The Curse of Too Much Cake

I love cake, but if I ate it every single day, I’m sure I’d get sick of it, or at the very least, I wouldn’t appreciate it. So I have a slice of cake maybe once or twice a year, and it’s Nirvana.

That’s how my mother used to feel about oranges. She grew up in New England, toward the beginning of the last century, when produce wasn’t available out of season, and it certainly wasn’t shipped from other parts of the country or world. So on the rare occasion when she got to sample an actual orange, she viewed it as a luxury to be savored. I, too, love oranges, but I don’t think I will ever be able to have the appreciation for them that my mother had. I envy that.

Being able to see something’s value, its worth, to know what it’s like to be grateful for the mere existence of a thing, is in itself a precious gift.

I have always felt rather sorry for children of privilege. They will never know how exciting travel is. They will never appreciate a comfortable bed or a truly well-made meal. The pure joy of knowing what it’s like to work hard and sacrifice to finally reach a goal will forever elude them. They expect everything to be handed to them, so that’s the only anticipation they will ever know.

Children of privilege often don’t take advantage of unique experiences, because they believe that everything they could ever want or need will always be there. They would never run outside to see the Northern Lights. They probably can’t even be bothered to look up from their cell phones long enough to experience an eclipse.

I will always have a sense of excitement and wonder and pure joy when I get to do or see something new. I’ll never forget how tiny my piece of the cake was when I was growing up, so I will always appreciate every crumb that comes my way. What a curse, to lack gratitude. If that were my fate, merely existing would seem all but pointless.

Life is delicious. It should be feasted upon.

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 9: Watergate Cake

The following recipe was handed down to me from my mother, who claimed it was a cake created by the Watergate Hotel. I hope it’s true. It would be nice to think that place is known for something other than a gigantic political scandal. (And incidentally, in the course of doing research for this post, I found out that you can still stay in the scandal room, and even have drinks with the original arresting officers, for the bargain price of $2500 a night. Imagine.)

Watergate cake is my favorite cake of all time. It’s fluffy and flavorful, and comes out a surprising light green. I recently made it for my husband’s birthday, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. It’s super easy. It makes a double layer cake, and I like to use fluffy, white frosting on it, but that’s up to you. It’s actually such a flavorful cake that it doesn’t really need frosting.

Watergate Cake

  • 1 package white cake mix

  • 1 package pistachio instant pudding mix

  • 3 eggs

  • ¾ cup oil

  • ½ cup of finely chopped nuts (optional)

  • 1 cup club soda (NO SUBSTITUTE)

Mix everything together and pour evenly into two buttered cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Frost when cool if the spirit moves you.

Simple. Delicious. Try it!

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Lord Knows I Try

First of all, I should know better than to go grocery shopping when I’m hungry. I never know what I’ll come home with. It’s like I’ve been lobotomized and my brain doesn’t know what my left hand is doing. Anything could wind up in that cart.

This weekend it was Tie-Dye Cake Mix. “The GROOVIEST cake you’ll ever make,” or so says the box. I haven’t made a cake in years, but what the heck. It looked like fun.

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What it turned out to be was a metaphor for my life. I got some of the colors all wrong. The purple turned out a sickly mauve, and the red was actually more of a pink. I got food coloring all over the counter. And I swear to God I followed all the instructions, including using non-stick cooking spray in the pan, but the first layer came out of the pan in a big old crumbly mess. It said you should let it cool out of the pan and on a plate, but after that happened I let the second layer cool in the pan.

Well, that didn’t work, either, so I was left with two piles of cake crumble. How the heck was I supposed to frost that? So I decided to make the best of it. I put down one layer of crumble, glopped in the frosting, and used the next layer of crumble to spread it out.

Yep, that’s my life. I try so freakin’ hard. Things usually come out a mess. Even though I abide by the rules, things still don’t go according to plan. But it is still fun, and in the end it’s still good, so there you go. My life is one big colorful tie-dye crumble.

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The Birthday Chair

It’s funny sometimes how you entirely forget things that used to loom so large in your life. When I was very small, my mother used to have this delightful tradition on our birthdays. She would allow us to sit at the head of the table in a tall backed chair which she had decorated with balloons and streamers and bows and ribbons.

When it was your turn to sit in that chair, you’d feel really extraordinary. It was as if you were the queen of the world. And then in would come the birthday cake, alight with candles. She used to make it from scratch, just for you. Often it was a unique shape. I remember one year it was a colorfully frosted rocking horse. I was so excited!

Somewhere along the way we stopped having the birthday chair. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because we each got to that self-conscious age and began to chafe at the special treatment. Or maybe as grinding poverty bore down upon us, she lost the will to make the effort. It’s hard to say, but somewhere along the way the tradition died out, and eventually it was forgotten.

I have no idea why it popped into my head at this point in time, but I’m turning 50 this month, and it sure would be nice to have someone treat me as if I were special. I guess I will have to train my dogs to blow up balloons and preheat the oven. What could possibly go wrong?

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Crossing Paths with Myself

Today I drove through a part of the city that I hadn’t been to in years. 25 years ago I went there every day for work. So today I could almost see myself walking into my old office. And there was my old car in its parking space. And there I was, sitting at the picnic table where I used to eat lunch while reading a book.

It occurred to me that people leave an emotional signature behind them like an airplane leaves a contrail. I was so unhappy back then, so lonely. And I hated my job so much that the first thing I’d think every morning was, “I don’t want to go.” Driving through there brought it all back to me. I wish I could talk to that old me and tell her that things really would get better, that I wouldn’t always feel that hopeless and discounted and adrift.

This is why I get so angry when someone commits suicide. How can you know? Not only is it a selfish act that hurts everyone who is connected to you, but you’re depriving yourself of the potentiality of life. You have no way of knowing what the future will bring, who you will meet, what opportunities will present themselves to you.

Think of the person you were 20 years ago. Could that person have imagined where you are and who you are right now? Most likely not. And as far as I am concerned, that’s what gives me hope during the hard times, and adds to my excitement when things are going well. Life is one big surprise party. You may as well stick around. There just might be cake.

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