A Delicious Lesson
"Guess what, Daddy? I'm helping Hannah make dessert," eight-year-old Nancy Drew said into the phone.
"That's great," Carson Drew said on the other end of the line. Nancy's father was a lawyer. He was on a business trip and was calling from his hotel room in California. "Are you making pudding or pie?" he asked.
Nancy giggled. Pudding Pie was one of her father's favorite nicknames for her. One time she had eaten a huge piece of chocolate-pudding pie with her hands and ended up with chocolate all over her face. There was a picture of it in the family photo album.
"Neither," Nancy said. "We're making apple cake. Hannah's teaching me the recipe."
"Just make sure you eat your dinner before your dessert," Mr. Drew said. "And try not to cause too much trouble for Hannah, all right? I'll see you both Friday night."
"Okay, Daddy." Nancy said goodbye and hung up. She skipped across the kitchen, pausing just long enough to give her puppy, Chocolate Chip, a pat on the head.
"Let's get cooking," Hannah Gruen said to Nancy. She was the family's housekeeper. "But wash your hands first. I don't want any dog fur in our cake."
"Ick!" Nancy loved Chip, but she didn't think her Labrador retriever's brown fur would taste very good.
Nancy quickly washed her hands and held them up for Hannah to see. "All clean."
Then she dipped her finger into the mixing bowl on the counter.
Hannah pushed Nancy's hand away. "Be careful," she said with a smile. "When I was a little girl, I once ate half a bowl of cake batter. I had a stomachache for three days!"
Nancy giggled and looked at Hannah's gentle face. It was hard to imagine her as a little girl.
"Why didn't your mother stop you from eating so much?" she asked.
"She tried," Hannah said. "But I sneaked in and gobbled it up when she wasn't looking."
Nancy laughed again. "I didn't know you were such a bad little girl."
"I wasn't that bad," Hannah said with a twinkle in her eye. "Didn't a certain little girl spill my favorite houseplant all over the living room floor last week?"
Nancy glanced over at her puppy. "I forgot about that," she said, giving Hannah a sweet smile. Chip had bumped into the plant when she and Nancy were playing in the den.
"Just remember," Hannah said, "no more fetch in the house." She pushed her hair off her forehead and smiled at Nancy. "The cake batter is just about ready. All we need to add are the apples and nuts."
Hannah had already cut up three apples. Nancy picked up the bowl and dumped the pieces into the batter. As Nancy stirred, Hannah added some chopped walnuts.
"How did you learn to be such a good cook, Hannah?" Nancy asked.
"I learned most of my recipes from my grandmother when I was growing up. She's also the one who taught me how to make a pretty garden."
"Maybe after you show me how to cook, you can teach me all about flowers," Nancy suggested.
"Maybe." Hannah winked. "Though, as I recall, the last time I tried to get you to help with the gardening, all you wanted to do was make mud pies."
Nancy rolled her eyes. "Hannah, I was only four years old then!"
"I'm just teasing," Hannah said, giving Nancy a fond look. "Before I know it, you'll be all grown up and I'll be out of a job."
"Never," Nancy said. "You'll still need to stay here and take care of Daddy. He'll never grow up!"
Hannah and Nancy laughed. "I think the batter is just about ready," Hannah said, shaking some cinnamon into the bowl. "Do you want to put it into the pan?"
Nancy nodded eagerly as Hannah poured half the batter from the mixing bowl into a measuring cup. "It will be easier for you to pour this way," Hannah said.
Nancy carefully poured all the batter into a cake pan -- just the way Hannah showed her.
"Nice job," Hannah said, sliding the pan into the oven. "You'll be able to cook all by yourself in no time.
"It won't be that soon," Nancy said. "I'm not allowed to use the oven until I'm ten, remember?"
"That's right." Hannah tousled Nancy's reddish blond hair. Then she looked at the oven timer. "I'm not sure how long the cake is supposed to bake. Would you get me my recipe book so I can look it up?"
"You mean your secret recipe book?" Nancy asked.
Hannah kept all of her best recipes in a pretty handmade book with roses on the cover. She didn't like anyone to look inside it.
Nancy understood how Hannah felt because she had a special book, too. Nancy liked to solve mysteries, and her father had given her a shiny blue notebook. In it she wrote down her clues and suspects.
"Don't worry," she said, looking for Hannah's cookbook on the shelf above the counter. "I won't peek."
Nancy wobbled high on her tiptoes and grabbed the recipe book. But she lost her balance. The book slipped right out of her hand -- and came flying straight toward her head!