Preheating Your Frustration to 450 Degrees

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Sometimes, it’s really hard not to give in to the urge to bitch about every little act of disrespect committed against you or about how broke you are or how unhappy with your job. My instinct is to lean into it, to fill everyone’s ears with tales of rather trivial woe. But I won’t. That’s not why I started this blog, despite the word “bitch” in its title. This is about focusing on what’s good and delicious and hopeful about life.

As Pema Chodron says, when someone hurts you, breathe in, breathe out, and repeat to yourself, “May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.”

Big breath in. Big breath out.

 

This week I channeled all my inner frustration into a Moist Rolled Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. If only I could take my life, smother it in buttercream and roll it into a beautiful little cake…

This whole egg-whipping thing is going to haunt me throughout the entire cake section of this blog. No matter how my cookbook describes the stage to which the eggs should be whipped, I can not reach it. I, apparently, am Tantalus–up to my neck in eggs, straining wildly towards the “ribbon stage”.

I will beat this thing.

When I gave up and figured I had probably already passed this “ribbon stage” and could already see it receding in the distance, I attempted to fold in the flour. I think I need to do some researching on this step. What is the proper technique? How do you make sure that all the flour is incorporated? Like the eggs, unincorporated flour will come back to haunt your dreams.

You know what else is haunting my dreams? I saw a movie this week that shook me to my core. It’s called I Am Not Your Negro. It’s playing only at small, independent theaters, and I suspect it will be gone soon, but I will never forget it. It was based on James Baldwin’s unfinished work Remember This House, in which he planned on exploring the roots of racism in the United States by looking deeply into the lives and deaths of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers. It is a movie that everyone should see. It is a movie that those who need it most will never see. But there was one part that stuck with me–a question that James Baldwin wanted us to ask ourselves. Watch this video (even if you think you’re not interested) and let it sink into you.

It is these difficult questions, such as “why are we so afraid?” that we must answer now, in this moment in history. We must answer to our own fear, and own up to it. And you must go see I Am Not Your Negro. I need to pick up some James Baldwin books stat.

Having capitulated once again to my failure at following the recipe and successfully incorporating the flour, I poured the batter into the prepared pan and attempted to make a “moat” with my thumb around the edge, as per instructed. Question: Is a moat still a moat if the water (batter) rushes back immediately to fill it in? Is this whole moat thing really more of an abstract concept?

Are love and peace and human compassion also abstract concepts?

Once the cake came out of the oven, I flipped it over, pulled the pan and the parchment paper off and…was confronted by what looked like a strip of sun-damaged, wrinkled epidermis that had been unsuccessfully pumped full of botox. Tip for the uninitiated bakers out there: make sure your parchment paper is smooth before pouring in batter.

In order to make sure the cake was moist enough to roll, I had to make a simple syrup to brush it with. As I walked around the kitchen, balancing a bowl full of hot water and sugar  between my belly and one hand while whisking it with the other, I thought–this is probably as close to maternal as I get. It reminded me of mothers bouncing their babies gently against their bodies in order to soothe them to sleep. Unlike babies, however, I then poured a bunch of blackberry whiskey into it and smeared it on my cake. Mommy moment over.

The chocolate buttercream came off without a hitch. This is going to sound odd, but what is it about waves of buttercream that is slightly…sexual? I mean listen, that night I had a dream that an unknown man was watching me make buttercream and he literally came just from being a spectator. Why are food and sex so closely linked in our subconscious? Also, why did I feel, upon waking, like it was one of the best dreams I’d ever had?

Upon eating the cake (pictured above), I found the cake to be too dense. As a sponge cake, it should be light and fluffy, but it was just as compact as the small ball of frustration that pings back and forth inside of me lately. Also, as predicted, there were little pockets of unincorporated flour, shining like dead stars in my otherwise beautiful cake. With baking, I so wish I could berate my cakes into being exactly what I believe they should be, what I need them to be. But they aren’t, and won’t be, until I figure out how to do this all on my own.

Two more months and I will have paid off my credit card debt. Two more months and I will be able to look forward, instead of paying for mistakes in the past. Two more months and I will start looking for a way out.

In the meantime, I am working on being kinder and more forgiving of people’s thoughtlessness, and bitching less.

Current Means of Escape:

queen-of-water

Current Auditory Therapy:

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