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are there some flavours that you always thought would go well together, but have never had the opportunity to try combining? things that you just know would work? combining elements in a stir fry or a roast is somewhat easy- i made up a mushroom risotto for supper based on what seemed to go together and cooked until it seemed done- but where it can get tricky is with dessert. after all, you can't just throw together baking. the proportions are important, like in high school chemistry. no one wants to be that kid who blew his eyebrows off because he wasn't paying attention to how many parts of each element were required.

the other day, i had a brainstorm. it involved three things that i always felt would make some kind of great dessert: rose water, cardamom and pistachios. i've never actually tasted them all together and i'm going out on a digestive limb because, while i'm not exactly allergic, pistachios have always wreaked havoc on my innards, steadfastly refusing to be digested. it's just that i love them.


thinking that i couldn't possibly be the only person to think that these things would go well together, i googled the three foods and added "cake", since that was the format i saw this dessert taking. lo and behold, the internet rolled out its welcome mat. it turns out i'm really not the first person to think of these elements. there are dozens of recipes to choose from, i just had to select the one that appealed to me. this was the winner. personally, i didn't bother with the glaze, because i don't like things that are too sweet. and the recipe didn't include cardamom, but i threw some in anyway. that's just me. what came out was a lovely tea-style cake, with all of its elements springing to the palate.

not satisfied with baking one cake, i decided that, given my recent troubles which may be wheat-related, that i would bake a flourless chocolate cake as well. i knew such things existed- i've tried one before- but i hadn't the faintest clue how to make one. within seconds, i had a multitude of recipes and i selected the one that seemed the most straightforward. unfortunately, it required cocoa powder, which i forgot to pick up while getting a few groceries. so did i put off cooking this? hell no. i just googled until i found this recipe that used only ingredients i already had in the house.

a dozen years ago, i had the idea that i would make a cake that contained all the elements of fruitcakes that i liked- basically, the gingerbread style base- and none of those i didn't- the fruit and the cheap alcohol. this has become a yuletide and winter specialty for me. i love making it and everyone i feed it to seems to like it. the fact is that it's just an idea in my head. every couple of years, i have to google a new recipe so that i have a base to start from, because the proportions don't stick in my head.

this is what the internet has brought us to. from ages when recipes were handed down within families and where they were often closely guarded secrets, the cooking world has split open. everything we might envision, it seems, has already been posted somewhere and all we need to do is follow the guidelines. there is no excuse for eating poorly. information on tasty, healthy (ok, not the cakes), hearty and original-seeming dishes is everywhere. so how strange and sad is it that so many of us eat so poorly?

perhaps it's the stigma that cooking is work- personally, i find it relaxing and fun. i like the fact that it's a short-term investment, where i can work for a short period and immediately see the fruits and vegetables of my labours on a nice plate. of course, not everyone has the time that i do and cooking can take time. i don't know too many people who can bake between two and five in the morning, which is what i ended up doing. but it does seem like a sad state of affairs that, when technology makes it possible for us to enjoy virtually any edible treat we can imagine, that we turn our backs on the kitchen.

just an observation.

now if you'll excuse me, i have to go google "keeping fresh baked goods away from a pack of cats".


Martin Rouge said…
Baking is really a follow-the-rules kind of game, while cooking is more of an improv night. I'm of the improv persuasion. I enter my kitchen like a mad scientist in a lab (or a crazed sorcerer on a munchies bender) and let the chef knife lead the way.

Damn, now I want to cook...

as long as you're here, why not read more?

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am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

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