I hear a commotion and wake up from a deep sleep. I've been slumbering for the past six months just like I like it. She keeps me here with the cookie sheets, cake pans, and muffin tins. When she picks me, I know what's coming, and my travail begins.
When I hear it, I cringe -- the dreaded phone call to Gladys, her best friend and holder of the blasted recipe.
"How many eggs do I need to make flan? The recipe says ten, but it can't be that many."
Why doesn't she write it down? She only uses me to make flan and as an excuse to call Gladys. They talk for a long time, keeping me in suspense. I don't mean to sound ungracious. I have a good life in a comfortable cabinet, clean and fresh smelling, with other bakeware that rarely gets used either.
But sometimes, the occasion special enough, only I can serve its purpose. I once overheard someone congratulate her on how perfect her flan was and ask what she used to bake it. She gave me full credit.
"Without this special pan, I'd never be able to do it," she had said. I know I'm special. I've been around a while. First her grandma, then her mom, now she.
After a long conversation with Gladys, my agony starts.
The beginning is the hardest; she melts sugar all over my bottom and circles the caramelized sugar around to cover every inch of my smooth, circular shape.
"Slowly, slowly, so it doesn't burn," she whispers. Doesn't burn? You're killing me. Those flames are hot! I'd scream but know it's useless, and I must endure my torture. I know she's trying. I've seen some pots go up in smoke because the sugar coating is not done right.
Once the open flame torment is over, I sit for a while, resting while the glossy, light-brown glaze hardens. Then she pours the rich, thick mixture of five eggs, one can of condensed milk, one can of evaporated milk, several drops of vanilla extract, and a dash of salt over me. I soak in the luscious liquid for a few minutes of relief. But not for long.
Here comes the outrageous affront, she covers me with aluminum foil. It's cold and abrasive and totally a waste because I don't leak. She does not trust me.
She opens the cavernous oven. I can feel its heat as soon as she opens the door, 450 degrees. Ouch. I know what's coming; an hour soaking inside a big cauldron filled with water. That's if I'm lucky. Sometimes she forgets despite all the alarms she sets. She calls her method of baking a gentle Maria's bath. I'm telling you, it's not gentle at all. The water does nothing to relieve the heat.
After what seems like an eternity in the dark inferno, she takes me out, removes my lid and the aluminum foil, and sticks a knife in the middle of the flan. I pray it will come out dry; otherwise, I'm back in the oven.
Satisfied with her knife test, she flips me upside down, out comes the delectable flan.
"Oh, this looks great; the best one I've done," she tells herself, admiring her masterpiece.
I shudder to think of the next step, the most horrific pain I must withstand.
She dumps me in the sink. Discarded, the dark brown paste clings to me. She pours icy water inside. Oh, the inhumanity, the sin against bakeware! And there I sit, in that hard crowded sink, drowning in cold water for hours. Until the celebration, of which I'm never a part, is over and someone, it's rarely her, decides to scrub me to get the despicable molasses off me—the injustice. No one remembers my sacrifice.
There I go back into my comfortable spot among my friends, until next time. I say a silent prayer, Gladys, please don't answer.