I have this theory, or shall we call it a personality disposition, that nothing is ever really perfect. While I would argue this pickiness is unfortunate outside the kitchen — “This date would have been even more perfect if I’d ordered the eggplant and not the chicken.” “I love my haircut except this completely unnoticeable thing going on in the back.” — within the confines of the galley walls, I think nit-picking, when done quietly, helps us become better cooks.
Though a big fan of the small nuances that remind you that home cooked food is precisely that — tart crusts with the inevitable corner pieced together from a scrap, a dark spot on loaf of bread that wasn’t rotated in the oven in time — I find it nearly impossible to eat something I’ve made without making a mental note of how I’d do it differently next time. More hot pepper. Less baking time. Ease up on the olive oil. Blanche the peppers for thirty seconds less.
Which kind of brings us to the lemon pound cake (made here in bundt form) from Ina Garten, a name I’m almost embarrassed to mention I am using as a source once again, as I know I said just a couple weeks ago that we should spend some time apart. I can’t resist this cake though, I think it’s one of the ten great cakes every cook should have tucked into their repertoire. It’s buttery yet bright, and nearly every granule of sugar has been countered by fresh lemon in some form so it never lands cloying or saccharine on your tongue. It keeps well, travels wells and if you make it in pound cake form, you even have an extra that you should feel in no way obliged to share.