The Tale of the Cake

This has been long overdue; I finally decided to take up a new hobby: cooking. Well, to give you a little background I’ve always known that I loved cooking, not only because I love food, actually I used to have this notion that if you cook it you won’t enjoy it, I prefer to have people cook for me, so it’s not about the love of food it’s more like the art of cooking itself, it is something you can be quite creative with. I remember what one of my favorite professors at university once said, she was a very elegant, cultured and well-educated woman and a women rights advocate and what not, and she said that with all her academic success and achievements, when she makes a dish that is so delicious she feels like she’s earned a higher education degree, or something to that effect.

So, I love cooking, I enjoy cooking, it’s just that my previous experiences weren’t very encouraging and at times epic failures so I gave it up and convinced myself that it is something I can’t do. But then I realized, if everybody else can then why can’t I? In fact, the problem with my previous cooking endeavors was that I tried to improvise, and as it turned out it’s not very wise to improvise in something you know almost nothing about. S, I decided to go by the book, looked up some easy recipes and decided to make a cake.

You see, a friend told me it’s better to start with easy desserts and move up the scale from there. I also like baking more than cooking itself, I guess. The problem was I’ve never lit an oven in my life, not comfortable with them, I feel like they’re going to explode and take my eyebrows away. But of course I need to get over that, hopefully it won’t be an obstacle.

So, baking it is. I looked up this recipe on the internet, and may I say that there are some fantastic facebook pages with easy step by step recipes, with pictures too. It’s nice to see facebook pages serving a purpose instead of just making up stupid stuff to collect likes and fans. Anyway, back to the cake. The cake I made was Blackberry and milk cake. My first cake to make from scratch (Actually I’ve made one when I was at school but my mom walked me through it and she did the whisking and stuff so that doesn’t count). So before I go through the steps let me lay out the ingredients I used, I played with the measurements to make a bigger cake since I was taking it to the family gathering at Grandma’s.

 

3 cups of flour

2 cups of sugar

150 grams of butter (that is one and a half sticks) update: that was too much butter, use 50 or 75 grams

1 and a half cups of liquid milk

3 eggs

A sprinkle of vanilla

A pinch of salt

1 and a half tea spoons of baking powder

Blackberries (or strawberries, or blueberries, whatever floats your boat)

 

So, I got all the ingredient out on the table, 30-minute meals style, you know watching cooking shows gives you some pointers, not that I watch any, it’s just that I translate them. Actually at first I realized I was going too slow and thought that wouldn’t work, I should be fast, Rachel Ray’s fast –another cooking shows influence- there’s a certain energy about her that I like, makes you feel like she’s cooking at home not on TV and h=the way she eyeballs everything and just pours things down and throws in chunks of ingredients and cheese like there’s no tomorrow. But again she doesn’t bake, and we’re taking about baking here, so preheat the oven to 400 degrees and back to that.

So, I put the butter and the sugar in the pot and put them on low heat to melt slowly. At the first glance I was a bit skeptical whether the sugar will start to caramelize or even burn before the butter melts, it looks that way, but as soon as the butter starts melting you get that amazing texture and color and once you add the vanilla, which I was quite generous with not just a sprinkle, you get that delicious smell that makes you feel this would be enough, you can just stop here and you got yourself a dessert. Then of course the milk, I used low fat milk because when you’re using that amount of butter you might want to cut down on the saturated fat a bit.

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In a separate bowl, I mixed 3 cups of flours, using the same cup I used to measure the sugar, you can’t go wrong using the same cup –hopefully- and then I added the baking powder and a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness out. Then I started to add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, in batches of course, and I kind of panicked a little because it was a bit lumpy, but then I remembered we had a magical instrument called the electric whisk, and there was a smooth silky delicious cake batter (after lifting it off the heat of course). So that was kind of reassuring, you know, if the batter tastes good then hopefully the cake itself will taste good too.

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After that I poured the batter into a pan, needless to say I enlisted my mother’s help at several stages like to decide which pan to use and how hot the oven should be, and she lit the oven I have to say not because I wouldn’t do it but I think she didn’t want to take the risk of her new kitchen blowing up.

After pouring the batter into the pan I put the blackberries on top. The original recipe had strawberries but I thought blackberries are more interesting, not to mention that they have a nice tang. You can use either fresh or canned ones, I used the canned ones because I like the moisturizing effect of the syrup and as you may know fresh blackberries are ridiculously expensive here and they don’t taste as good as they look. If I may make a disclaimer here, I thought the blackberries would sink to the bottom but they didn’t, had I known that I might have done a better job esthetically.

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Now into the oven, I must say it didn’t give that amazing cake aroma that fills the house when my mom bakes a cake but it’s a different kind of cake, I guess that’s because I didn’t use any lemon or orange zest.

