The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Pound Cake

The very best cake I make is very simple. It calls for a pound of butter, a pound of flour, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs. Simple? If you just throw it all together, it's nothing special.

But if you separate the eggs and beat the yolks until they are very light, if you first beat the butter and slowly, slowly add the sugar, and when the all the sugar is added, slowly, slowly, add the flour and then slowly, slowly the beaten- stiff egg whites, and then add the personal touch (if I have not used vanilla sugar - sugar stored in a jar with a vanilla bean in the center - I add some vanilla. Someone else might add almond oil) - or, if the butter is especially fine, don't add another thing, but put the batter in the biggest pan you own and bake it in a very slow oven for an hour and a half. It doesn't need frosting. If you must, you can sprinkle it with confectioner's sugar - but it is magnificent in its simplicity, and stands well completely unadorned. (For anyone thinking about making this cake -- it requires a punch bowl sized container to mix in, and at least a 12 cup pan for baking. I use a 10" high antique angel food pan to bake it. A very slow oven is 275 degrees f.)

It's the humanity that makes this cake such a winner. I regret I discovered it after all my kids grew up and left -- but it is something I make upon occasion, and it never fails to wow its eaters. For someone to try and commercialize it -- well, for one thing, it would not be economically feasible. Yet I make it for parties where the host has no problem with money. What I add to the simplicity of the ingredients cannot be bought or sold. It's me, my heart, and my spirit.

That is what I gathered from reading one of Taran's recent entries to his blog
. I loved reading the left-brain article and the account of Taran's artist friend. I love the idea of abandoning 'good enough' as well. Ask any of my kids. When they were small and were sent to clean their rooms, they would come and get me and ask, wanting to be done, wanting to go out and play, "Is it good enough, Mom?" My reasoning was, if they have to ask, it isn't good enough. Those kids knew darn well what they hadn't done -- and were hoping to get by without having to do it. And depending on my mood, sometimes I would let them. After all, 'good enough' for WHAT was a major concern, especially for them. I don't believe I raised one single neurotic perfectionist in the bunch.

But when it comes to our work, our chosen profession, our output for others, our art -- then "good enough" takes on a different meaning. Even more so in a Conceptual Age, what we leave behind us as we go through this life becomes more important. The contacts and friends we make, the sharing we do, the human-ness of ourselves. As an added bonus, we can rest easy that there is no competition. No one can be a better me than I can - no one can be a better you than you can. Our work is our best, when we are at our best. Our decisions are the best we can make with the information at hand. In time, of course, we have to forgive ourselves that our information may not have been complete, our decisions and our creations may not be the best we can do today -- but when they were made, when they were our projects -- we did the best we could with what we had.

I'm getting hungry. For no good reason, I think I will go make a cake.


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