From The American Magazine, June 1949.
From The American Magazine, June 1949.
Food is magic, so it’s no wonder that I feel deeply, divinely alive and loved when The Chef cooks for me. His most recent culinary offering started like this:
CHEF LEIGHTON’S GRILLED CORNFUSION
It is slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and 100% marvelous! Kind of like a certain special someone I know…
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”-George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
Our 2013 Burns Night Supper was a rousing success. It was a great reminder of what a wonderful, loyal, hilarious group of friends we have. The Chef and I spent months assembling every piece of the puzzle: the menu, music, guest list, drinks, poetry, toasts. Finally, on 25th January, everything locked into place: we had an amazing time. Once our friends started arriving, I more or less put my camera down for the night. Good photos are in short supply, but I plan on posting a video of the winning toast soon. To make up for lack of photographic evidence that the party, indeed, took place, I have decided to share my famous cupcake recipe. These cupcakes are, to be honest if a bit immodest, scrumptious. After concocting this dessert, I spent 2+ years refining the method and ingredients. Now you, dear readers, can benefit from my diligence. A few words of warning, however: one taste, and your friends and family will pounce on your cupcakes like a pack of wild beasties, leaving behind nothing but shreds of cupcake liners, pools of drool, and their dignity. The Burns Night revelers would tell you as much
VANILLA-BLUEBERRY-BACON CUPCAKES WITH CARAMEL ICING AND BLUEBERRY COMPOTE* (Makes 24 cupcakes)
Fear not: although this recipe is comprised of three components, with each one made entirely from scratch, it is easy. Trust me. Because of setting time, we’re going to cook backwards and assemble forwards. Continue reading
I baked my first cake from scratch when I was nine years old: a simple cocoa cake, round, one-layer. I decorated it by throwing a handful of confectioners’ sugar on top, the powder landing sparse and uneven in spots, heavy like a snowdrift in others. It was beautiful, and tasted like spongy hot chocolate. From that moment on, standing triumphantly in my aunt Lauree’s small kitchen, I had a new hobby.
I found my sole domestic comfort early, unless brewing a perfect pot of tea counts. To this day, I would rather write and read than do anything else. Baking is my only life-long hobby, the one non-verbal art I have never ignored or repudiated altogether. My favourite time to bake is in winter, when the cold starts pushing through the walls of even the most solid structure. I meet Jack Frost head-on, with a hot oven and a swirl of sugar and spices at the ready.
I’m in the habit of reading as I bake. Consuming a few sentences of Hardy or Plath or Trollope whilst blending cake batter or folding in nuts and sultanas is appropriately meditative for this most serene of the creative arts. The uncontrollable frenzy of the holidays officially starts in America on Thursday. The next month will be a kaleidoscopic whirl of shopping, parties, and working with all of my settings broken, but one: overdrive. A few hours spent baking cookies, bars, brownies, and pies will preserve my nerves and restore my balance close to something I can call normal.
I am dedicating today, the 18th of November, this lovely calm before the holiday storm, to Proust and his madeleines. I was born on Marcel Proust’s birthday, 10th July. Today marks the 90th anniversary of his death. He was 51 years old, and left some of the most lyrical, evocative, and intensely beautiful writing in literature. All of that, and an unbreakable association with French tea-cakes called madeleines? Delicious.
Madeleines require very few ingredients, are easy and quick to make, and can be adapted to fit your whimsies. As they are shaped like shells, they require a special but inexpensive tray, but if you are ambitious you could try shaping them by hand!
Ingredients (minus milk + a decorative pumpkin). Continue reading
We recently checked out the hot new taco/tequila/whiskey place in an “up-and-coming” part of town that we frequent. (Note: In this case, “up-and-coming” means semi-gentrified with a side order of flying bullets.) A stack of these cards was sitting on the bar.
The food was good, the tequila was excellent. Seeing Hunter S. Thompson looking up at me from behind dark glasses was a bit of unexpected fun. Now, on to the other side:
Hmmm, ginger and bitters are two of my favourite things. I’ll probably go back just to try this. Oh, and let’s face it: I’m a sucker for dead writers. If they put a Virginia Woolf Gin Fizz on the menu, I’ll never leave.