Friday, August 27, 2010

Case Study 69: "The August Peach"

When summer gathers up her robes of glory,
And, like a dream, glides away.
- Sarah Helen Whitman

I notoriously clutch to every summer's end as it seeps through my fingers like the weakening light at dusk.  Of course, it's inevitable that September will always roll around. But we're summer people, after all.  And so year after year we stand, sweaters half-covering our swimsuits and bare shoulders, denying that we might be cold as the slight chill in the air at our door.  And it knocks earlier and earlier each day. 

I'll be right there!  We shout. But we secretly hide in the backyard, standing below the naked parts of the trees above, where the sun is still hot, and we swear it's still summer where everything gold can stay.  So we reason. The peaches are in season.  The fawns are out alone. And the children next door just learned to ride bikes, which certainly means it can be nothing but summer.

"The August Peach" is a sweet summer peach cupcake topped with a vanilla-bourbon buttercream.  It's ripe, boozy and filled with fruits of the season at their best.

We hunger, we desire, and we want to still lick the juices of the season off our sticky hands.  So we grill up burgers and dogs and summer fruits, making a mess everywhere and hoping nobody sees that all the while, everywhere we go, we are leaving traces of our summer hands and feet.  Hoping to keep the sadness of the colder months at bay.  Hoping to forget that we're ending another third of our trip around the sun. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Case Study 68: "The Farfalle"

They say the butterfly is a symbol for many things: conscious evolution, transformation, and the personification of the human soul.  But whatever it evokes for the individual, when it comes to the family, it means a bit more. 

I spent a day this weekend at a reunion with dozens of my closest relatives on my maternal grandmother's side.  La familia.  An enormous and forever growing chain of life that itself has seen many metamorphoses as it's evolved over the years. We are a family that celebrates.  We are a family ruled by women.  We are a family all about life.  Lives themselves, and the act of livin' it.

"The Farfalle" is a vanilla cupcake with a vanilla bean buttercream and butterfly sitting on top.  My mother told me that when she thinks about the family, she sees us all dancing, and we look like a big bunch of butterflies.  And you know what?  I can kind of see it.  Young and old, wings spread, fluttering around the room. We all become the same thing when we hit the dancefloor.

We find pictures of great aunts and see ourselves in their eyes.  We hear stories about the old country, about the new country, and about how we passed between the two. Years pass, and we learn that just as we die, we are reborn.  Every single person, living or dead, is locked in time as an essential link that holds the whole chain together.  And that somehow helps us makes sense of everything: who we were, who we are, and who we might become. 

Resurrection, rebirth, re-life.  Like a butterfly, old life begets new life, and that is what family is about. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Notes from the Field: Existential Cupcaketology

"By releasing the pressure of
reality upon our lives,
fantasy convinced us that
life itself had no hold upon us.
 We belonged to no place or country,
no class, profession, or generation.
Our truth lay elsewhere.
-Simone de Beauvoir

A cupcake is a cupcake... until's it's not.

Pink meringue takes the form of a cupcake, and gets stuffed to the gills with nutella and strawberries. 

Yeah.  Lots of deep thoughts over here lately.  

Meringue Recipe Courtesy of Martha Stewart.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Case Study 67: "The Cookie Monster"

There are certain gentlemen in this world that do not like sweets (you know who you are!).  These salty fellows stroll through life with a taste for the more refined and savory delicacies of the culinary world.  Or maybe, when it comes to sugarly delights, they frankly just don't give a damn.

Luckily, my big brother doesn't fall anywhere near that category.  Oh no, his appetite for the edible makes me proud.  I've seen him eat nearly an entire sleeve of graham crackers BEFORE dinner.  He's been known to wrap a bundle of shoestring licorice around his tongue in mere minutes.  And pitchers of margaritas?  Make them bottomless, especially on vacation, when we've got nowhere to go.

