Friday, April 09, 2010

Peace With Spice Cake

I suffer from a chronic inability to follow any recipe and that becomes a problem if I want to bake. J knows to expect the worst when I take it upon myself to do so. If anything, J has come to realize that her mother can be very persistent and does not give up on something just because she has failed at it twenty times in a row.
Persistence and the capacity to spring back from failure, I guess are qualities that don't hurt anyone so it's a good thing for J to observe and hopefully emulate in other areas of life. Except in this case, J is left with the unsavory job of eating the charred cake, rock solid bread or cookies that don't resemble any kind of cookie she is acquainted with. That can be a steep price to pay to feed somebody's persistence habit though mulishness might be the more appropriate description of the condition.

Recently, I was able to turn out a decent spice cake minus a recipe - a first in my life. J's friends loved it and despite her initial reservations, so did J. A few weeks later, I tried variation on the theme of spice cake and did not bother to follow the steps that had led to the unexpected success the previous time. This one was a success too. J even said that my baking skills were improving. This past weekend, I tired yet another spice cake and for once did not feel the typical rush of trepidation when I opened the oven door after forty minutes. I shared a cake I had baked with a couple of co-workers and a friend. Only if you have failed as many times and as resoundingly as I have in your attempts to bake would you realize what an accomplishment that was.

Finally, I am friends with the spice cake. As long as I have to follow a recipe to cook something or worry about how it will end up tasting, I know it is a new and uncomfortable co-existense, the ingredients or the process and I have not come to understand each other well enough. Baking and I have upto now had a relationship fraught with stress and discord. It has taken Epicurious to resolve the conflicts we could not resolve on our own. I have always believed that following a recipe while cooking is the surest way to keep the relationship that way - remote, distant and unsteady. You never know where you stand with each other. Looks like spice cake and I are in a good, peaceful place together -  I might venture further afield now.

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