I want also to point out that in the course of writing this post I got excited and got up and made quick chocolate fudge. Well, I discovered that being excited about cooking makes you don’t feel like eating, I didn’t have lunch today, so there. But I also think I might be trying to fill a certain void here, this has gone a bit far… but I’m enjoying it, no need for philosophy now.

So, here is the final product. Looks good, no? And it tasted great too

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There was a little problem though, it was a bit undercooked. Well, it was really undercooked to be perfectly honest, I think I just had to use a hotter oven, that was the mistake. I admit I was disappointed and it really make me feel bad, like a failure, which is ridiculous as it’s just a cake, but the thing is it’s really not, I actually thought of writing a post called “the psychology behind  a cake” after that. To tell you the truth for a moment there I was like: “I’d better stick to writing” which made me think that maybe I got interested in cooking because I’m not doing much writing these days, I mean, other than my blog there’s nothing, so maybe that was it, and when the cake failed me I felt like I had nothing which is ridiculous. And yes, I can write and cook at the same time. And that’s just part of the things I concluded after that baking experience, but I’m over it now, maybe I’ll try again sometime later in sha’a Allah. Why do I have to philosophize everything? Why can’t I accept that life could be simple sometimes, and that it is just a cake? A freaking undercooked blackberry cake?

P.S: If at any point you planned to make the “isn’t there an iPhone cake too?” joke then please save it, I’ve already heard it twice!

Update: I think the cake didn’t rise because I used too much butter

 

A Conversation with Tubby – 6

He sat in the corner, curled up in a fetal position, looking exceptionally sad. The poor thing always looked sad and withdrawn but this time it was at an alarming level that it was very hard to dismiss. Actually, in retrospect, I think he made a point of making me feel obliged to ask, knowing fully well that if I could deal with the guilt of ignoring such a carefully designed scene, my curiosity would spiral out of control. And so it happened…

Me: Hey, why the long face?

Tubby [with a feeble voice]: I’m bored

Me: is that it? Well, go check out the memory closet, knock yourself out. Check 1993, that was an interesting year.

Tubby: No, thank you. The boredom I’m suffering isn’t something your third grade memories can cure.

Me [sitting up straight and assuming a more serious look]: What’s this about? This isn’t just boredom, come on, tell me.

Tubby: Well, I’m not sure you’d understand

Me: I can’t promise you that but at least Ii can try to

Tubby: Okay… I’ve been… feeling… as of late… a little bit…

Me: Aha?

Tubby: lonely

Me: hahahaha Oh good old Tubby! You’ve gone soft

Tubby: See? You’re making fun of me. I shouldn’t have told you

Me: Oh no, sorry. You feel lonely, that’s totally understandable. Now, how can I help you?

Tubby: Well, maybe if you can get me some company…

Me: Company? What am I doing here?

Tubby: Not you. You’re a human, always busy with your human stuff. I live inside your head alone. I need someone of my own kind… A girl

Me: Tubby you realize that at your astronomical age asking for a girl makes you a pedofile

Tubby: Oh shucks! A woman… and I promise I’ll be good to her. I’ll spoil her, and cherish her and…

Me: Hold on there. Tubby, I’m sure millions of women would kill to fill such a coveted position. I mean, it’s you, a 100+ year-old man with white exploding hair receding to the sides of your head and the cutest gaps between every other tooth… yeah, that should be a piece of cake, I’ll just snap my fingers and your fairy princess will be her

Tubby: When have you become so shallow? I know I’m not exactly a sight for the sore eyes but ugly people need love too. I don’t care how old is she or how she looks, she can’t complain about me being a beast if she wasn’t a beauty herself. Haven’t you seen Shrek?

Me: Well, Tubby, it’s just that I’m not sure she will deserve you. What if she breaks your heart? I don’t have the time or the energy to nurse your wounds

Tubby: Why would she? She will be a figment of your imagination, just like me, you can control here

Me: No, forget it, I won’t have two love birds singing around inside my head. I have more important things to focus on

Tubby: Oh I get it. You’re jealous

Me: What? You worthless piece of rubbish, how dare you? Why on earth would I be jealous of you?

