Lately, I am obsessed with food (more than usual even), baking especially, but, food and cooking in general. I’ve been reading about food. Recent specifics include: an article in the New Yorker about public school lunches in Oakland, and one woman’s efforts to improve them (it’s in the Education issue, which I cannot currently find, so I can’t give the date and title details). Also in the New Yorker, an article about the Food Network (10/2/06, by Bill Buford “Notes of a Gastronome: TV Dinners”): its popularity, but also its lack of attention to real cooking; the rise of the TV food personality, rather than the genuine chef; the difference between Julia Child, the first ever on-air chef, really, and Rachael Ray, who is full of “trademark” expressions (“yum-o”) and cute shortcuts to fast meals, so you can avoid any real cooking.
On a more depressing note, I also recently read, and enjoyed, Chew On This, the kids’ version of Fast Food Nation [classic Clarissa – reading the young adult version, so to speak]. Ray says I probably wouldn’t have been able to handle the rather more disgusting and disturbing Fast Food Nation. I’m not exactly sure how the two differ, or how much they differ. Chew on This tries to get at advertising and the ways in which the fast food industry tries to draw kids in and appeal to them on several levels, as well as addressing some of the health aspects of fast food and the problems with the production of the meat that becomes the food.
So, where does “make more cakes” come from?
My cake baking efforts began sometime last spring, and since then, there has been a little piece of paper on my fridge that reads “make more cakes”. I think it grew out of repeated readings of Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. Flora’s famous zucchini cake may have been the first. That cake and several others are from a similar “basic recipe” and once I had tried one, I felt compelled to try several others. So, I followed the zucchini cake with Boston Cream pie (don’t be fooled, it really is a cake), and Butterscotch layer cake. Somewhere along the line there, I even went out and bought two 8 inch cake pans, which is what she calls for for these cakes. Non-standard, it seems to me, as most recipes call for 9 inch pans.
Other cakes in between I’m having trouble remembering, but there have certainly been a few. Most recent was a sour cream spice cake, with sour cream frosting. Well-received by those who got to try it. My assessment was slightly less glowing. I thought it was a bit dry, though one of the prettier cakes I have made in a while. It was perfectly decent, just not knock your socks off.