With the jetlag behind us and Thad already entrenched in his new job, I thought it was time to help make our new apartment a little more like home. Right now, it is a lovely conglomerate of every shade of beige imaginable. I could make a beige-only color wheel out of this place, from the dark camel colored couches (for which I’ve been searching the internet for slipcovers), to the light tan area rug to the orange-ish-brown lamps that look like pineapples, to the dark hardwood furniture, we definitely have “earth-tones” taken care of. The problem is, I am far from an earth-tones type of girl. I’d prefer something more in the jewel-tone range, with rich purples and pinks and greens and blues. All of that, though, is in our UAB/HHE shipments, which may or may not be on their way. (May not being the more likely option this early in the game.)
So, while I await color, I thought I could at least add a bit of American feel to the house and what better way to do that than with a chocolate cake. (I found a cake mix for less than a dollar at a local store, but the frosting was six dollars, so it will be icing-less cake, which is what Thad prefers anyway.) Cake baking, from a box of course, is pretty straight-forward. That is, until you move to China!
I had my not-quite-expired cake (which explains the five kaui price tag), and was ready to bake. The first thing I did was turn on the oven to pre-heat it, but I quickly ran in to a couple of problems. To begin with, the oven doesn’t have words or characters on it, just lots of little pictures, mostly squares with varying squiggly lines coming off each one. I just need my oven to bake, but after digging out the manual, I discovered that certain squiggly lines mean “bake” while a different configuration means “broil” and a third pattern means “grill.” With six such combinations to choose from, I eventually had read through a good deal of the manual so I would choose the correct box/line combination. With that selected, I moved on to the next knob- temperature. The only problem there was the oven is European, which means the heat is measured in Celsius, a measurement for which I have absolutely no sense. Thank goodness we have an internet connection in the apartment to help me convert Celsius to Fahrenheit in just a matter of seconds.
With my oven preheating at 178 degrees, it was time to mix the cake. The first step in making a cake in China is to wash the poop off of the eggs. (Well, even before that, at the egg stall, make sure you buy chicken eggs, as there are a variety of goose and quail and other fowl eggs to be had.) Once my eggs were poo-free, they went in to the bowl, along with the oil and mix. While it would be baked and probably turn out fine, rather than take the risk of tap water, I used water from our distiller, which is a giant metal contraption that sits on the counter in the kitchen. It heats and cleans water so we always have a ready supply.
At this point, I thought I was doing fabulously. I had my cake mixed and poured in the pan. (No beater licking here though…in America, I always disregarded the warnings about cookie dough and cake batter, but here I feel like they might carry a bit more weight!) Without thinking much more about it, I popped the pan in the oven, set the timer and headed off to the living room to enjoy some Netflix while I waited for the smell of baking chocolate cake to begin to permeate the house.
After nearly an entire episode of Brothers and Sisters I realized that no such smell was wafting through my apartment. I scurried in to the kitchen, opened to oven door only to discover that there was no heat coming from the oven. The oven light didn’t come on. The cake was still liquid batter. Ack!
I fiddled with every knob, pushing them, pulling them, jiggling them and wiggling to no avail. With those options expended, I moved on to shaking the oven, slamming the door a couple of times, and cranking up the temperature. Again, no luck. When Thad got home from work, I was sitting on the kitchen floor, surrounded by the manual and all of the household information given to us by the Consulate, trying to figure out how to make my oven go.
At that point, he reached in to the fridge to get a Pepsi and I instantly noticed the refrigerator light was off. I checked the microwave, which also wasn’t working. A fuse! I must have blown a fuse! (It turns out I cannot dry laundry in the clothes dryer and bake a cake in the oven at the same time. Good to know!) After showing Thad a closet he didn’t know existed in our house, the one that contains the fuse box, he found the goofy one and got my oven back on track.
The cake went back in for round two of baking, after sure enough, after about half an hour, that chocolate cake smell I was aiming for began to drift through the house. While it wasn’t the surprise of coming home to that scent that I had hoped Thad would have after a long day at the Consulate, after a few missteps and a much too long of baking process, we had cake for dessert last night. It was well-worth the minor bedlam to get there!