Cake vs. Pie

Devil's food cake with vanilla bean icecream.

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CAKE IS THE VEHICLE FOR FROSTING

CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! CAKE! ….Hmm, let me think about this challenging question. OK, obviously there is nothing to think about. Hands down, CAKE! Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, frosting on frosting. Asking which type of cake is my favorite is like asking me which of my children I prefer; you can’t answer, you love them equally..sometimes you feel like vanilla, sometimes you feel like chocolate. The possibilities are endless….Oh dear, I just realized something maybe what I love most about cake is the frosting. Let’s face it blueberry pie and frosting just does not work.

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The Sweet Scent Of A Perfect Peach

Helianthus annuus (Sunflower). Taken at garden...

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In my imagination I think we would be friends if only we lived closer together. I would give her, and only her, the true secret ingredient to my super moist banana chip/raisin bread. Her mouth would smile widely and crumbs would spill happily from her mouth as she ate it with delight; her big doe eyes would nod in agreement. I can’t compete with her cooking of course, she was born baking and cooking but there is no competition between friends. We laugh together at my lack of cooking skills and she constantly admonishes me and tells me she will force me to learn. Knowing her, I have a feeling, she will make me follow through.

On the side of her house I imagine her large garden where she picks her own deep, red  tomatoes from the vine and takes a big bite of one warmed by the sun. She has sunflowers, big tall, brown, vibrant orange and yellow, about fifty of them, near the rows of green peas and lettuce and carrots hiding in the moist soil. Next to them, sweet butter corn  grows tall and stretches to the sun like a morning yoga pose. Wildflowers grow nearby, purple, yellow, pink, white and the blue of a delicate robin’s egg. There are so many vibrant and intense colors in her garden, it’s like staring at a painting by Matisse.

I’ve never had the actual opportunity to meet an idol, someone I’ve cherished since I was a teenager, but I came close, by association, a few weeks ago. I spoke with her warm and friendly assistant and it was such a pleasure. Melissa, her assistant, told me something I will always remember. “She liked your writing and wants you in HER group.”  That lifted my spirits for days. While I could not go to the current workshop she was holding I hope one day to meet her and attend a different workshop.

I read her first book about one hundred times; a book that still sits on my living room shelf now,  forty years later. I share my house with my husband, a son who is soon off to college for the first time, a daughter who will now be a senior in high school and a nine-year old adopted shelter dog named Callie who is sleeping on top of my feet. That first book has been carted from my parents’ apartment to college to every city I have lived in.  We grew up together, she and I, for a forty-year time period, she just didn’t know me.

There’s no doubt in my mind, from her first magazine article in the New York Times that she would grow up to be an amazingly talented, gifted writer. True to herself and her family and friends. She grew as a writer and as a person, I wonder if people expected her to stay nineteen and if that was hard for her? We all change and grow, make mistakes, learn; stagnant is boring.

I think she would be warm and funny, intense about her work and friendly, she probably just baked apple muffins with a crumb topping and served it with sun tea. There’s a colorful tiled table that holds chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies that she whipped up in a spare hour;  sharp, white cheddar cheese and crispy pita chips would be nearby. Family and friends are always invited to her kitchen; there are always people and animals nearby.

I imagine sitting on a large white patio, rocking slowly on our rocking chairs and exchanging whispered secrets and watching the red sunset fall slowly into the water to form three lines of color, orange, dark green, ultimately black. I remember when my family and I used to go to Cape Cod, when our kids were much younger, at every sunset we would sit on the sand, other people around us, and we would wait for the sun to set. When it did, everyone clapped. That is my idea of heaven, living near the ocean, watching the sunset with strangers sharing stories, listening to Reggae music provided for free. Sitting still in front of nature as if we were in a theater waiting for the curtain to rise.

At night, in my imagination, we would creep down the stairs and meet in the kitchen unplanned. We would burst into giggles when we found out we were there for the very same thing.  I always snack after I am supposed to be asleep and I eyed a bowl of ripe peaches on a small, round table that she had recently repainted in pink-rose paint. That first bite of that juicy peach would make me happy, so happy I  can’t even describe it. This peach, this wonderful gift from nature was just perfect. It was ripe, juicy, sweet and had a silken texture. The juice rolled down my chin and I groaned with every bite of happiness. It was the sweet scent of a perfect peach with my new friend, laughing into the dark night.

Dedicated to Joyce Maynard and Melissa

My Most Memorable Birthday- 25!!!

bouquet of roses

Image by Muffet via Flickr

IT was my 25th birthday, my parents, sister and I went to a fancy restaurant in New York to celebrate. The food was smorgasbord style but I remember looking at layers of thick orange lox, plump, green, salty capers and huge layers of white onions. I had no idea what I was going to eat. I had always been a picky eater so I’m sure I had bread, butter and an assortment of cheese, which is still one of my favorite meals. The only thing I do remember vividly is the end of dinner when our plates were cleared off the table.

It was dessert time, my favorite time, and my favorite chocolate layer cake had been brought in by my parents from The Homestead Gourmet Shop in Queens. Every year I looked forward to MY annual, traditional chocolate layer cake with raspberry jam filling and creamy milk chocolate frosting with perfect, pink script writing that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Roses, pink and green, made out of frosting, adorned the perimeter of my cake.

