As you will know, recently I published ‘I Love Your Cupcakes‘. Part of the action develops in the set of a TV culinary game show. As people seemed to enjoy the sample I brought you a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d leave you another one (and I promise you that’s the last one!), the chapter where Dulce and Adelfa, the main protagonists (sorry Storm) meet the crew and the members of the other teams. There’s a bit of everything:
I Love Your Cupcakes by Olga Núñez Miret. Cover by Lourdes Vidal
Chapter 6. Baking and TV fauna. (Now)
The three weeks went by in a wink. Dulce and Adelfa asked the main members of staff and friends, Pixie, Vicky and Tessa if they could cover the shop while they’d be away. They were all very excited and happy to organize themselves to keep the place going with help from volunteers. They made sure that they didn’t accept any big orders for the week when they were going to be away, although they were convinced the team left in charge was more than capable. Toni took a few days off to help the girls and do more hands-on work. Dulce and Adelfa packed their favorite and most comfortable outfits for cooking, a nice dress and accessories for the gala (in case they got that far) and a few utensils and gadgets, “for luck.” Tony and Toni drove them to the airport.
“Are you ready, girls?” Toni asked.
“As ready as we’re ever going to be.” Adelfa replied.
“We’ll know for sure once we start. We’ve done everything we could think of and everything everybody has suggested to prepare. The rest…is in the hands of the gods.” Dulce said.
“Is Storm going to join you there?” her father asked.
“He’s happy to consult with us over the phone and if we go past the four first days he’ll join us live. He’s also been watching old programs and has sent us designs, blueprints and ideas. If we can manage to get that far and he comes we’ll have the best artist they’ve ever seen there.” Adelfa said.
“That is true. That boy is as odd as he’s talented.” Tony said.
“Dad, he’s not a boy any longer. And we aren’t girls either.” Dulce complained.
“I thought you were going to object to my calling him “odd”.”
“No, he’s odd, but we love him nonetheless.” Dulce finished.
“Or maybe we love him precisely because he’s so odd.” Adelfa added.
They all laughed. They got to the airport, took their luggage, said their goodbyes, Toni assured them she’d look after their shop and then they started on their greatest adventure.
During the flight they tried and focus on watching the in-flight entertainment rather than think about what expected them. Once in LA it was all rather exciting. Sunny, noisy and…
“This is really…” Dulce started.
“Artificial? Fake? Pretend?” Adelfa suggested.
“Blonde, tanned, beautiful with an advert idea of beauty. Oh dear, we’re going to stick out like a sore thumb.”
“There it is! They’ve sent a car to pick us up.”
Adelfa had spotted a woman with a sign with their names on it and started walking towards her.
“It’s us. I’m Adelfa and this is my partner Dulcinea, Dulce for short.”
“Pleasure to meet you. I’m Danielle, Dannie. I do a bit of whatever has to be done. Supplies, coordinating, covering for whoever is not there, go and fetch…”
“Chauffeur…” Dulce added.
“Let’s get going. I’ll drop you at the hotel. It isn’t very far from the studio but we’ll send somebody to pick you up tomorrow. There won’t be a live program, only time to get you used to the ovens, discuss the details, do a bit of preparatory filming, and have time to get to know everybody. And a welcome meal. But we’ll let you have a bit of rest this evening.”
“That sounds good.” Adelfa replied.
In the car Dannie played the part of the occasional tour guide. She pointed out a variety of touristic spots and houses of the rich and famous.
“If you’re still here on Thursday, as that day there’s no program, sometimes the contestants decide to go on a proper tour. It’s good fun and a nice way to relax when we’re getting close to the final line.”
“That sounds nice. If we get that far.” Adelfa said.
“How is the rest of the team?” Dulce asked. “So far we’ve only talked to Harry Heston.”
“Dirty Harry?” Dannie asked. “He’s rather unique, not your standard team member.”
“Dirty Harry? Is he a fan of Clint Eastwood?” Adelfa asked.
Dannie breathed in deeply before replying:
“That’s not the reason for the nickname. We’ve arrived at the hotel. Here.”
