Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


For chef, Catholic school was icing on cake

It’s hard to believe that we have our first Sweet 16 party this year. Oh, how the years fly by – that outplayed, ubiquitous saying that everyone over the age of 40 must proclaim. At least when I think of my daughter, and in fact all of our kids, I can’t help but to be amazed at how intelligent they are; how much further ahead than I was at their age. And now I have to bake a chocolate cake and ice it before I go to bed.
I believe I’ve written about my three years at St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis in the 80s, and how I still truly believe that Catholic school is the only reason that I’m still alive. Suffice it to say that I was not a stellar student through my middle school years, and my late parents felt it wise to remove me from my friends and devices; in hindsight, not a bad plan.
St. Mary’s is where I met some of my best lifelong friends. It’s where I sauntered during lunch to Eastport and found my first job at the Chart House. It’s where I learned a whole new toolset from successful teachers and mentors. And it’s where I learned that Coffee is King. Between work and school (both full-time ventures) it came in handy, and I learned to shake without it.
But I don’t want to bore you with remakes of old musings, so I will refocus my efforts on tales untold. More specifically, I will write about Sister Miriam.
Sister Miriam was loved and well respected, and people remember her fondly. But I was an insolent little bastard – a character flaw or a merit depending on your viewpoint – and there was not necessarily to be found a ‘bond’ between teacher and student; mentor and apprentice.
One day as we were dragging our way to the end of the school year, Sister Miriam made the comment, “I could care less” to someone; it could have been a continuation of a story, I’m not sure. I wasn’t paying attention until that very point in time.
I corrected her, without raising my hand or even bothering to take my head off of the hand on which it was resting, by saying, “Don’t you mean ‘you couldn’t care less?’”
This started a lengthy debate, if you could call it a debate and not a spirited defensive position by both parties on this issue of utmost importance. The basis for my argument was simple: If I could care less, then that means that I have at least an ounce of care (making sure to emphasize our if-then arguments learned in logic).
However, if I couldn’t care less, I’m out of care. I could not possibly care any less than I do right now. Ergo, I couldn’t care less. Neither side would yield. Both sides stood tall, assured of victory in a matter of seconds.
The bell rang and the class realized that I had been arguing, successfully, with a seasoned nun for the better part of the class period.
Alas, as a professor and a former high school teacher, I know these tricks. Karma has come full circle and I accept that as a condition of employment. I have a debt to pay, no matter the length of time it takes to repay it.
I know the patterns of the student(s) thinking that they are pulling a fast one on me. And sometimes, they get one or two by me. I’m only one man. In the long run, and as far as I’m concerned it’s the least that I can do in my karmic repayment to Sister Miriam.
I’ve found this article strangely cathartic, and I believe I am now at peace with that day. Had I had too much coffee? Had I had enough of this Catholic prison to which my parents had sentenced me? No, I just wanted to argue a point with an old nun who really didn’t like me.
Which brings me back to my daughter’s sweet 16, who is neither nun nor old. Normally my kids don’t like me writing about them, but I can’t ascribe to that at this time.
To my oldest daughter Hannah, I wish you a happy, healthy and amazing 16th birthday and many more years of great success in your life. May your path be clear, and may you never meet the nun who doesn’t like you. I like that euphemism. I’m keeping it.
Mocha Icing
Makes about 3.25 pounds
1lb Unsalted butter
2lb Confectioner’s sugar
1c. Dutch cocoa powder
Vanilla, as needed
Strong hot coffee, as needed

Make sure that your butter is well chilled and cut into small pieces
With paddle attachment beat butter until it is very creamy
Add confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder, place a towel carefully on top of the mixer and turn it to 1
Once things have settled down and your nuclear mushroom cloud of sugar has died down, scrape bowl and turn it up to high, until very creamy
Add vanilla and even a pinch of salt if you want to cut into the ‘sweet’
With great diligence, pour hot coffee a little at a time in order to bring everything together into a nice, cohesive icing
Whip to get it fluffy and it’s ready to go