There were three black and white-clad waiters singing “Happy Birthday” to (an embarrassed) me. All of the waiters were smiling, each had a bright white starched napkin draped over one arm. I remember looking up after I blew out the candles and saw the waiters singing and smiling, reminding me of the penguin clad waiters from Mary Poppins. After a minute, my eyes saw something so unreal that time stood still. One of the waiters was NOT a real waiter at all. It was my beloved “Uncle Teddy” who lived far away in Israel. My father knew he would be in town and my family had arranged for him to surprise me for my birthday, waiter outfit and all. I remember the moment it registered in my brain and I jumped up from my seat and cried with happiness “Teddy!” He came towards me to give me a big hug and from behind his back he produced a bouquet of roses. I will never forget the feeling I had, the sound of my voice as I screamed his name and the sobbing as I stood motionless in time with my very own special “waiter.” He hugged and kissed me, tears streamed down both our cheeks. It was the best birthday I have ever had and one that I will never forget.

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Paging “Mr. L” (Repost with Addendum)

kew gardens queens

Image by silatix via Flickr

I had a friend on my blog who once lived in the same town that I grew up in at different times. We both lived in Kew Gardens, Queens.  He would read my blog fairly consistently and would always comment with his classic signature “Mr. L.” even though I knew his first name was Abe. When I wrote about our old neighborhood, he loved it. I wrote a few posts on the now dissolved oldkewgardens.com about what it was like growing up in that sweet town and that is where we first met. He contacted me after that and we stayed in touch.

He hasn’t been on in a long time and I’m beginning to get worried about him. He was last living in California, I believe, and was contemplating whether he wanted to continue living there or not. Mr. L. to me, was like my substitute dad or uncle, since my dad passed away ten years ago. We used to kid around a lot and talk about our favorite gourmet delicatessen, The Homestead. I still dream about their Polish rye bread, sour and chewy and their faux Sachertorte cake made with many layers of raspberry jam between layers of creamy, sweet, chocolate cake. When I lived at home, every birthday cake was this particular cake inscribed with “Happy Birthday.” A real Sachertorte from Austria is drier and has layers of apricot jam but this was sweeter, this was MY cake.

When Mr. L talked about his deceased wife it was with such emotion, always, he still missed her so very much. From what he told me he absolutely adored her. In every “conversation” he would bring up his wife and talk a little about her; those little things that really make up a great marriage, sharing breakfast, the same bed, holding hands.

I know this blog post isn’t going to win any awards, nor will it attract a lot of people but that’s fine. I know Mr. L had adult children but I don’t remember where they live. So, if anyone knows him (and yes, I do know his full name) please let me know. I know I am overly emotional and sensitive, that’s a big part of who I am but I care about him and hope he is alright. I don’t want to lose Mr. L if I don’t have to. Mr. L. please come back and say hello.

ADDENDUM 10/19 2011. I HEARD FROM MR. L TODAY!!!!!!!!!!

What My Home Says About Me (A Plinky Prompt)

Brownies stacked on a plate.

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Home SWEET Home

When my dad was alive he bought me a candle every Christmas. I still buy a candle when I see one that I love. We have a fireplace in the living room and on the mantel above it there are photographs of my husband and me, our two children and one of our dog.The house is cozy (real estate term for small) and “lived in” (a nicer word for a bit cluttered). There are books all over the house; books are my one addiction. The house smells like coffee in the morning, strong and rich. After meals, the house smells sweet like cookies and chocolate and vanilla. Right now I am going down to bake some chocolate chip brownies. Welcome to our home, please come and join us.

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Chocolate or Vanilla? (Be Serious!)

09 Vanilla Soft Serve Ice Cream

Chocolate or Vanilla? NO, chocolate AND vanilla, in different forms. I’m an all vanilla girl with cakes, cupcakes, frosting and soft-serve ice cream. IF I had to pick one I would go with vanilla. Is there anything better than a soft-serve vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles? No, there isn’t, it’s the best combination. Chocolate sprinkles are not even an option, ever. However, at night when the sweet tooth fairy invades my body and soul, I reach for the snack size chocolate candies that are left from Halloween: Almond Joy, 3 Musketeers, Nestle Crunch, M & M’s. I don’t expect that I will have to eliminate one from my world of eating but if I had to eliminate one I would pick chocolate. I’d be “Vanilla Girl” as I have been called in the past, but it would hurt. Deeply.

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Which Two Songs Do YOU Hate?

 

MacArthur Park (song)

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I was driving the cute Mazda smile car to pick up my daughter from Driver’s Education when my LEAST favorite song came on the radio. Hands down, MacArthur Park, sung by Donna Summer is a song I hate and it has the potential to make me crazy. “Someone left a cake out in the rain?” my response to that is “who cares?”and “what kind of moron would do that?”  It may have deep symbolic meaning,   (doubt it) it may be a poetic mystery ( doubt it even more) but the fact is: it turns me off. My idea of water torture? This song on repeat. I don’t know why I have such a strong negative reaction to this song but ever since I first heard it, it rubbed me the wrong way. I have to turn it off  immediately or turn the volume down very low so I don’t hear it. The other song that always gave me a headache was Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You” with its high quotient of abnormal screeching. A bunch of honeybees swarming around me is a more relaxing sound than this song that goes through my head like an over-active buzz saw through brains and gushing blood. If I could erase two songs from the universe these would be the two that I would choose. What would YOU choose?

p.s. Hey Plinky Prompts, move aside, you’ve got nothing on me.