This piece technically isn’t about food waste, however I felt compelled to post it, regardless.
Boy has the lead up to my sisters 18th birthday been an ordeal and a half. A high stress exercise. Not to mention time consuming. You would think that with it being at the forefront of conversation I would have had her present and card lined up weeks ago. Yet, in light of everything else, that small matter has somehow slipped my mind. Oops. Looks like I’ll be making a late-night dash out to the shopping centre sometime soon. So if we haven’t been focused on presents – the logical issue – then what on earth have we been arguing about discussing? Food of course. My darling princess of a sister recently put forward her ‘birthday menu’. That’s right, not just a nice birthday dinner and cake, but a whole weeks worth of meals. She’s not asking for much is she? And, I momentarily took leave of my senses, stupidly agreeing to fulfill her wishes. I think I have a death wish. You see, my sister has high standards when it comes to food. Well, more specifically her favourite foods. They have to be prepared ‘just right’ and according to her – sometimes obscure – interpretations. But the thing is I don’t have a big problem with the menu in itself. Just one dish in particular. The prize jewel of any birthday. The cake.
I’ve come to terms with her request for vegetarian lasagne, nachos and chilli bean rolls. It does mean eating a months worth of kidney beans and cheese in a week (the main ingredients in all three dishes), but I think we’ll manage. I’ve made those meals a number of times before and know just how madame likes them. But the cake’s an entirely different story. What’s the big deal you may ask? It’s only a cake. The problem is that I rarely bake cakes – our family is under the impression that they can only mean one thing – an unhealthy indulgence. Obviously that’s not the case for all cakes. But that misconception, along with the delusion that they are more difficult to freeze (where did we get these prejudices from?!), has lead to the belief that cakes are to be reserved for very special occasions only.
Consequently, when my sister requested a chocolate cake, it took us a fair old while to remember when I last baked one. Turns out it was way back in December 2012 , a week or so after I returned to Australia. That’s eight months ago. It also doesn’t help that when I finally found the said recipe, none of us could agree on it’s texture or taste. I feel as though I’ve been sent out onto a battlefield with no sword or armour – completely ill equipped. It’s not that I can’t make a tasty chocolate cake – I have a number up my sleeve from years past. But this birthday cake has to be just right, and in accordance with madame’s standards. Furthermore, the ‘aura’ surrounding cakes in our household has meant that when we do make one it is highly anticipated. The excitement is almost palpable. Lame, right? In our household the rare opportunity to eat cake is not to be wasted at any cost, and particularly not by a less-than-perfect specimen. Pair this with my sisters peculiar take on food and we have a recipe for grey hairs.
I have uploaded a photo of madame’s requests, dodgy spelling and all, to outline just how convoluted her instructions are.
She wants a cake that is chocolatey but not too rich, neither fudgy nor spongy but somewhere in between and with a frosting that is like, I quote “the brown filling in those Woolies chocolate roll cakes”. I haven’t eaten, let alone seen one of those roulades in years. This cake is like climbing a mountain range – you think you’ve reached the summit and then realise that the actual peak was obscured by cloud and you’ve still got a way to go. Never-ending. And I haven’t even started on the toppings. If one of us doesn’t have a heart attack after the first bite, blow me down with a feather.
The whole debacle surrounding this birthday cake has lead me to reach two conclusions (neither of which bring me any closer to working out exactly what to create):
- Exceedingly high expectations get you nowhere. It’s fine to have an idea or a sketchy picture regarding the future, yet focusing on them too much can only set you up for disappointment. The reality may in fact be perfectly fine – or better than fine – but it will never live up to what is in your head, particularly if you’ve been cultivating a certain image for while.
- We all speak different ‘languages’, particularly when it comes to food. What my sister takes to be ‘light and fluffy’ may be worlds away from my interpretation. In order to avoid straying into dangerous territory, it is important to understand that each and every person has their ‘own’ language and that’s okay. It may be one that’s not always compatible with yours, not just in situations pertaining to food, but in all walks of life. Failing to recognise this is likely to lead to hurt, disappointment and/or conflict.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s wise to remember that when it really boils down to it, food is well, food. I know that at times I blow it’s ‘value’ wildly out of proportion and that leads to more stress than it’s actually worth. Sometimes its best to shave away all of the connotations that surround it – flavour, friends, family, pleasure etc. – and simply appreciate it for what it is. Fuel.
But enough of the philosophical musings…I must get back to frantically testing many varieties of cakes/frostings/toppings, and combinations of all three before judgement day madame’s birthday arrives.