I started a pot of water to cook some pasta. Somewhere, I don't know when, I lost interest and forgot about it until I heard the stove top hiss with the sweat of the hot pot. I let it boil.
I took out a bunch of vegetables, tender, ripe and green and placed them next to my cutting board. With my knife splayed across the top, I stepped back a moment to take in the serendipitous still life. And then I took another step back and left the art to remain art and not become my dinner.
Then, I eyed the box of mac and cheese (the earth-approved kind) and though I toyed with the idea of a familiar fall back, I put the box down after thoughtfully shaking it around in my hands. All the while, I scanned the rest of the pantry for some sort of salvation from this restlessness.
Take-out was one idea. Delivery another. For a split second they both seemed viable, even good. But as soon as I picked up the phone, my mind chimed in with ennui. Again?
A quick run to the store? Or maybe not fix a meal at all. Just a seat on the couch and a date with what's left of network television. I imagined eating raw cookie dough. But that would mean I would have to make the dough which would require me to soften some butter. Apparently, I didn't not have 30 minutes to spare.
In the end, I found myself heaving and sighing. Listless in my dark kitchen, T.V. blaring in the background. This indecision plaguing me not only in the kitchen but in my office, in my car. Is this (whatever it was) really what I wanted? Or was I settling? In my aim to be responsible, planned, calculated, even how did it come to be that the proverbial Plan B became the Plan A?
More than anything, I was hungry for an answer. I really wanted someone to feed me. Console me with a bowl of soup I prayed to no one or nothing in particular. Shed some light on my life with a slice of pie. Guide me with chocolate cake.
Food is more than sustenance. Much to the dismay of therapists and nutritionists worldwide, it is my most powerful prescriptive capable of the greatest good and the greatest damage in forkful. But this night, after listless guessing my mind finally honed in some acceptable form of comfort and its name was chocolate rum cake.
Baking is a loving, yet precarious act for me. I am not terribly good at it, but I am more than willing to try. Loaf cakes and quick breads are allies and stand-bys. Cookies a wary friend. But full-on frosted glory cakes -- those were another creature I hadn't really stared in the face.
It's amazing what social obligations force you to do. For some, it is the petrifying matter of public speaking or a toast. For me, it was baking a cake for Mother's Day, for The Voracious One's madre, a kind lady who despite her Mormon provenance absolutely adores a heady chocolate rum cake.
Truth be told, I went into it a bit punch drunk the night before. Still working through a bottle of wine and the high of fine company only a few hours before, I stood in the quiet kitchen and just went at it. Flour without thinking. Measurements without peripheral worry. And before I knew it I had the beautiful mess of melted Pralus Djakarta chocolate spindled over my countertops and its aroma rising from my oven like a mythical creature, a siren of near-dangerously roasted beans with all its sweet whispers of sweet tobacco. As I watched an episode of Doctor Who, I let them cool enough so that I could saw at them delicately with a long knife into something resembling an even surface. Then a brushing of the apricot rum glaze that made the layers glisten.
Then I went to bed.
The next morning, the mess was less artistic and more horrific. The lovely scene became a chore. Then I remembered there was frosting to be made and a cake to be frosted. At this point luckily, the Voracious One was awake and took the spatula out of my hands. He employed his engineering and carptentry skills to evenly, thoughtfully, precisely frost with the buttercream I had apparently made with copious amounts of rum the night before. Making this cake had turned into some tricked out episdoe of "Lost," with me trying to piece together how these components mysteriously came about. By the time I recollected these moments, the cake was serene in a cloak of cocoa.
"You have tiny hands," TVO said handing me a bowl of toasted coconut (another revealed mystery!). "You coat the cake." And so I did. I held the heavy, dense chocolate cake, the rum smelled just as potent as it did from the bottle. Just the way his mother would like it. Over the sink, I took a handful of toasted coconut and patted it onto the sides, rather like making a sand castle from long ago before I taught myself to think and worry.
When the cake was cut later that night, the heaviness hid a silky softness to the crumb and the melt of the buttercream. It was punchy like a slap to the face, the kind only a bartender can give you in a glass. But it was also welcoming with a maternal, earthy chocolate note that sang in my mouth, "Child, stop worrying. You are loved."