrived and purchased a few slices of cake.
Later that evening, after The German’s parents had eaten their store-bought cake (and pieces of my monkey bread out of pity) and left, I stood over the stove and stared at my blobby, cinnamon-covered mess. What had started out as good intentions, had ended as a reminder of all the things I still didn’t know as an adult. Feeling disappointed, I picked off a piece of the bread, ate the sugar-coated side, and threw back the other half. Piece after piece, I hurriedly devoured bits of the bread and littered the leftovers back onto the stove. Even if the bread was a disaster, I would eat it. I would eat my disappointment, my frustration, my feelings away. Hunched over the tray in the dim kitchen, I looked down at my sticky fingers and at the half-eaten pieces which were strewn around like the fallen soldiers of a battlefield. The doughy mass weighed heavy in my stomach. Is this really adulthood?