I subscribe to the “Word of the Day” through Dictionary.com. One of the words last week was “hydra,” (noun: a persistent or many-sided problem that presents new obstacles as soon as one aspect is solved. 2.a water or marsh serpent with nine heads, each of which, if cut off, grew back as two). According to mythology, Hercules was able to finally kill Hydra by cauterizing the neck after he cut off the heads. OUCH.
My oldest brother would be turning 65 today, and I have been contemplating all the things I would have liked to “do-over” since he died. When we look back at the tough times of our lives, don’t we often wish we could have handled the situation better than we perceive we did? What may seem obvious with the 20/20 vision of hindsight is not at all possible when reeling from a traumatic event. In addition, the attributions we attach to our regrets are also from our current perch and the evidence we are seeking to reinforce our beliefs about ourselves good or bad.
I have a litany of do-overs that dog me to this day. Just when I think I’ve worked through an issue there it comes again in a new form or through a new vehicle. And don’t we want to have the chance of a do-over in the first place just so we are not condemned to playing out what seems to us to be the same themes again and again throughout our lives? If only I could cauterize the beast once and for all! However, hydrate the verb, as in staying hydrated is something we need to do to live. Could it be that working and reworking the themes of our lives is our very lifeblood and as such vital as a glass of water to a parched throat? As unpleasant as I perceive the same themes replaying in my life to be, cauterizing them takes the life out of them completely. Rather than cauterizing, perhaps the goal is to accept and transform them for a more workable me.
I have wondered if my inclination to always change recipes is symbolic of my desire consciously and unconsciously to take another pass at life in general. There is always room for improvement to my mind. I have loved watching The Chef’s Table on Netflix especially how the chef’s work diligently to perfect a dish. I am not that kind of chef. I continue to be more therapist than chef. I do not seek the perfect presentation. Don’t get me wrong, how it tastes and whether people enjoy my creations is vastly important, just ask my family. As I change recipes, I am, indeed, seeking a healthier alternative to what I perceive as too much sugar or other unhealthy ingredients. However, cooking like swimming provides for me the opportunity to ruminate or ponder life’s mysteries or attune to self. This is not altogether conscious just as I am certain that while a chef’s conscious goal is to perfect a recipe she/he is involved in similar psychological processes. No matter our conscious goals, we are always learning through the process be it about perfecting ourselves or about perfecting a recipe.
According to June Singer, the Jungian analyst and author of Boundaries of the Soul that I’d mentioned in my last post, “the individuation process, in the Jungian sense, means the conscious realization and integration of all the possibilities immanent in the individual.” She continues, “The essential nature of the individual includes not only strengths but weaknesses.” As such, we are all capable of both creative and destructive acts. She emphasizes the fact that, “we cannot ‘dispose’ of dangerous or destructive aspects of ourselves, we can only know of their presence and how they tend to function.” As we become more aware we are able to transform but, as she noted, not fix or cure our problems. Every encounter in life provides an opportunity to increase self-knowledge and awareness. As we learn to integrate all aspects of ourselves we learn to accept, manage, and even transform them. From this viewpoint, rather than cauterizing the “offending” themes of our lives perhaps we look upon them as opportunities to grow in compassion for ourselves and others.
I began this post yesterday with the intention of sharing a poem that my brother wrote as a Father’s Day present back in 1974. The following Thanksgiving he would be dead from an airplane crash. Coincidentally, the WordPress writing prompt was “ruminate.” So funny because he used ruminate in the poem and at the time none of his siblings knew what the word meant. I love this poem and although at age 22 he likely had little knowledge of Jungian analysis this poem humorously describes the process! He also mentioned chocolate cake. As it happens, I have been working on yet another iteration of chocolate cake recipes to make them both healthy and delicious. The latest is a redo of a favorite from Epicurious.com (from 1999) though I am reluctant to associate my recipes or theirs with a commode, it’s only right to share. Have you noticed I have a thing for chocolate?
Ode to a Commode
by P. N. D.
There aren’t too many tranquil places
or restful, quiet, peaceful spaces
where a man can think and meditate
or maybe just to ruminate
But, if he’s like the average dad
there is a place where peace is had
and if it’s lunch he’s just been fed
he’s probably going to the head.
A book or magazine he’ll take
the effect of lots of chocolate cake
But, if he’s like the dad I know
it’ll be an hour ‘fore he’ll show
On Sunday it’s the place to be
after breakfast, talk and revelry
the Sunday paper he may take
leave him alone for heaven’s sake.
Yes, like my dad, I contemplate
the world and its present fate
I do this on my own commode
That’s where I wrote this little ode.
He taught me everything I know
As yet I have not much to show
but, I have learned one little fact.
The commode’s the only place to act.
Redo of Epicurious Double Chocolate Layer Cake
I basically left the cake alone outside of reducing and changing sugars here. The outcome was absolutely delicious. We really do not need so much sugar in our recipes. Like my brownies, I use date sugar and monk sugar. You can play around with what you like.
3 oz. fine quality chocolate. I used Ghirardelli, 60% cacao chips
1 1/2 C brewed coffee
1/2 C date sugar, 3/4 C monk fruit crystals, 1 C granulated, 1/2 coconut sugar, combined (this is instead of 3 cups granulated)
2 1/2 C all purpose flour (normally I would mess with the flours too, but I didn’t here).
1 1/2 C Hershey’s (what I had) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1 1/4 t salt
3 large eggs
3/4 C vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
1 1/2 C well shaken buttermilk
1 pound fine-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (again I used Ghirardelli)
1 C heavy cream
2 T light corn syrup (I used but would say optional and I left out an additional 2 T sugar)
1/2 unsalted butter, cut in pieces
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line with parchment then grease again 3 9 in cake pans. Combine the chocolate chips with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally until chocolate is melted.
In large bowl sift together dry ingredients (sugar through salt). In a large bowl of a stand mixer beat the eggs until thickened slightly (about 3 minutes or 5 with handheld mixer). Slowly add buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate/coffee mixture, beating until well combined. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until well combined. Divide batter among pans and bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean approximately 45 minutes.
Cool layers in pans on racks. Run a thin knife (palette) around pans and invert layers onto racks and cool completely.
Heat the cream and corn syrup to a boil in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking to dissolve syrup. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, whisking until chocolate is melted. Stir in butter pieces until melted and smooth. Let cool stirring occasionally until spreadable.
The original may have originally been in Gourmet Magazine 1999. Still one of the best even without all that sugar!
Happy Birthday Pat!