Dannie helped them with their luggage and told them a car would be there at 9:30 next morning. Once up in their room and after unpacking Dulce and Adelfa decided to go for a walk and explore the surrounding area. It was a rather non-descript suburb although after asking a couple of people they managed to get directions and caught a bus that took them to the beach. There they walked and observed the people on roller-skates, sunbathing, playing beach volleyball…
“It is really like in the movies” said Dulce, trying not to be too obvious when contemplating the fabulous bodies around them. Adelfa, on the other hand, wasn’t particularly discreet. “You’re looking at those guys as if “they” were cupcakes.”
Adelfa smiled, deviating her gaze to look at Dulce for a few seconds.
“Well, they are gorgeous. And evidently they are here exhibiting themselves. They don’t work out that much and build up those muscles to hide them at home. Think of it as window-shopping. I have no intention of buying anything but looking…Feast your eyes! We don’t get many occasions like this one.”
“You’re probably right.”
After spending a good while people (mostly men, although some women were so interestingly undressed that they could not help but wonder) watching, they sat down with an ice-cream each. Adelfa seemed thoughtful, licking her ice-cream very slowly and finally asked:
“What do you think the Dirty Harry thing was about?”
“Probably some “in” joke. Maybe if we manage to stay long enough we’ll get to know.”
Dulce had no idea how right she was. Or how much she’d remember and regret her words.
They waited for the sunset and then returned to their hotel, stopping on the way to get some fruit and water. After watching some TV they went to bed, to wait for the first day of their TV experience.
They didn’t sleep very much and were up very early to make sure they were ready in plenty of time for the car. They didn’t want to be late on the first day and make a bad impression. The car dropped them at the TV station and Dannie was at the door waiting for them.
“Go and have a seat in reception. Once you’re all here we’ll go to the studio and meet everybody else.”
“Are we the first ones?”
“Not quite. There are some people there already. Go and introduce yourselves.”
There were four people sitting in reception waiting. Two young blonde girls, typically Californian, who immediately jumped up when they saw them and told them they were very excited, and kept laughing and making plenty of noise all the time (and although called Denise and Diane, Adelfa immediately named them Barbie and Cindy, with good reason) and a man in his fifties and one in his thirties, father and son, Andrew and Andy. Both men were engineers, although Andrew had worked most of his life in oil camps and Andy had worked in transportation.
“My father is an engineer also.” Dulce offered.
“What’s his name?”
“Oh, Tony, Anthony Baxter.”
“I think he worked on a bridge part of the line my company has been working on recently. In Nebraska.” Andy said.
“I believe you’re right, although it was quite a few years back.” Dulce replied.
“Very good job.”
“Are you big into cooking?” Adelfa asked, trying to size-up the competition. She had already dismissed the two girls, who seemed only interested in how they’d look on camera.
Andrew shook his head from side to side.
“I’ve always been interested and done a bit of cooking in my spare time, although Andy is a much better cook. Unfortunately I haven’t had much time to improve my skills and Andy…since his wife had the baby, he’s been pretty busy with other things” he said, messing up his son’s hair affectionately.
Andy smiled at his father.
“Yes, very busy.” He took his phone out of his pocket and showed them a picture of a baby-girl. “Lily. She’s nearly 3 months old.”
“She’s beautiful!” Dulce said.
Andy beamed at the comment.
“Have you come up with a name for your team?” Andrew asked.
“Oh, we have a shop. ‘Literally Cupcakes and Cakes’, so we’ll go with the same name.” Adelfa said.
“Literally Cupcakes?” asked Dulce with a frown.
Adelfa dismissed her whilst the two guys looked at them with a puzzled expression.
“We have an ongoing semantics argument about the shop’s name. I prefer ‘literally’ whilst Dulce wanted ‘literary’ as she loves books.” Adelfa explained.
“And the shop is much more than a cupcake shop. We do have second-hand books and also exchange books clients bring in at no cost. And have writers and other people come and talk, and book readings for kids and a book club, and we run exhibitions, and workshops, and cookery and cake decoration courses…” Dulce explained.
“It sounds amazing” said Andy.
“You should see it. Let me…” Dulce took her phone out and showed them some pictures. They were suitably impressed. Denise and Diane also joined.
