So today, as I sit and eat my very gluten-free lunch consisting of a spinach and chicken Ceaser salad, which has amazing olives, I think back to the times that I was not gluten-free. As I watch Chrissy eat one of my most favorite foods.–Stone oven baked margarita pizza! The smell alone is wonderful torture!
As I drool over her pizza, the rest of the wonderful foods that I can no longer have pop up as pictures in my mind. I have not really been on this gluten-free journey as long as others, but I definitely know that this is a lifestyle that I need to have, just for the simple reason that I don’t like the pain that comes after indulging in gluten-bearing food. And I’m seriously amazed at all the food that has gluten in it. Things that I always took for granted, like cookies and cake! No, I’m just kidding about those, but seriously I never thought that most ice cream contain gluten, as well as many meats at restaurants. Even steaks! That’s just crazy!
So this crazy train thought process left me standing at the memory station of a time when I was given the task of finding the most amazing and authentic Tres Leche Cake. I was given this job because our kids were taking part in a yearly 4-H Club ritual, preparing for International Fair. This was a group project that our family enjoyed immensely, whether they would admit it today or not.
A little history… each year the kids’ 4-H Club voted on a country to study, and then, after months of studying that particular country, they would give a huge group presentation at a area 4-H meeting. All the groups would be judged on the presentation of their county. So, in this process our group’s members would nominate different countries that they would like to study. After the nominees were selected, there was a member vote to make a final decision.
Side Note: This is one of the thing I loved about 4-H. Our kids learned the formal way to conduct business meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Orders. This is a super skill to have if you want to be in any type of leadership.
Our kids always had two countries that were close to their hearts, and every year they tried many times to have the group study the countries they loved. One was Scotland; the other was Honduras. Our family is Scottish, and with doing mission trips to Honduras, the kids wanted to share their love and passion for this country.
One year they finally caught on to what some of the older kids would do when they lobbied for their choice of county. They figured out with four of them, they could possibly win a majority vote, if they all worked together. So they did one year they each convinced their closest friends to vote with them, and they were able to get Scotland as the country. Actually, at the time only 3 out of the 4 were in regular 4-H. Silas was a “Clover Bud,” which is the junior version of 4-H in Cook County, Illinois. He was not a full-fledged voting member of the group. I tell you this because they tried the next year to get Honduras in, and they and failed.
So, the following year they lobbied again for Honduras, and out of sheer numbers of the Hunter Clan, they pushed their vote through. Quite a few older kids had graduated out of the group that year, and having almost 1/3 of vote gives you a slight advantage. This is just one of the advantages in having a larger family.
Throughout the year, as they would prepped for International Fair, the leaders tried to help the kids learn as much about the country as they could. We would go on field trips to different places, if at all possible, this way the kids could experience the culture first hand they would also bring in speakers who live there or had recently traveled to the country being studied. One time we spent the day in Chinatown, Chicago. Another year we visited a Hindu temple, and I also remember meeting a musician from Senegal. The kids would also be assigned different things to research and then report back to the group what they had learned.
One of the things the group liked best was when there would be a project that was a craft or some sort of thing the kids make that the people of the country earned a living at doing. The other thing that we all enjoyed is sampling the food of the culture.
One of the most impressive things I remember is that one of the moms in our group tried to make Haggis as authentically as she could for the kids during Scotland year. That was interesting to hear about. Some parts of the dish were not available for purchase in the United States, so she had to make do with what she could. (Sheep windpipe cannot be found for purchase on this side of the pond.) There was also the small matter of the sheep belly exploding in the middle of her kitchen! Some countries’ cuisines are more interesting and delicious than others. We had great food in Chinatown!
When it came to Honduras, there are a lot of similarities to Mexican food, but there are some major differences. Shortly after the club decided on the country, Chrissy came home and said, “Guess what we’re in charge of for the Taste of Honduras?”
I said, “I don’t know, what?”
She said, “Dessert!”
I said, “Cool! The best part of a meal!”
Side Note: Years ago one of my assistants had a saying. Okay well, Geri had quite a few of sayings but this one she really loved to say “Life is short, so eat dessert first.” Geri loved this saying so much that when I left that ministry, she gave me one of the coolest ice cream scoopers. It was silver and very heavy. I love that scoop! Even to this day, when I’m dipping my Breyer’s gluten-free ice cream, I think about my friend, Geri.
Chrissy was less than excited about it. She wondered, what can we make? One of my favorite Hispanic desserts is Tres Leche Cake.