Tubby: Because I’m capable of human feelings that you’re not capable of

Me: You’re not even human

Tubby: My point exactly

Me: you better season your words mister because you might have to eat them later on. I’m perfectly capable of these whatever human feelings you’re talking about. As a matter of fact I have abundant amounts of love and what not that I don’t know what to do with, honestly I can just lend you some of that to solve your problem

Tubby: Really? Define “love”

Me: Well, it’s too general a concept…

Tubby: No, the specific meaning for which I’m asking you to find me company

Me: Okay, let’s see… It’s a condition characterized by the singling out a human being out of the whole earth population that suddenly you worry about that person and you crave their attention, it becomes like oxygen you know except you don’t want to share it with everyone. It’s also being aware of that person’s special qualities as well as their needs and being sensitive to them, so it’s not just what they say about butterflies and all these stupid hormonal side effects. It’s that feeling that everything you do or say is connected one way or another to that particular someone. Of course that’s the theoretical part to it, because it is not just a feelings or a myriad of feelings, it’s also the set of actions based on those feelings, like respecting the other person, making compromises, trying to make each other happy, you know. You can’t say you love someone if you ridicule them at every chance you get or shout at them day and night. Now, if reciprocated this condition could lead to that certain someone becoming the only one of their kind, they seem almost indispensable. But of course it only feels like it because nobody is indispensable.

Tubby: God! That felt like you were reading from an encyclopedia. What are you, a robot?

Me: Shut up, you wouldn’t give such an answer in a million years you dim-wit

Tubby: of course, because it’s not a mathematical equation.

Me: Well, maybe it is. You see, that’s why I can’t help you fulfill your wish, because I can define it but I can’t reproduce that feeling, I don’t know how it feels, the whole reciprocated fulfilling thing. And there’s no shame in it, it’s perfectly okay, not everyone will have that and not everyone is worthy of it, no? However, I have a good suggestion for you

Tubby [discouraged]: What?

Me: Go to sleep and maybe you’ll dream about it. I mean, I was reading that dreams are wish fulfillments, even the dreams that distress you, they fulfill a wish one way or another. Freud believed that and I tend to agree with him on that regard, I just hope that wasn’t his “medicinal” cocaine speaking

Tubby: you mean even when I dream about being chased by a bear?

Me: Yeah. Even the dream I had two days ago about me being accused of murdering a Syrian actor, who’s already dead by the way, and my father wanting to turn me in to the police and then me planning to escape but not before writing a book about that actor. It was a horrible dream but when I analyzed it I found that it was fulfilling a certain wish I had.

Tubby: the wish to kill an already dead Syrian actor?

Me: Of course not, silly! Dreams can be “disguised” fulfillment of “suppressed” wishes. It meant something to me and it’s none of your business.

Tubby: Even if I dream about it, the feeling of fulfillment will evaporate as soon as I wake up and I will feel even worse

Me: yeah… I really wish I can help you buddy but… please, stop this nonsense. What happened to our interesting conversations?

Tubby?

Tubby?

Don’t you disappear on me…

A dose of Excitement

I just love it when exciting things happen unexpectedly, totally out of the blue, or kind of.

The first exciting encounter I had was 2 days ago. I was at my cousin’s place and she told me that her husband’s uncle, who passed away 3 years ago and who was an avid reader/writer/translator, had left a large number of books and his wife wants to give them away, she doesn’t want them to just sit there stagnant, not if someone can read them and make use of them. So she said I could go down to the basement, where the books were and pick whatever I wanted. Can you imagine going into a place with things you like and being told to pick whatever you want and take it away with you? A child in a candy shop! Yes it’s exciting, but I hadn’t realized how exciting it was until I actually was in the middle of that treasure vault.

I can think of several ways to express this but let’s just say this: mounds and mounds of books stacked on shelves and inside cabinets, books of all genres, history, politics, literature, Arabic, English, old, new… I’m telling you, less than half an hour there and I felt like I was losing my mind, of course I could’ve spent more time if I was willing to be a little bit more rude and selfish as my cousin was freezing so I had to cut it short, leaving with around 10 books only but I told the lady of the house that I know people who can make good use of them and can take the whole quantity, those are none-other than the guys at Inkitab of course.

The highlight of it all was when I picked a poetry book by Mourid Barghouti and as I opened it I found a dedication to the late owner of this library, Salah huzayyen, calling him his dear friend. So I was standing there in the legacy of a man I’ve never met, with a part of him still hiding between the pages of these books. Now if that’s not emotional I don’t know what is.

So, I took the books home and I realized I have no way to put them, and I started thinking that I really need a new room, which leads me to the other exciting thing which took place less than 24 hours later. We’re moving! Yes, suddenly we found a new house and we’re moving by the end of this week in sha’a Allah. And it’s quite exciting for me because I’ve been living in the same house for the past 25 years. Now we have to pack our things and go through them to decide what to take and what to leave, it’s like a personal inventory. Although we’re moving within the same area, actually the new house is 2 blocks away, but I still think it’s going to be a hopefully good change as the new house is much different and bigger than our current house, and I’m actually happy that we’re staying in the same area because I really like it, it’s quiet and cozy and we know the people here.

So that’s pretty much it, it’s an interesting time, hope everything goes well