“Wow, a fire-station! What fun! Do you have any firemen?” Diane (or Denise, Dulce wasn’t sure) asked.
“Unfortunately they didn’t come included with the building but I’m sure we could do something about it if you come for a visit.” Adelfa replied. Dulce nudged her on the ribs but she just smiled, as sweetly as she could, at her.
“Great! We don’t have a shop yet, but we have a name. ‘A Little Bit of Heaven Cupcakes’. Denise wanted to go with ‘D-lights’. You know, D as in the letter D, as we’re both Ds, Diane and Denise, but I thought people might think we were talking about something naughty, especially with cup and…And it wouldn’t be good to mislead people, not at least until we’ve had some surgery…We aren’t really D cups…”
Andrew and Andy went through all the colors in the rainbow during Diane’s explanation, but Dulce and Adelfa just laughed.
“I think ‘A Little Bit of Heaven’ is a great name.” Dulce asserted.
“Our shop is called ‘Let Them Eat Cupcakes’. We also run an on-line business, ‘Lady Cupcakes and Lingerie’ that’s going extremely well.” A tall woman, with long dark hair, huge golden sunglasses, incredibly pointy shoes with the highest heels Dulce had ever seen, and the shortest skirt and one of the most revealing tops she’d ever imagined had walked into the room and joined the conversation. A shorter, petite version of her, with red highlights, but similarly short skirt and low-cut top had followed her in. They introduced themselves as Pam and Chloe.
“Well, there’s another red-hair in the competition. You won’t feel so alone.” Adelfa whispered.
“She’s not really red-haired” Dulce replied, also in whispers.
“I think I can see that…especially now that she’s sitting down” Adelfa joked, looking at Chloe’s skirt.
“You…” Dulce jokingly hit her on the arm.
“So you sell lingerie and cakes?” Andrew asked the newcomers. Dulce worried his eyes would pop out of his eye sockets. Andy had grabbed his father’s arm, seemingly trying to stop him from embarrassing himself.
“We make boxed sets containing sexy pieces of lingerie and cupcakes. Our idea is: the woman eats the cupcakes…” started Pam.
“And the man eats…” Chloe added.
“I think we get the idea.” Adelfa interrupted. Chloe looked at her with a less-than-kind expression.
“Let’s not make enemies from the word go if we can help it” Dulce told her friend, very soft.
Adelfa looked at her and nodded. She took her phone out and Dulce got a text-message a few seconds later. She waited a beat before checking.
“I wonder if being tarty will make them any good at baking. ;)”
Whilst all of them were distracted by the spectacle of Pam and Chloe, two guys came into the reception area. Dulce nearly jumped out of her skin when one of them sat on the sofa next to theirs. They were both dressed in combat fatigues, were tall, strong and muscular, one of them African-American and sporting a Mohican-style haircut and the other one with shaved hair and piercing blue eyes.
“We are ‘Guerrilla Cupcakes’. This is Custer and I’m West” the African-American part of the duo asserted, never taking his eyes off Adelfa.
They all nodded and introduced themselves. Dulce took advantage of the noise to tell Adelfa:
“I think you’ve got an admirer.”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“I’m more worried about their cake-making skills. Military-style organization and strategy might help with some of the challenges.”
“That’s true, but you can hardly imagine they’ll be very dainty and delicate with things like decorations, although maybe we should delay any judgments until we’ve seen what they are capable of.”
Two women of a similar age to theirs, early thirties, walked in. They were both brown-haired, middle-height, one a bit plumper than the other, wearing simple flowery dresses and no make-up. They smiled shyly and waited until the noise had quieted down before talking.
“Hi. I’m Candy and this is Trisha. We have a shop called ‘Simple Cupcakes and Desserts’. We like to use organic ingredients, avoid colorants and unneeded chemicals and also cater for people with food allergies and intolerances.”
There was another round of introductions. Dulce had the feeling that the Simple team would be fairly strong competition.
The final two contestants were a young boy (thirteen), called Peter Parker (“Like Spiderman”, he promptly informed them all) and his grandmother Lucy, who was wearing a perm, gray hair, and seemed to have made an effort to look like a harmless old lady, despite not being that old. Although the boy wanted his team to go by the name ‘Superheroes cakes’, it soon became ‘Pete and granny’s’.
