Life, full of flavor

When I was little – too little to know about cake possibilities – I always got angel food cake for my birthday.  It was good – sticky, mild and sweet – and I suppose in all my blonde fairness, the adults thought that angel food cake seemed to be a good match for me.

But then I grew up.  My skin is darker, my blonde hair is more like brown with a few highlights – both silver and gold.  My taste in cake and all other foods is broad and intense.  I love strong flavors, spicy and exotic foods, and chocolate – the darker and richer, the better.  I am what is called an adventurous eater.

The most chocolate cake possible is a dark chocolate flourless torte that the French call La Bete Noire – the Black Beast.   It is so named because of its flavorful intensity.  I am the baker in this house, so yesterday I made my own Bete Noire, topped by a rich, dark chocolate ganache, for my birthday today.

So now, at age 65, I am one of the adults.  I choose the birthday cake that I like best.  The years have layered many experiences on me.  Through most of my life, I see a pattern in which I often chose more intensive experiences, when I had a choice.

La Bete Noire (flourless chocolate cake), with dark chocolate ganache.

When I attended the big state university, I chose small, demanding classes.  I chose to live in the dense and diverse central city instead of the suburbs, where I had spent childhood.  I had a career where I wrote about things like high-level nuclear waste.  Now I live at the far western edge of an island in the Gulf of Mexico, almost surrounded by tall trees and tidal waters, amidst alligators, manatees, dolphins, crabs, and more fish than seems possible.

Until this past summer of isolation, my husband and I spent 22 summers in Paris, living not as tourists, but like Parisians – working away at our computers, then walking all over the city and eating French food.  The French know how to live, with joie de vivre.  I photographed Paris, and I wrote about living there.

Then in early March of this year, everything stopped.  We stay home.  Everything stopped, except the cooking.  I made a study of the best way to order in supplies, and then began making the foods we love, including things I never made before, like French country bread.  Now I make a crusty loaf every three days.

We miss France, but I know that France isn’t the same as it was.  No place is the same, is it?

Although we isolate (due to my husband’s underlying medical condition), I read three or four newspapers a day.  I don’t want to disconnect from the world.  I want to know what is going on.  We talk about each day’s crazy news.  We have made more political contributions than ever.  We care, we care intensely, and this is what we CAN do.

We voted.  We voted early, with passion.  I tracked our ballots online.  They were received; they were counted.  Now we count the days, with fervent hope and some anxiety.  We are isolated, but connected.

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