In sixth grade, my language arts teacher asked us to name a favorite dish our families made. Since my name lies in the middle of the alphabet, I’ve always been able to listen to my peers and make a comfortably boring response. I must have been daydreaming about buying my first Abercrombie t-shirt, because as my classmates named things like roast beef and french bread pizza, there was a pause before I answered.
“Ashley?” Mrs. Hertz said.
Cue my classmates’ laughter. Cue my mortification. Cue my red face. Cue the urge to crawl into the hallway.
I remember thinking that I wanted to give a different response. I wanted mine to stick out of the crowd. This surprises me to this day. From what I recall, middle school was not a time when I wanted to be an individual. Like every awkward adolescent, I wanted to bring as little attention to myself as possible. So of course saying my favorite dish is dutch babies makes perfect sense.
My teacher was puzzled and probably stifled her own laughter. “Dutch babies?”
I began the furious scrambling of embarrassment. “It’s like a cross between pancakes and french toast.”
“How do you make them?”
I was eleven years old. How the hell was I suppose to know? “Umm. I don’t know. You bake them?”
“Okay, when do you eat dutch babies?”
Until that moment, it never occurred to me what it sounded like. It sounded like I enjoyed eating infants from The Netherlands.
“At breakfast. My mom makes them on the weekends sometimes.”
“Oh okay,” she said. Luckily, she moved onto the next person, because I was probably on the verge of tears or something.
Unwittingly, I had given a boy, Andy, more ammunition. A few weeks earlier, he had started to tease me for reading too much. I remember passing him on stairs towards lunch, and he would taunt me: “How many books did you read today, Ashley? Twenty?”
His point wasn’t that I always had my nose in a book, his point was that I read because I didn’t have friends. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it, and why it hurt. Looking back, that wasn’t true. I had friends. we might have been a little on the dorky side since we bonded over orchestra rehearsals, but we were still friends.
But now he got to make fun of me for being a cannibal.
It wasn’t that I was ruthlessly teased. It was just one of those stupid middle school things – he was cool, and I was somewhere lost in the middle of the crowd. It felt like he said these things out of a compulsion to make noise. I think he held the responsibility of entertaining his friends, so every time a punchline presented itself, he was obligated to take advantage.
So now he asked, “Eaten any dutch babies lately, Ashley?”
He was so creative.
Anyway, I guess I haven’t changed much, because this morning I found myself being a bookworm cannibal while reading Infinite Jest and eating dutch babies.
And you know what, Andy? IT WAS AWESOME.
By the way, if you’d like to try my 11 year old self’s favorite dish, here’s the recipe:
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 375. Blend eggs, milk, and flour. Melt butter separately and pour into a 9×13 pan. Pour egg mixture into pan. Bake for 30min. It will bubble up and be lightly crispy. Serve with warm syrup.
This morning, I put a little vanilla in the egg mixture, sprinkled some cinnamon before baking, and then served it with sliced bananas.