Red Velvet Cake, Bad Lasagna and I am Mortified!

Hi everyone and please click on the title of this post to read more. Before I forget, please attend our Parents Who Rock concert this Saturday at the Diva lounge, benefiting a soup kitchen in East Orange. For more details www.parentswhorock.com

Well, I had a very embarrassing incident earlier this week. I was dropping my daughter off at a movie theater in a town 10 minutes from where I live. As many of you know, I am not very comfortable driving when I am out of my home area (check out the NY Times article where I elaborate on why from last week http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/nyregion/new-jersey/11drivingnj.html). When I saw a parking spot in front of the theater, I pulled into it but was jutting out for a minute while I waited for the car parked in front of me to move. I heard honking but thought it was because I was jutting out. Trying not to offend, I straightened out my car as much as I could. A car pulled up next to me, the honker, I believe, and this angry man says , “That was my parking spot!”. Recognizing him, I said, “Hi Steve, I am not staying, I am just dropping my daughter off”, (We’ll call him “Steve” to avoid any further embarrassment).

He did not recognize me and was very annoyed. When I told him I did not see him trying to get into the spot, he did not believe me and said, half jokingly, that I was making excuses. I really did not see him! I was oblivious , which made me feel even worse. I felt like an incompetent driver, not part of “the club” because all drivers must see others pulling into spots, right?

Well, this humiliating experience gave me a bit of food for thought. Maybe not all drivers are aware of the people around them trying to park when they are in a new area but I automatically assumed that I am not a “natural” at driving because I was clueless. Whatever the reality is, I perceived myself as inept because I am an insecure driver.

Well, this reminded me of a client who recently called me very upset because her lasagna that she served at a dinner party did not have enough sauce. She immediately jumped to some serious negative thinking, stating that she is just not a cook and felt extremely discouraged. Just as I need to practice out of comfort zone driving, she simply needs to make more lasagnas and add more sauce! These skills are simply learned by practice and we need to look at them as we do every other new skill learned.

Why are we embarrassed about not knowing some skills like cooking, but not embarrassed by not knowing another skill like para sailing? What is expected of us by our culture, our upbringing, our friends and family? What do we see in the magazines, TV and other media outlets that makes cooking so emotionally charged, especially for women? Cooking is a loaded issue and we need to be able to transcend all the preconceived notions we have about who we are and who we are supposed to be if we are going to get comfortable in the kitchen.

I have a great recipe for you to get comfortable: Red Velvet Cake! I promise to start sending you some healthier recipes soon, but I have been in a sweet mode lately (not according to my husband, however). Enjoy it!

Red Velvet Cake:

Cake Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 TBS plus one tsp cocoa powder
1 3/4 sticks butter plus 3 TBS canola oil
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan or two round eight inch cake pans.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, butter, milk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans or single bundt pan. Bake in oven for about one hour (if making in two smaller cake pans, only cook about 40 minutes and keep checking to make sure they are not burning. Check with a toothpick for raw cake batter. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light. Spread on cooled cake and share with some friends…

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2 Responses

  1. Well, I tried to keep the party in Upper Montclair but as you know, Clearview Cinemas switched theaters on me at the last minute. Personally I think “Steve” needs way less coffee. It’s a parking space, not a lifeboat!

    Still, that’s a really interesting question about why some skills seem central to our sense of self and others do not. It’s not just about gender, it’s also about culture. Folklorists refer to the whole tangle of what we prepare to do it, how we do it, when and why as “foodways.” These are some of the most deeply felt, distinctive and long lasting aspects of ethnic culture. For example, Jews who never see the inside of a synagogue from one year to the other may still swear by chicken soup when they get a cold. And what’s interesting is that this important set of traditions is carried on by women.

    Not to get too intellectual here or anything.

  2. Very interesting, Ariel. I agree that food and cooking are integral parts of any culture. And chicken soup these days really does work b/c of all the antibiotics in chicken these days…

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