Sunday, July 14, 2013
Chocolate Sales are Up. No, Down. No, Up.
We're talking chocolate tonight.
We can start off with the recipe for CHOCOLATE-DATE-COCONUT CAKE.
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup hot water
1 3/4 cup flour
3 TB cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup flaked coconut
Cover dates with water in small bowl; set aside. Stir together flour, cocoa and baking soda; set aside. cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time until well blended. Stir in flour mixture alternately with reserved dates and water until well blended. Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Pour into greased 13x9 baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and the coconut. Bake in preheated 350' oven 40 minutes or until it passes toothpick test. Cool on rack. Serves 12, 455 cals. ea.
Back when I was a teenager who didn't know how horrible I looked in pink, my mom used to buy Woman's Day magazine at the check-out. Every issue included a little insert on dull, rough paper, "Collector's Cookbook." Each insert featured a theme, i.e. peanuts, casseroles, bar cookies, and I would mine these little booklets for recipes to try. (Thank you, LD, for patiently eating the Peanut Soup).
It was such a rich motherlode, I couldn't try it all fast enough. So I stuffed recipes into my file box. We're not talking google or cut or paste here. We're talking typing it out on cards, on a typewriter that was older than Social Security, mind you, and leaving the errors in (baking sida anyone?) because they were such a headache to correct.
Nor were these little booklets brightened up with pictures of the recipes. I think there were drawings, artfully arranged sketches of eggs or tomatoes or other ingredients. And anyway, if I saw a picture of the above-mentioned cake, I doubt I would have exclaimed, "Oh, I have to make that!" No, it's not really a looker.
But I took a chance on this silly little cake (Dates? Where'm I gonna find those? What do they look like?) carried it off to a family reunion and, after the first piece, kept going back for more.
And we're talking chocolate because, over on the Finished Book Pile sits Robert Cormier's Chocolate War. I believe this is the first banned book we've featured at Bye-Bye Nesquik. Set in a New England Catholic school, it tells the tale of a freshman boy who refuses to sell in the school's annual chocolate sale.
It's Lord of the Flies, preppie edition. The boys are beasts--cruel, profane, sex-charged. The ones who aren't cruel are cowards. The ones who aren't cruel or cowardly are . . . well, I can't give that away.
If you want a clean story, this isn't it. But Cormier, a reporter, crafted a fascinating tale, which kept me up waaaay late.
Which paved the way for me to start in on Anthony Elliott's Making the Cut: How Cosmetic Surgery is Transforming Our Lives.
I'll bet you're thinking it's a pretty juicy read. In Elliott's hands, not so much. He can be awfully academic about the whole thing. And if I had an M&M for every time he used the word "celebrity," I'd be lying here, surrounded by a few empty party-sized bags.
He reports that women are going in to their doctors and asking for Angelina Jolie's lips and cheeks. Really? They think they can be changed from Betty Blah to Petunia Perfect? There's only so much you can do to catch up to the genetically blessed. However, if you've got a body part or two that bothers you, it can certainly be improved. Not made into Cher/Angelina/Princess Di. Just improved.
I'll confess: I've dabbled in this stuff. Was it because I wanted to look like Cher/Angelina/Princess Di? I don't think so. We all know they're from an outer galaxy of loveliness, surrounded by make-up artists, Pilates coaches and frightfully-priced hairdressers. What they have, we can't get.
But when I'm out on the street, following some girl who has perfectly smooth legs, and I can see that, yes, real people are built like that, I start to covet.
But that may be part of Elliott's point. When cosmetic surgery infiltrates the culture, how do you know whether the smooth legs you see on the street were born that way, or doctored?
Elliott included a most interesting chapter on surgical tourism. Book your makeover in Malaysia, enjoy sun, sand and ocean as you relax and recover far from your daily cares. Tell you what: I doubt you'll step on to the beach. I doubt you'll even look out the window of your luxury medical suite. Bruised, swollen and sore, you will be saying "AAghghhg" as you ease yourself upright to eat your medical jello.
Finally, I found myself a lovely spot to open up a third book this week. Parked in front of the monastery in quaint little Oldenburg, Indiana, "village of spires," I opened up Mary Gaitskill's short story collection, Don't Cry. The first story was a parade of puzzling, unappealing 20-somethings. I enjoyed none of it. Is it better to sit in a dirty diner, reading Tom Wolfe? Or to sit on Main Street in a town like Mayberry (but with spires), wishing to toss a book into the trunk?
At least the monastery's stone walls and shady lawn were lovely. And I got a nice Opie vibe from watching a kid bounce his basketball down the sidewalk.