Thanks so much for the comments some of you made about my last post. Many of them were about writing, and they were encouraging. One old friend, however, read between the lines about the bag of plums providing the first peace I had experienced in weeks. She messaged me privately and asked, “What is making you unpeaceful?” It is a fact that my summer was unpeaceful and I considered how to reply to her and tell her that I’m worried about my aging parents. I ache for my young adult sons as they navigate their newly independent lives. I am aware of my own aging and my husband’s and I wonder how the next decades will spin out. I have a lot of responsibilities, and sometimes, I think my knees are going to buckle. I have relationships that confound me.
I could picture my friend’s undivided attention as she listened to me, applying the full context of how she knows me and my family, waiting expectantly for me to drop the bomb about what is really stealing my joy because everything else I just mentioned is also, I know for a fact, her life and the life of every other mother/daughter/spouse/employee she knows. These things are life and I guess, like the Buddha pointed out to us: life is suffering.
I was Skyping with my youngest son this morning, who is a gifted, natural counselor. I didn’t share any of my stewings with him, but he just happened to mention an article he had read about the unreliability of our perceptions of experiences we have. This article stated that the narrative that takes place in our minds about other people and events is contrived by our own emotional needs to the point of being almost fantasy. It seems that humans are the species best adapted to enduring long-term suffering, physical and emotional, and in a sadistic way, it provides mental conundrums to solve which has a reinforcing effect on us. He paraphrased a C.S. Lewis quote (that I couldn’t confirm) that he had suffered much in his lifetime, some of which was for things that had actually happened.
These two bits of input today helped me. I might be at a stage of life now where a few more life factors have compounded, but it isn’t exclusive to me. I think I might start to give myself permission not to own it all, all of the time. I also think I need to meditate, which brings me back to the plums and how they helped me take notice of something that I’m grateful about. To all my friends who have more than enough of life at the moment, I hope you find your own small joys.
Here is the recipe for using the egg whites you were left with if you made a triple or quadruple batch of the semifreddo from my last post, which, by the way, you could make with a myriad of fruits if you don’t have or aren’t into figs.
Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake
From Gourmet Grilling, 2011
- 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar, divided
- 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
- 12 large egg whites (1 1/2 cups), at room temperature for 30 minutes
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with rack in middle.
Sift flour, then sift again with 3/4 cup packed brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Beat whites with lemon juice, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed, add remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar by tablespoons, beating until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks, 3 to 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer).
If using a stand mixer, transfer whites to a wide large bowl to facilitate folding. Sift flour mixture over whites and fold in gently, but thoroughly with a large rubber spatula.
Spoon batter into ungreased tube pan and smooth top. Run rubber spatula or a long knife through batter once to eliminate air bubbles.
Bake until a cake tester or wooden pick inserted into cake comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately invert pan. If pan has “legs,” stand it on those. Otherwise, place pan over neck of a wine bottle. Cool cake completely, upside down, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Turn pan right side up. Run a knife around edge and center tube of pan. Lift out cake, still on bottom of pan, then run a knife under bottom of cake to loosen. Invert to release cake from tube, then reinvert onto a plate.
Cake can be baked, cooled, and unmolded 1 day ahead and kept, well wrapped in plastic or foil, at room temperature.
Serve with fruit and herbs grilled with olive oil, sea salt, and a little sugar, along with whipped cream.