As they had all arrived, Dannie came to pick them up and show them the studio where they would be filming the program.
“I don’t think that granny is as old and clueless as she wants to make us think.” Adelfa whispered in Dulce’s ear.
“I was thinking exactly the same.” Dulce turned to Andy who was behind them and asked:
“You never had a chance to tell us the name of your team.”
“We had a heated debate about it. We finally decided to go with ‘Movers and Fixers Baking Team’ because of the engineering theme.”
“I like it.” Adelfa said.
The studio wasn’t exactly how the girls had imagined it. They’d seen it on the TV but it felt quite different once they were there. There were the cables, cameras, lights and what seemed to be a separate room, probably to control everything, but it also looked like a huge kitchen, with plenty of ovens, fridges, working surfaces, sinks, drawers, utensils…
“Wow! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it’s enormous and very impressive” Adelfa said.
“Here comes Harry” Dannie warned, and Dulce couldn’t help but remember a crazy-looking Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’ coming through the door with an axe saying: ‘Here comes Johnny!’
They all turned to see a man approaching them at speed. He was in his late forties, had a bit of a paunch, was bolding, and had very strong features, with a square jaw and a protruding and straight nose. He had big, intense, green eyes.
“Hi all. I’m Harry Heston. It’s a real pleasure to meet you all. We’ll have time to get to know ourselves better over the next few days. I just wanted you to come, meet each other and the team of the program, have a go at cooking something to familiarize yourselves with the equipment, and then we’ll go for a meal this evening to unwind before the circus starts performing tomorrow. You must be…”
He started throwing names around, shaking hands, smiling, nodding and appearing interested. He introduced them to the four main camera-men, Joe, Preston, Stan and Chris, who just nodded from their cameras, a woman called ‘Minnie’ dressed in a gray suit, with glasses, and holding onto an iPad for dear life. She was the one coordinating where everybody should be and what they should be doing at any given time.
“I’ll just call you by your team names. I have very bad memory, or rather; I have too many things to think about so I focus on matters important for the program. And I prefer not to get too attached to any contestants. Otherwise it can be heartbreaking when people leave.”
Adelfa and Dulce looked at each other and shrugged. Oh well.
Dannie showed them where other necessary things were, like the toilets, the canteen, a little shop, the changing rooms, make-up…
“There are plenty more people involved in the program, but most of them come and go and aren’t permanent fixtures, so you’ll meet them as they appear. If you need anything you can always ask me. Or Harry. And remember, today you’re here to have fun. Don’t worry about anything. This is not the competition yet. Enjoy!”
Dulce and Adelfa went to the toilet and took the chance to exchange a few thoughts.
“What do you think?” Dulce asked. Adelfa had always been good at summarizing and briefings.
“I don’t think Barbie and Cindy or the two Andrews are going to be too hard. The military guys could be a wild-card. I have no idea. The two in-your-face women…I could be wrong but think what you see is what you get. I am very suspicious of the granny.”
“I know what you mean. I am too. I like the girls of ‘Simple Cakes’. We do some cakes for people with allergies and intollerances but I’d like to learn from them. They could be a good team to get friendly with, at least after the competition.” Dulce said.
“Good minds think alike. Yes, they could be invaluable.”
“Let’s go and play” Dulce said.
And that’s what they did. They had a few hours to try ovens, implements, check ingredients and in general have fun and get used to the equipment. They also kept a close eye on the competition, although they knew what they saw that day might have very little to do with their real performances.
Just to prove you that I’m not good at the visual side of things and in case you missed it, I leave you the video I created:
If you’re interested in the book, it’s available in a variety of places (and I hope in paper soon). I leave you some links:
Nook (Barnes and Noble):
In case you’re thirsty after all these cakes, I thought I’d share something pretty special I found in Florence:
Donna Olga wine. And there were three different types!
Thanks everybody for reading (and the patience), and you know, if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!
Ah, and I’m looking for blogs, pages, and recipe books dedicated to cookery, and baking and cakes in particular, so if you have any favourites, let me know, I’m interested! Thanks!