Cherry Milk Dreams

Rod Serling never saw this coming. My wife woke me up in the middle of the night, demanding to know what thirty times thirty equals. Welcome to my middle of the night zone.

Some guys have more predictably mainstream nights, and get to, you know, sleep. Night-time fare here is more exotic and colorful, with plenty of creative, sci-fi flavor. I told her the answer, 900, and that seemed to satisfy her.

As I tucked her back in, before she drifted back to sleep, she explained that she had had a dream, involving Somali pirates and Julia Child. This dream, which she told me about later, didn’t even come close to some of her more complex night-time entertainments. The plot of this one, and this is so predictable, centered on the re-enactment of a 17th century naval battle. In her dream, after the theatrical battle was over, Julia Child, on board the flag ship, was going to cook historically accurate dishes from that era. She was going to make biscuits from dough which had been soaked very carefully in cherry milk. (I had her repeat that part to me several times.) This is where the 30 x 30 came in, I think, but we’ll get to that later.

As with all battle re-enactments, actors were used, as opposed to real Nazis, real Confederates, or real redcoats. But, in her dream, the fake Somali pirates somehow became real Somali pirates, and the light-hearted feel of a fake battle suddenly changed and became scary, as newly predatory pirates fired real projectiles at the magnificent sailing ship, with real cannon balls exploding on deck and real bullets kicking out flying splinters of wood.

I would not recommend to anyone — not even an expert — to try to bake biscuits under these conditions, even in a dream.

My lawyer tells me that at this point I must mention that a person’s dreams have nothing to do with the dreamer’s sanity or lack thereof, and are not indicative of anything else that one might want to make fun of.

OK, time to get back to Julia, whom we left all alone in the ship’s galley, where the whistling of a tea kettle had been replaced by the whistling of bullets. As we noted before, the dough for the biscuits she was going to bake had to be soaked in cherry milk, which sounds odd but good. (Heck, I’d like a glass of cherry milk right now.) Here’s where things get dodgy. Since some of the dough had sunk down into the milk, and some remained floating on top, a crucial calculation pertaining to baking times had to be performed, to ensure the success of the biscuits. Again, I had to get my wife to repeat this to me several times. I must also point out that it is not possible to make this stuff up.

Sometimes the ancient art of cooking requires advanced mathematical calculations, such as: converting cups to centiliters (24); determining the optimal number of cocktail twists from a lemon (14); or multiplying 30 times 30 (900). In times like this, quantitative skills can complement the artistic skills of a chef.

So for those of you food scientists, like Nathan Myhrvold, it was vitally important to Julia, and therefore my wife, that we figured out what thirty times thirty was. One day this might all make sense. Maybe by then I will have made a fortune by marketing cherry milk to 68 countries.

Stranger things have occurred in the Twilight Zone.