birthday

21


I started this blog when I was 16. 

I'm about to turn 21. 

I keep thinking about what I would tell my naive and dreamy 16 year old self, or what I would say to my future daughter, if I had one. What I would want those girls to know. 


I want to tell them: 

Be hungry. 
Do not be afraid to be hungry. 


Because being hungry for your next meal and hungry to live a full life, these are basically the same thing. 
Because food is connected to love and lust and happiness and depression and every emotion and experience, all the weddings and all the funerals. 
Because eating is tangled into the fabric of being human.

And yet. 


There are girls who are afraid to eat. 
Who exist solely on salads and cigarettes. 
Who only eat a meal and a half a day.
Who starve themselves, or throw up what they've eaten. 
Who don't eat in front of boys, because maybe the boys will figure out that they are not made of air. 
Who say they were "bad" because they ate a cookie instead of an apple. 

I have known all of these girls. 
Maybe even been one or two of them. 

And I just want to tell that future daughter of mine, or my 16 year old self, that there is no shame in having a real appetite. 
That there is no shame in being hungry and then eating until you are full. 
That no one actually cares if you are a little fat or a little thin. 
That eating and drinking and enjoying it, and really owning the hunger, goes so far beyond the table. 
Because there is no better way to be present in the here and now than to enjoy a meal. 
And being present feels like the opposite of being dead. 
And what is the point in being anything other than fiercely, rudely, gorgeously alive? 

That's what I would say.


So I'm about to turn 21, and that thought makes my stomach curdle a little bit, because adulthood suddenly seems like a very imminent, and very near reality. 

But I can't think about that. 
I'm too focused on getting from city to city, bed to bed, meal to meal. 
But sometimes, like right now, I stop and drink a coffee and write to you and stare out a window and try to appreciate the beauty. 
And I want to cry and I want to kiss you and I want champagne. 
Because it's all so beautiful, and I am still so young and so naive and so hungry, and because I just ate maybe the best sandwich of my entire life.


It was an inspired sandwich. 

So I'm about to turn 21. 
How incredible. 

I love you. 
I love you. 
I love you. 

xoxo


Tiramisu


I spent several hours last Friday with Luca and Piper, making a tiramisu. 
It was so beautiful. 
I accidentally dropped a entire bowl of whipped cream on the floor.
We dunked ladyfingers in rum and espresso, stirred custard, and layered everything with architectural precision for hours. 
I thought to myself: There is nothing else I would rather be doing. 



I don’t know quite how to explain to you, but sometimes I so strongly feel the unbearable brevity of life. 
Dessert is a perfect metaphor for this feeling: you eat it, and it is gone, living on only as a picture and a memory of a flavor. 

These days, there is so much to love, to hold on to, to learn, to do. 
There is so little time.
These nows do not last forever. 



I don’t know what to do with this feeling.
But it makes me want to make more tiramisu and sing louder and hold you tighter and tighter.
Because tomorrow is uncertain. 
Because life is too short to not do these things. 

Now does not last forever. 

It is all so short. 


It is just so very, very short. 



(We made it for a birthday.) (Also Luca took most of these pictures.) 

xoxo


Tiramisu
from allrecipes.com

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee at room temperature
2 tablespoons rum
2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfinger cookies
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder


-In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour.

-In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth.

-In a small bowl, combine coffee and rum. Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise and drizzle with coffee mixture.

-Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7x11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set.

Lighter-Than-Air-Chocolate Cake


Hello Beloveds, 
Yesterday was my birthday. 
I’m 20. 


Now is such a difficult and strange time, and the past several months have had me all achey and breakey. Growing pains. 
Somehow, yesterday, the sky was tremendous and blue and I felt this delight and calm settle over me. I don’t know if it was the weather, or the fact that I was very tired, or just because I’m no longer a teen. 
But I was so happy. 
I am still so happy. 

A friend asked me what my intention for being 20 is. I told her, I said, "Gratitude and forgiveness. And I want to write better songs." 

That’s all. 

The future is strange and dark. No one, no one, no one knows what is coming next. And yet, somehow yesterday, under that blue sky, I felt a lightness and freedom that I have not felt for a very, very long time. 

It’s all going to come out in the wash, falling down and picking myself up again, with a song in my throat, I go forward. 

We go forward together. 

Thank you thank you thank you. 



Lighter-Than-Air-Flourless-Chocolate-Cake
via SmittenKitchen.com 

My mother baked me this incredible cake. It’s like eating a chocolate cloud. And gluten free! 

