Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
ear Diary,


Well, here it is, the middle of February and that can only mean one thing. It’s tax time. While most of America has until April 15 to get their tax act together, farmers across the country must meet the early deadline of Feb. 28.


I’m not sure why we have an earlier deadline. It must have something to do with all the forms we have to fill out. Maybe the IRS needs to get a head start on checking the math, I don’t know.


In any event, tonight after dinner, we cleared the laundry off the dining room table-I can’t wait for that new laundry room to be finished-so Keith could get organized.


The kids watched as he laid out all of the tax forms, the canceled checks, the spread sheets from the farm, etc., and then, after a room-to-room search finally produced a calculator, he cleared his throat and announced, “I am ready to begin”.


“Why do we pay taxes, Dad?”


“Well, you’ve studied that in school-which is, incidentally, funded by our tax dollars. We pay taxes to help support this great nation of ours, to do our part in paying for roads and schools. It’s for helping those who need a hand, the poor, the elderly.”


“So, it’s a good thing?”


“It can be.”


Well, diary, it was almost inspiring. I need to close for now. The kids are ready to get to bed and they won’t go without Mom tucking them in. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.


-Cheryl


Dear Diary,


I’m taking this opportunity to jot down a few words while the house is quiet. The kids are in school and Keith is taking a quick nap now that we’ve finished lunch. He stayed up late working on the taxes last night. I’m not sure when he went to bed but it was long after everyone else had gone to sleep.


I can’t write too much now because I really need to look for a different calculator. The one we came up with last night, taken from Meg’s desk set, is proving to be a real frustration. The buttons are tiny.


I guess Keith has had to punch them with the tip of his pencil and the read out is equally as miniscule. He actually had to break out his bifocals! And he’s finding the hot-pink-and-purple design a wee bit distracting.


I say it takes a big man to be able to do his taxes with a calculator decorated with kittens. Gotta go. The hunt for a decent calculator is on!


-Me


P.S. Found the “good” calculator on the desk by the telephone. It was just where I told him to look last night. An envelope was on top of it. Could he find it? No….




Dear Diary,


Keith is deep into the tax work now. That degree in business from Tabor College sure is paying off.


This morning at breakfast, I noticed he was questioning the kids about some of their friends who also live on farms.


“Does (insert farm kid’s name here)’s dad work at another job during the winter?


Does (another kid’s farmer dad) still have livestock or does he work somewhere else?”


It seemed strange at first, but when I noticed him looking through the want ads of the Free Press, it clicked.


“Are you thinking about taking a second job?” I asked.


“It doesn’t hurt to look,” came his answer.


Hmmm. See you later, diary.


-Cheryl


Dear Diary,


I’m a bit concerned about my husband. He has been working into the night for several days now trying to get the taxes ready for mailing.


Although he showers, he hasn’t shaved in days and he’s taken to wearing the same old flannel shirt day after day. His eyes seem to have a funny glint to them and when he walks, his shoulders round and stoop like an old man’s.


“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked him this afternoon.


“This farming….” His voice trailed off into something of a moan. I could catch some of the phrases: “poor wheat crop,” “sick cows, big vet bills,” “low milk prices.”


“Should I get a job?” I asked.


“It wouldn’t hurt to look.”


Oh, no.


-C.J.




Dear Diary,


What a snowy day. Last night our electricity went out due to ice on the lines. We built a big fire and lit some candles and pretended to be pioneers. It was almost a blessing as Keith got a break from working on the taxes.


While we were gathered around the hearth trying to stay warm, my daughter asked if our weekend shopping trip would be canceled because of the bad roads. She needed a new pair of athletic shoes and that meant a trip out of town.


“I’m afraid we’ll have to postpone our trip to next week.” I said.


“You might have to postpone until next year,” my husband responded. “We need to cut back-way, way back. No more vacations, no more eating out, no more extras.”


“What?” The kids were horrified.


“Don’t worry,” I told them. “He’s always like this in February.”


Will write more later. Need to find some aspirin for Keith. It’s in the cupboard, but…well, you know.


-Cheryl


Dear Diary,


Keith shaved today. The taxes are finished and it didn’t turn out as badly as he first anticipated. Farming has its ups and downs and this definitely was one of the down years. But as Scarlet O’Hara so aptly put it, “Tomorrow is another day.”


We’ve survived another year. He’ll go back to farming, I’ll stay at home-at least for the most part-and Meg will get new shoes.


And we might take a vacation later in the year. But it won’t be to Las Vegas. My husband is a farmer. That’s gamble enough.


* * *


These cupcakes are so rich and delicious that you don’t need to bother with frosting-although a nice fudge icing would be a chocoholic’s dream. My pal Brenda Reimer graciously shared the following recipe in time for Valentine’s Day. Make some for those you love.




Peek-A-Boo Cupcakes


For the filling:


8 oz. cream cheese, softened


1/3 cup sugar


1/8 tsp. salt


1 egg


1 cup chocolate chips




Blend together in a small bowl and set aside.




For the cupcakes:


3 cups flour


2 cups sugar


1/2 cup cocoa


2 tsp. soda


1 tsp. salt


1 tsp. vanilla


2 cups water


2/3 cup oil




Blend together in a large mixing bowl. Line cupcake pan with paper baking cups. Spoon cake batter into cups until half full. Drop a rounded teaspoon of filling into the center of each cupcake. Bake at 350 for about 25 to 30 minutes. Make about 30 cupcakes.

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