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Secret false cake – by Justyna

3 Aug

I’ll let you in on a secret of mine. I don’t really like cake all that much. Same goes for tea. I would prefer to sit around pints of beer and pretzel sticks with my friends, but, as previously mentioned by Beth and Tabs, women tend to like cake. Loads. So I sit along with my dainty fork and join in. I’m not in pain really but I do often wish there was a plate of beef jerky in front of me instead. Cooking I can do, but baking, well my repertoire is reserved to muffins and oatmeal cookies (mainly because of Kazek who loves baking). Creamy cakes are definitely out. Torts are just some sort of misunderstanding. And the remainder? Well I’ll eat it and enjoy myself but mainly for the ritual rather than the taste. If you give me an espresso to wash the cake down with I’ll be happy enough. And I have never, ever, wet myself at a wedding when the cake has been brought out.

My cake eating patterns have changed somewhat in the recent years though. I eat cake more often these days than before. Mainly due to Michal. He is the biggest cake eater I have ever met. He likes peasant cakes mainly though (read no fancy shit or cream please), and he can eat copious amounts. Sometimes Michal’s mum will bake a massive apple strudel or a cheesecake and bring it over. Within two days Michal can eat the whole thing with me having but a sliver. He doesn’t apologise for it either. It’s his weakness and he’s happy to indulge every time. When we came down the mountains yesterday we stopped at a spa town famous for its underground springs (Krynica), wanting to show Anthony how smelly the water can get and how supposedly good it is for you. There is a massive building reserved for the water sampling. There is also a cake stall. Michal visited the cake stall first. My mother, never the biggest baker, bakes a cake every time Michal comes over. Her son-in-law-arse-licking-type behaviour. It’s pretty entertaining.

Under the commie times there was a sweet product here roughly called ‘similar-to-chocolate’ chocolate (czekoladopodobne). Basically it was fake chocolate. Apparently the masses were not allowed to enjoy the real taste of cocoa. I still have the taste of it in my mouth because I accidentally bought a block of it a week or so ago. I thought it was outlawed but it appears there is still a market for this horrid garbage. It looks like chocolate, it is packaged like chocolate, but it smells and tastes like cardboard dipped in a thin layer of a runny chocolate-flavoured milk drink. And then it leaves this horrible, oily film on your upper roof. Kids used to get it as birthday treats and for Christmas. It caused many tears and psychological issues.

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Cake and other C words – by Karen

20 Jul

Now, I’m on my phone’s internet connection, so it’s just not practical for me, but I believe if you watch that video right through, you’ll see some of the most arresting choreography since Single Ladies (Put  a Ring on It). Most especially arresting, is the erm, crotch framing move which has since been christened the Pussy Pat, the Vag Vogue and the Cake Cutter (at least partially in reference to her unfortunate Chris Brown collaboration, Birthday Cake). The significance of this move in a feminist context boggles my mind in a way I find pleasing. Is it liberating for a woman to adapt and adopt the crotch-grabbing incorporated by most male hip-hop and r&b artists post-MJ? I think so. It’s also definitely a little bit gross.

I find myself liking Rihanna, originally with the placidity of a Singapore radio listener, and more recently, against my will. And one of the things that I like most about her is her willingness to be gross. I think this might be the only thing  I still like about her post her cynical Chris Brown endorsement (aka the Birthday Cake saga). Her hypocrisy in pretending she hadn’t used the relationship for publicity in that interview is very off-putting, and she acts similarly affronted when questioned about him in interviews, despite the deliberate and unnecessary collaboration on Birthday Cake. In the same way, she’s offended when the douche bag in this interview asks her to teach him the cake cutter because it’s “disrespectful” and inelegant (only because of the dress of course), but seriously, did she think she was in private when she performed it in her music videos? (Honestly though, that interviewer deserves worse treatment, what an embaarassing fool – http://youtu.be/wg3nxXFjBq8 – skip to 2:05).

But I really did think it was kind of funny that she wore her C**t necklace to a Catholic Church. And that when someone tweeted that her red hair made her look like a tampon, she publicly replied that at least she wasn’t a c**t. Hmm… Maybe I only think she’s funny because she uses the C word a lot. May need to reassess.