To make four cake layers:
12 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
6 tablespoons water
12 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder

For filling: 
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons Grand Marnier* or Rum of Some Kind or Other 

Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease four 9-inch circular cake pans and line bottoms of circles with a piece of parchment paper.
Melt chocolate with water in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Cool to lukewarm.
Beat yolks, 2/3 cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 5 minutes in a standing mixer or about 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer. Fold in melted chocolate until blended. Beat whites with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks (you will need an enormous bowl for 12 egg whites).
Gradually add remaining 2/3 cup sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. Fold one third of whites into melted-chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Spread batter evenly over four baking pans and bake until puffed and top is dry to the touch, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating cakes between racks to ensure they bake evenly. Transfer pans to cooling racks and if necessary, loosen edges with a knife.
Sift cocoa powder over top of cake layers and place a piece of waxed paper over the top of the pans. Place a baking sheet over paper and invert cake onto it, gently peeling off wax paper lining. Place layers in the freezer for about an hour, until they are firm enough to be carefully lifted without breaking.
Make filling: Beat cream with powdered sugar and Grand Marnier with cleaned beaters until it just holds stiff peaks.
Fill and stck cake: Bring first cake layer out of the freezer and arrange on platter, cocoa side down. Spread one-quarter of filling evenly over the cake. Bring the next cake layer out of the freezer, placing it gently over the filling, again cocoa side down. Repeat this process until all layers and whipped cream are used.
Keep cake in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Two hours should be more than enough to assure that the layers are no longer frozen.
Dark chocolate grated into curls with a vegetable peeler makes for an excellent garnish.
* You can substitute the following for Grand Marnier: 4 tablespoons Cognac and 1 teaspoon vanilla; 4 tablespoons cocoa and 1 teaspoon vanilla; or 4 teaspoons instant-espresso powder or instant-coffee granules dissolved in 4 teaspoons water plus 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Embarrassment and Yellow Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Lemon Curd and Blueberries




All my efforts at social suavity tend to fail. 
I'm fine if I don't work at it and if I don't think about it.
But if I do...


Oh Lord Help Me.


What else can you do but laugh? 


Embarrassment is the strangest emotion. You want to die. But you want to laugh as you crawl into the hole you've dug for yourself. 


There are two kinds of awkward people, those who keep their episodes to themselves, and people who tell everyone about said episodes because somehow they believe that this will alleviate the embarrassment. Which it never does. 
Obviously, I'm in the latter category. 


In the past several months, my brain-t0-mouth-filter has been incapacitated. No. That's wrong. 
It's like my brain has been incapacitated. 
To say this is deeply unfortunate would be putting it mildly. 





Awkward Things




1. When you invite yourself along to other people's events,  and then they get annoyed because obviously they didn't invite you for a reason, and then you feel bad because you (wrongly) thought they wouldn't mind.
2. Facebook chat.
3. When you are so surprised by what someone else has said that literally you cannot get words out. I mean, you literally forget how to talk. 
4. Vibrams 
5. Not remembering people's names when they remember yours. 
6. When you accidentally drop the f-bomb as you give a wedding toast, in front of your entire extended family.

The list goes on for a long time but I don't really want to talk about this anymore.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, I firmly believe that if you offer people cookies they will generally forgive you for all of your lack of social grace. 
Unless of course, you're awkward when you try to force the cookies on them.

Believe me, it's happened. 

More than twice. 

Anyways, the point of this is to say, DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT OFFERING PEOPLE CAKE . Because that's even more awkward than offering them cookies. Just, do not even think about it. Cake is messy. Cake has LAYERS. Cake can fall over. Cake has frosting. Just... don't even go there. 
Unless of course, you want to give cake to me, in which case I will be SO forgiving of your awkward flaws, because I like cake more than I like you. 

Or maybe I shouldn't say that.

Awkward.

Yellow Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Lemon Curd and Blueberries 

This is really fine. The cake itself is awesome, dense, light, filling, flavorful. If you're really ambitious you can make lemon curd yourself. I have done this before but it takes a lot of time. I simply used lemon curd from a jar. I am such a cheater.


For Cake
from SmittenKitchen.com


Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)


4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.



Cream Cheese Frosting
from SmittenKitchen.com

Makes 6 cups
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.


Make or Buy Your Own Lemon Curd

Blueberries


To Assemble Cake
Place first layer of cake on serving plate. Spread on a thick layer of lemon curd. Stack on second layer of cake. Frost the entire outside of cake with cream cheese frosting. You will perhaps have some leftover. Decorate creatively with blueberries. CONSUME.