Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Say Cheese or The proof is in the Pudding
Tonight between cooking the kids' dinner, cooking lasagne for the kids' lunch tomorrow, and whilst I was full on into messing up the kitchen, what the hell! cooking up a baked cheese cake for my calligraphy class tomorrow - I had a flashback of baking my first (and consequently last) carrot cake during my first year in France.
In spite of the spectacular patisseries overflowing with delicious cakes and pastries that peppered my 'quartier,' I was determined to cook a fair dinkum Aussie/kiwi carrot cake. Must've been a lust for orange in me even way back then. ;) Beaker was the only one around at the time to witness the result and up until now I had sworn him to secrecy. At nearly 40 I throw all self respect to the wind and say, 'it's time to bare my soul!'
Anyway, there I was, landed in Paris with this burning desire to cook a moist, juicy carrot cake. So off I went into the city to buy the ingredients.
First obstacle? The language barrier. Second? 14 years ago there was no self-raising flour in France, nor could you buy baking powder (except for a rather dodgy article whose name loosely translated into 'chemical yeast' ... yoook). To top it off, you could buy baking soda, but only at the chemist... Don't even ASK me about the cream cheese. Philadelphia was some obscure place in the US but certainly 'not a CHEESE mademoiselle.' I obviously confirmed the prevailing suspicion that Antipodeans were little more than savages, so off I trotted home, a little desolate but none-the-less determined to make my cake.
Under the bemused eye of Beaker, I diligently grated my carrot, mixed it with approximate amounts of sugar, flour (no cup measures at the time and I didn't have kitchen scales...) and a small packet of the 'chemical yeast' that I had finally bought in desperation. One hour later I was the proud mother of .... a carrot pancake. Only people who know how magnificent a carrot cake normally looks like will see the tragedy and/or humour in this.
It was a beautiful colour mind - all golden on the outside and orange on the inside. However, completely inedible it was, even for the upstart pigeons for whom I had gracefully decided to leave it on the window ledge outside. It stayed forlornly on the ledge outside for three weeks. Its only virtue was that it didn't go mouldy, inspite of the relentless Parisien drizzle. Thinking back, I should have varnished it and used it for a frisbee. Boulogne had great parks next to the ample patisseries...
Needless to say, I buried the incident waaaaaaay back in some irretrievable memory until I was strolling around Toulouse recently and saw, wait for it, A BAKED CHEESECAKE in the window of a very cool café. Deduction: if they could buy the cheese locally, then so could I!!
And here I am tonight, waiting for my baked cheesecake to come out of the oven, deliriously happy to have found a cheese suitable to make the icing for my next attempt at ...CARROT CAKE. 14 years later I am ready to create my second one. But is Toulouse???
With all this cooking for family and friends (plus mess monsters, plus housework etc) I have had no time to paint. But my reflection today was that life's a lot like cooking; if you don't have all the ingredients, then the fun essentially lies in making do with what you've got, and making it up as you go along.
Love, And Do What You Will as St Augustin says...
PS. Now, you can buy English baking powder and (I'm in HEAVEN) Buderim Ginger in the local supermarket! Now that's progress ;-)