My big brubba.  The one who, at nearly six years old, wanted to send me back when I came roaring into the world.  The one who tickled me until I peed my pants and blew my budding eardrums out with the Steve Miller Band, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix when he so graciously drove me to school in the 90s.  The one who sat higher up in the tree out back, a plastic desk nested in what seemed like miles above, while I manned the bottom branches and lowering the broken swing down for our mother to send up essentials (bandaids, juiceboxes, cookies).

He brought his older friends to stand guard when the boys teased me after school, and without fail he made light of every love interest I ever had, leaving me in the end with nothing but laughs, regardless of if it worked out or not.  He always let me tag along for all the best adventures, and he went all in when it came to his hobbies in life, like car-racing, fly fishing, and cigar smoking.  He has given me the gift-that-keeps-giving in the form of a nephew, who is so much his own shadow as he is his own little stubborn and silly bull. 

"The Cookie Monster" is just that.  A vanilla cupcake with a sparkly blue vanilla buttercream, and the face of one beloved monster with a mouthful of sweet delicious baked confection goodness.

So to my big cookie monster on his 31st birthday.  Thank you for sparing me those tortuous years of yellow school buses, all while making me appreciate the wonderful music of generations before us.  Thank you for being so crazily passionate and not giving me the option to not learn about your hobbies.  Having all of that knowledge always makes me feel like one hell of a refined woman when faced with a room full of men.  Thank you for giving me someone to look up to.  Whether it was in tree branches or adoration, you set an example for radness and success that pushed me far beyond my years.  And thank you for being there always, when I needed you most and when I didn't need you at all. 

I guess that's just what big brudders do.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Case Study 66: "The Summer Secret"

“There are no seven wonders of the world
in the eyes of a child.
There are seven million.”
- Walt Streightiff

Some things in life are sacred: space, Baby Jesus, and the teachings of Buddha.  And then other things in life are sacred, as in family summer ritual sacred.  In my opinion, among this second type lie some of the most amazing wonders of the world.  

Growing up, summer weeks were spent up on the Cape, and we made the most of our location, surviving mostly on the fruits of the sea alone, along with as much Emack and Bolio's ice cream and Cottage Street Bakery Dirt Bombs we could get our hands on.  But time spent on the sand was different. 

We'd drive out to Race Point, the far reaching tip of the great Massachusetts arm, also known as The End of the World, as far as I was concerned.  While the dads released the air from the truck tires, us kids would run out towards the dunes, bathing suits half on and grass between our toes, catching the sweet perfume of beach roses and salt spray from what waited for us on the other side of that tall grass.

Riding over the sand was like driving on the moon.  Up and down we went, reckless and bumpy as we rose, and weightless as we dropped down the dunes, with our windows down and some old Eagles tape singing a lullaby "Hotel California" to the nesting piping plovers on the beach outside.  Our chosen parking spot always depended on two things: extreme distance from other human beings and the ability to back the trucks toward each other, bumper to bumper, where the rear doors opened to create a closed canopy above, under which lay the perfect serving space for the Ultimate Beach Sandwich.

Bread. Peanut butter.  Banana.  Nutella.  Hershey Bar.  Marshmallow Fluff.  Who knew that six ingredients could lead to salvation?  Assembled and wrapped in tin foil for an hour, unwrapped and BAM.  World hunger: SOLVED.  Ok, well maybe the hunger of five kids, tired from having spent a few hours swimming back to shore after they've drifted nearly to the other end of the Cape on inner-tubes guided by umbrella sails, was what was solved.  But you get the idea.

"The Summer Secret" is a banana cupcake, filled with Nutella, and topped with a whipped Peanut Butter buttercream and a Hershey's chocolate dipped Marshmallow.  Fruity, nutty, creamy, sugary, chocolatey cake goodness all in one bite.  Heaven. 

I'm not quite sure how many wonders of the world exist nowadays.  I once believed there were seven, but maybe that was back in the day before the internet, or when I took the lyrics of related Fleetwood Mac songs as my bible and our family did a lot of traveling in the canyons and mountains out west.  But regardless, if I controlled the list, on it would sit this holy flavor combination.  And though I'm not sure if it holds such high revere in my heart because of nostalgia or true awesomeness, I just don't care.  Some things, my friends, are just sacred.