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My Apartment the Jelly Donut

October 26, 2011

Back in the summertime, I made a pact with myself, to represent culinary things gone awry as much as (at least as much as) I showcase the fussy, perfect little cakes and tarts and truffles and things I crank out of my kitchen. Formerly an avid consumer of food reviews, cooking shows, baking blogs, cookbooks and journals dedicated to pondering so-called good things to eat, I felt exhausted and grossed out by how precious food-talk has become. And, pointing the finger as much at myself for carefully curating shots and articles glorifying my oven, counter top, garden, and pans, I decided I would show the pulp, the mash, the stains, and the burnt shit caked to the bottom of my secondhand Corningware roaster, which no puff of steel wool could ever hope to scour clean.

Off to a good start, I took pictures of blemished pears, smeared pots and spoons, sloppy take-out from a place I would’ve been embarrassed to be seen carrying home (stowed in an opaque sack). Moving quickly from baby steps to serious progress, after a stormy tantrum, I sucked it up that a rodent had broken into my home and ravished the perfect cupcakes I had perfectly baked and which were going to be just perfect for a weekend pig roast. It’s possible I cried, but afterward, I accepted the lesson, “perfect: not always required”. I acknowledged that, in the case of the pig roast and the violated cupcakes, I was in fact baking for an audience unlikely to be ultra-critical: guests age six; adults who’d spent the day drinking in a barn and in a field, under the hot sun. I acknowledged that we’d be eating the cupcakes as chasers to plates full of baked beans and pork cracklin’, while mosquitoes fought us for the crumbs.

And, I acknowledged that just because I didn’t have time to painstakingly remake the bazillion ruined treats, I did have enough time to bake them again by taking shortcuts, skipping steps, cutting out the tantrum and getting my ass in gear. That evening, I threw all the ingredients into a bowl…not just enough for one dozen, but a multiplied for a triple batch, churned them together and spatula’ed the batter into paper liners set in unequal rows on two mismatched cookie sheets. Baked without a timer, pulled from the oven from time to time to test for doneness. Oven door yanked open in reckless violation of the ten-minute rule. (No cake should be disturbed during this critical part of the process, the loss of heat and steam causing the edges to brown then burn while the centres remain underdone, to sink and cave as it all cools in a mess on the wire rack. None of this occurred.) Rubbing my fingers through the icing sugar rather than sifting, plopping whole pounds of butter into a bowl then jamming and digging at it with a wooden spoon till a decent (and delicious) icing came together. I repeated these short-cutty steps five times, and by midnight, my apartment was a three-room jelly donut, smattered with jam and custard  fillings and glazed in a crisp shellac of icing sugar, butter, milk and sweat.

That weekend at the farm, six friends helped me frost and decorate, dumping sprinkles onto pink icing, mini candies in each middle. Lined up on trays and presented with dessert in the shed, they were perfect for that day, if not perfect for my all-time favourite most graceful baked-goods photo shoot. This was not Cupcake Top Model; this was haystack, gravel road, insect repellant, no napkins that’s what pantlegs and socks are for.

But since then, I haven’t written anything, and I haven’t baked that much. I put aside jamming and preserving this year in favour of lounging in the grass. I was the ant. No wait…I mean the grasshopper. The bug that plays fiddle and believes there is all the time in the world to put up supplies for winter. So, instead of a pantry lined with every fruit and vegetable I might wish I could eat fresh come February, I have just three litres of peaches in tea syrup, two half-pints of blueberry preserves with lime and tequila (we already ate two more over waffles and creme fraiche last month), and four jars of white peach butter spiked with bourbon, which I am having a tough time resisting the past rainy week. Oh, and a botched batch of cranberry-pear marmalade, its sweetness so sickinating I’m not sure it can be repaired.

Autumn is here, and for weeks I have played the ant. Fiddle set aside, I have worked like an idiot till I’m so tired I can’t stand myself. Tonight, I came home from the office intending to do “nothing”. It’s funny, because it turns out “nothing” actually looks a lot like “lots of things, one after the other and a couple things done all at once”. I think this is alright though, since one of those things was cleaning the bath before drawing an irresponsibly full tub of steaming hot water and steeping myself till I was blushing and pink. Another of those things was cooking a really massive porkchop. This seemingly responsible task was offset by the fact that I jettisoned my plan of reserving half my supper to take for lunch, meaning now tomorrow there is no lunch except the one I will purchase at work, likely from the same embarrassing take-out place. This time, I might not request a concealing sack. And, another of those things was finding a draft of this story saved weeks and weeks ago, and which I had decided read like crap. Instead of deleting it or agonising over whether the idea was perfect enough or not, I have now just cranked this out. Consider it the messy spoon on my kitchen counter in the background of the photo of the thing that looks rather tasty, but which distracts you while you admire the other things in the shot.

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 8:32 pm

    Amanda Miller you make me tired just reading about you being a lazy ass. I bow to your magnificence. x

  2. Pat permalink
    October 26, 2011 10:50 pm

    OCD cupcakes vs WTF cupcakes. Either way, it’s all good. Especially if you add gin.

    Relax, Amanda. Just think: What Would Birdo Do? and the answer is, curl up and snooze.

    • welltailored permalink*
      October 26, 2011 11:33 pm

      what the fuh-cakes! I think you just came up with my business name : )

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