Cake – by Tabitha

17 Jul

“Cake” is a word for which I have entirely positive feelings. I have very much enjoyed thinking about it over the past couple of days… maybe a bit too much. Indeed, I am writing this post at the first available opportunity so I can stop thinking obsessively about cake.

I have been reflecting on all my most wonderful cake-eating experiences – the banana cakes and sultana tea cakes of my childhood, the treasured gateaux carefully selected from French patisserie windows, the homemade Women’s Weekly birthday cakes – and have realised that while cake is indeed delicious, the joy of cake is not really in the taste, but its symbolic social role. You don’t eat cake alone. Well, you shouldn’t.

This was, for me, the hardest thing about being a vegan. Giving up butter and cream was easy, but not partaking in the social ritual of sharing sweet treats was unbearable. It seemed the most antisocial thing a person could do, to reject a cake which someone had lovingly baked, purely for the purpose of giving and sharing. I spent my veganism baking vegan cakes to try to compensate for my rudeness, but vegan cakes are by definition revolting. Bringing a vegan cake to a tea party is almost just as insulting as not eating cake at all.

If ageing has taught me anything, it’s that’s holding steadfastly to one set of morals doesn’t make you more righteous, it just blinkers your view of all the other morals you’re violating, to make you feel more righteous. These days I’m much happier with the imperfect complication of reality, the balancing act of values and life philosophies and feelings that informs my decisions. I still support most of the ideas behind veganism, and would certainly like to return to not eating any factory-farmed animal products soon, but I won’t ever subscribe to capital-V Veganism again. Instead I’ll just make decisions on a case-by-case basis, according to what I’m comfortable with, and that includes eating cake. For me, the hypocrisy of violating an ethical stance is less personally troubling than self-exclusion from the world of baked goods.

I think one of the reasons that this world – the one of baked goods – is so important to me is because it’s so very clearly for, and about, women, always has been, and always will. Our grandmothers nattered with their sisters and friends over tea and a slice in the same way we meet under the pretext of craft, but we all know it’s for the cake and the gossip. I have a very clear image of what my friendships will look like in my old age, and it’s the same image of my friendships now – ladies, around a table, with a teapot and treats. And I wouldn’t give that up for the world.

Cake stories – by Beth

16 Jul

Carrot cake is my favourite. Got to have cream cheese icing. But really I have yet to meet a type of cake I don’t like.

Like most little girls/ladies of a certain kind, I love the whole aesthetic of the tea party: dainty plates, beautiful tablecloths, teapots and drinking tea from a cup with a saucer. I fantasize about that stuff.

Thinking back on my favourite books from my childhood – some of which Leo likes, and some he calls “your books” because we both know I like them more than he does – almost all of them feature a tea party/ shared cake/pie/baking moment at the end. So is it a coincidence that I’ve got a tea party fetish, or did my parents make me that way by the books they read me?

Allow me to give you some examples. It is seriously 80% of the childhood books we’ve kept! The other 20% have a meal in there somewhere and then they end with someone (usually a little person) going to bed. If you click on one of the images the slideshow mode says the name of the book.

My Mum and Dad can still recite the last page of Oh Lewis! – I think that was “their” book in the same sense that Leo talks about. The last page sums it up:

“Then Mama and Lewis and Ellie sat down to eat their tea and cake, and Lewis had two slices because he had had a very hard day.”

The Ladies, a Plate series is my baking bible. New Zealanders know how to bake. 99% of the recipes start with “cream butter and sugar”. Ooooh, yeah. Here is a quote from Alexa Johnston’s A Second Helping: More From Ladies a Plate. It’s the adult version of what all of my childhood books are showing:

“Time spent in your kitchen can be a joy rather than a penance; baking for and with others can be highly satisfying and will build lifelong memories for the recipients of your offerings; and that sharing food with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours helps build stronger communities and can contribute a little to the mental health of our society.”

So true in my opinion. Alexa is both a home baker and a historian, and so she brings the two skills together to collect the best recipes from many sources, including old community cookbooks (from Church fetes and the like) and her own friends and family. Each recipe includes a little history of the dish. It’s magic. Makes me happy just looking at those books. Even happier to imagine who I/we will make them for.