Prior to last month, I had spent exactly zero minutes of my life thinking about date cake, craving date cake or noting the absence of date cake in my life and/or site archives. Clearly, this was a misstep on my part, but I’d always assumed they were exceedingly sticky sweet, and also, well warm. I should just stop right here rather than confessing the latest entry in How Weird Are Deb’s Food Tastes?, I know I should, but that’s never stopped me before so here goes: I’m not very into warm, quivery desserts. Like soufflés. And oozy chocolate cakes. I basically don’t understand how I survived the 90s either. I understand if this means you cannot speak to me anymore.
There are recipes on my Cook This list that I’ve been plotting for years but take forever to jump from that place where they’re a rough idea of how I think something might taste good and how I’ll make that happen. There are items on the list which are just the names of dishes I haven’t tried yet and want to learn more about. And there are recipes that make me kick myself every time I see them because how have we not made a good hearty tortilla soup here yet? And where is that Russian napoleon I’ve been promising you? But this here is none of the above. Exactly one month ago, someone emailed me (hi Angela!) and asked if I had ever made a German Sunken Apple Cake [which sounds even cooler in its native language: Versunkener Apfelkuchen] and I had barely finished reading the email before I had a new tab open because I had to immediately know what it was.
I began this summer by expressing, in no uncertain terms, just how terrible New York City summers really are — sticky airlessness occasionally broken up by eerily refreshing droplets of cool water on your head that turn out to be filthy window a/c run-off, and you know, given that NYC lets people with absolutely no relevant skills install their own window a/c units, you might not want to walk underneath them at all, is all I’m saying. Right, I’ve digressed again. I think I hoped that if I aired my grievances about summer early and unflinchingly, I could get through the season without my least favorite of my writing tics, whining about the weather.
I had a friend in town this week and just when we were at the point in the conversation when we’d usually pick a place to meet for lunch, something terrible happened. Caught up in a moment where I forgot that I am me and not, say, Ina Garten, I suggested he come over and I’d make lunch for us instead. I realized I’d lost my ever-loving mind. Sure, I’d like to be the kind of person who makes “just lunch, nothing fancy!” for friends on a whim but I am not. I don’t really do “whim” cooking, as a website with nearly 918 intricately detailed recipes in its archives might evidence. Plus, I had so many recipes I was overdue to test out — a lemonade, a salad, a tart and I’d been promising my son I’d make chocolate pudding for weeks, not to mention the daily grind of breakfast, lunchbox and dinner — that I felt like I had no time to cook anything extra.
To unforgivably botch something great, if all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone, I’m starting to believe that all of Smitten Kitchen’s problems stem from my inability to leave exquisitely simple things like berries and cream alone. Or maybe it’s about me being unable to sit in a room alone with strawberries and cream and not eat them? One thing is clear; I think we know better than to entrust me with the work of great philosophers ever again. I’m sorry, Pascal.
It’s been a little quiet around here this week and I bet you already know why: moving out is the easy part! Moving in, hoo boy. You walk into an empty new home with freshly painted walls and there’s nothing but possibility. You run from room to room, whee! Then your stuff arrives and the pristine landscape is forever compromised. The first boxes aren’t so bad: you prioritize bedding, toilet paper, toothbrushes and whiskey (um, just play along here.) The next few boxes are pretty doable too: glasses go where they always have, books go in bookcases and lamps go on tables. But then, eventually, you get down to the last six boxes and you look around and you realize that the closets, cabinets, dressers and shelves are all full so where does this go? Then, if you’re us, the great unraveling begins: how did we get to a place where we had so much stuff? I thought we were going to resist the siren call of consumption (says she who just purchased what can only be considered a luxury ice cube tray). How did I get to a place in my life where I had 125 cookie cutters, 9 shades of sanding sugar and cupcake wrappers in at least 7 patterns that I can neither bring myself to throw away or justify the space they will take up? The last 6 boxes take forever to unpack; you’ll be glad you prioritized the whiskey.
Let me just get the obvious out of the way because I know what you’re thinking: what am I doing here? Shouldn’t I be packing for our move, which is less than 24 hours from now? These are all valid questions, but you see, there is history here, a long history of kitchen-related procrastination. Two days before our last move, I sheeted pasta and peeled favas. I spent the last week of my pregnancy stocking the freezer with foods to
bribe charm labor and delivery nurses with. When I was done with that, I made a cake for people coming to visit the new baby. When my induction was trudging along pitifully slowly, I pulled out my laptop and wrote up a new recipe I’d made in the days before. Thus, it should be no surprise that on Tuesday, with a totally straight face, I made the argument by turning the last splash of heavy cream, handful of chocolate chips and a half-pint of vanilla ice cream leftover from this into hot fudge sauce, I was “packing.” But yesterday, I didn’t even have an excuse; I just needed a break from having exasperating conversations a store that lost the mattress we ordered and could maybe get us a replacement sometime in September, arrgh.