So, I said, “How about that?”
She said, “I guess we can do that.”
Well. When she says that, it means she is going to look for something better, but if nothing comes up she’ll go with it.
So, the time was coming soon for a Taste of Honduras, and Chrissy was stressing big on this one. My wife is a pretty good cook, but one of the dads in our 4-H group was a professional chef. So, she was a bit nervous about making this cake. I’m trying to remember, but I think this confectionery delight was difficult to make. Some times it was a challenge to find authentic ingredients too. This cake has three milks in it, thus the name Tres Leches—Three Milk Cake.
As she was expressing her nervous frustration with all the recipes that she was looking through, I said, “I have an idea! I will explain it when I get back.” I was on my way to pick up an order we had called in at one of the best Mexican places I have ever eaten, here in the States that is. It had a great name too, “Whata Taco!” Seriously though, it was amazing, and I had befriended the owner. So I ran over to grab our food, and as I was waiting on the food I asked the owner if they had a whole Tres Leches cake that I could buy? Their cake was like a fiesta in your mouth, perhaps even a Cinco de Mayo celebration, all in one bite of this cake. It really was that good! I. knew they had it made by a Hispanic bakery closer to the city
So, I asked, “Do you ever get a full cake? Or do you just get slices in?”
He said, “I just get a few slices in each day.” I asked him if he thought he could get a full cake in, or tell me where to get one. I went on to explain why I was asking and what I wanted it for. He told me just give him a call a day before the 4-H Taste of Honduras meeting, and he would get one for me. Problem solved, so I thought.
I went home and over amazing tacos, I explained my brilliant plan to the family. I said you could even pass it off as your own. I was just kidding, and I did tell my wife that I was sure she could make an amazing cake, after all she has won a blue ribbon for her carrot cake at the county fair. That took care of it. It was a done deal. I would order the cake, pick it up, and they would take it to the meeting.
I’m not sure if something was lost in translation on what I needed the cake for or what. I think he thought I needed it for some sort of adult celebration or something. You will understand why I say that in a few minutes.
The day for Taste of Honduras came. I went to Whata Taco and picked up the cake. That was when I found out the price. Wow! I was bit shocked on that one, but I figured it was well worth it for the stress it would remove.
Side Note: Only one other time did we pay a crazy amount for a cake and that was when we took a trip with our friends Brock and Amie to South Haven. We had a nice dinner together, and on the walk back to the hotel, we stopped at a sweet shop, and Chrissy ordered a piece of chocolate cake. After ordering, we noticed a strange sign posted on the shop’s register that stated you must pay for cake after it has been sliced. Maybe instead of doing that, they should have just posted the cake slice prices next to the cake. But then, they probably wouldn’t have sold much cake. This was a big piece of cake, but it didn’t equal the price for the slice. I think it was around $15 bucks! We split that piece of cake and savored each bite.
Back to the Tres Leche Cake. I took it home, and handed it off to the 4-Hers. They looked at it, and everyone agreed it looked amazing! So off to their meeting they went. I was not able to attend this meeting for some reason. So, I just hoped for a left over of that cake.
When I came home that night I was bombarded with all kinds of stories of how the meeting went and what foods were there. Then Chrissy spoke up and told me that a lot of the people really liked the cake but some of the kids seem to not feel so well after eating it. One of the moms even complained about her stomach bothering her. Still, everyone had an amazing time! Then there was one person who really liked it, but he couldn’t place what a flavor it was that was in it, and he kept coming back for more. So, it seemed like hit.
It was only later that we discovered that the cake is traditionally made not only with three milks, but to keep it moist and to help with the celebration, it was doused with Rum too.
So this cake may or may not have had some extra spice in it, and some 4-H group members may or may not have had a piece or more of said cake. So the running joke about this cake is that we may or may not have been indirectly responsible for serving a cake with alcohol in it by accident.
So let this be a warning to you, just because something tastes great, make sure you know what it is that you are consuming, otherwise you may be ingesting something you may regret later.
I really don’t know how this crazy stuff happens, but I’m sure we can’t be the only family it happens to. I think we just are open enough to admit that we are far from perfect. I share life stories so others can laugh at us and even relate once in a while.
It’s my hope that we never forget what we learn from our mistakes, always forgive and never forget to love each other while having fun laughing at ourselves. Cherish the life we live and the good, the ornery, and the precious people God has crossed our paths to eat some cake with.