Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Post in Three Parts

The phone rings at 9:00pm. From our position on the couch I am closer to the nearest handset. As I get up I remember that I've spoken to both of my parents within the past three hours and that devoted partner's sister was spoken to the evening before meaning, "my bet's on your mom." I was wrong. It was his dad.

Now devoted partner's father and I have had our ups and downs, but for the past two or so years we've been in an ups phase. Still, and with no malice, whenever he's on the phone there's something strange. Like he still can't believe that telephonic technology works. He is always calling from in transit - and much like my father believes that other people really really want to talk to you while you're driving your car and cursing at traffic - and always seems a little confused that, after dialing our number, a person picks up on the other end.

So his mild discombobulation is normal. Last night, however, there was a fever pitched-ness about it: he was, obviously, calling from a moving vehicle, but the scenario he described was reminiscent of a Thelma & Louise scene from the cutting room floor. He was in the car with devoted partner's aunt (it was her car); they had wrangled a large rug out of his apartment, stuffed it into the Audi convertible, and were on their way over to give it to us. One might inquire why this was being done in the middle of the night, but I know better than to ask. I myself have a younger brother and I loved this imagery.

Surprisingly, given the slightly bizarre location of our house, they arrived about fifteen minutes later in one piece and yes, with a rug hanging out of the convertible. Devoted partner and dad wrestled it out of the car and into our house while I refreshed Aunty's drink and gave her the grand tour. I could sell neither of them on a slice of nectarine cake, but was able to pass around some freshly picked Honeycrisp apples - my role as hostess preserved.

Now we need another rug pad.

Yesterday morning I stopped off at my parent's apartment to pick up some black cherry tomatoes my mother had kindly purchased for me at the market. As I was getting ready to leave, I calculated the number of blocks to work and realized it was the perfect number for a leisurely morning cigarette.

And then I remembered I'm not smoking.

I think New York smokers all calculate distance by number of cigarettes needed. For example: my best friend's house was 2 cigarettes away from mine - 11 blocks. From my house to school was 1 - and what a good 1 it was; our old apartment to the subway wasn't long enough for even one cigarette which never seemed ton stop devoted partner (and which always perplexed/vexed me) - and while our old apartment to my old job was also a little short for a full cigarette, given how I didn't want to rush to my desk, I didn't mind spending the extra minute or so outside finishing my cigarette.

I mention this because even though I have not had a pack of cigarettes within grasping distance in over a month, the habit is still in there. In fact, I think one of the reasons the quitting has been so easy for me is that I think of myself on vacation from smoking rather than on permanent holiday. This has the potential to be very dangerous - mostly because I already catch myself thinking that I could become one of those rare birds for whom a cigarette every once in a while is an easily accomplishable thing; the kind of person who, when out for the evening sipping bourbon obviously also smokes a quarter or a half pack, but then doesn't smoke again for a month. I can almost see myself as that person. But, I'm not going to test that theory quite yet.

I may have mentioned that built into my quitting plan was the escape plan: smoking is permitted on international vacation. If you've ever been a smoker, and you've ever been to Europe, you'll know that this makes lots of sense (even now as those damn Europeans are smoking less). Still, walking across Paris from south to north without a cigarette in your mouth seems somehow wrong. This was a fairly easy caveat to squeeze in, mostly because I knew there was probably not going to be international travel for at least six months (the islands don't count - no one had her enjoyment of the tropics diminished by a lack of cigarettes). So I gave myself an opportunity to outlast the craving. If six-twelve months from now I still think I'd want a cigarette while driving from the Geneva airport to Dijon, I guess I'll see what happens; but I simultaneously allow for the possibility that I'll become one of those horrid ex-smokers who wrinkles her nose at the smell of smoke. If I can last 6-12 months, I can try a cigarette and rely on my sheer force of will, that same force that made quitting a breeze, to prevent a slide back to habitual smoking.

That's the theory, anyway.


It strikes me that I could, from time to time, encourage you to cook. I liked this cake I made Sunday. It was easy. It needed only a little tweaking. I think some of you should make this cake because making cake is good for the soul.

Nectarine (or any fruit, really) Cake
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, September 2009

  • flour........................125 grams
  • baking powder........10 grams
  • salt..........................good pinch
  • butter.....................115 grams
  • eggs.............................2 whole
  • sugar #1.................170 grams
  • sugar #2...................20 grams
  • vanilla extract............5 grams
  • almond extract...........2 grams
  • fruit...............................to taste

Combine dry ingredients. Beat butter and sugar #1 until light and fluffy; add eggs one at a time; add extracts; add dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Slice/segment/ensmallenate fruit. Pour batter into greased springform pan (9") and spread evenly; stud with ensmallenated fruit (next time I make this I will be pushing fruit under the surface of the batter as well as piling it on top); sprinkle sugar #2 on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Some ideas I've been toying with:

Use pears and add some star anise;
Use figs and add some chopped pistachios;
Add vanilla bean;
Add candied almonds.

Play around with it, the recipe is a cinch!

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