My kitchen light went out on Thursday night.
Seemingly not a big deal -- at least not for the normal, "average Joe" type person. It's an easy fix -- requiring merely a minimal amount of intelligence to 1.) Figure out that the light bulb needs to be changed, 2.) Locate a new light bulb, and 3.) Replace the old bulb with the new bulb while repeating the mantra, "Righty tighty, lefty loosey."
This is why there are jokes that begin with, "How many ___ does it take to change a light bulb?" Usually said jokes are at the expense of blondes, the presumption of course being that blondes are not the most brilliant of individuals.
Clearly this stereotype doesn't apply to me.
In the year and nine months that I've lived in my apartment, I've never changed a light bulb. Not that I've had an overwhelming number that needed to be changed, but the last time my kitchen light went out, I waited until my dad came up to visit me in LA so he could fix it. Since then, two more lights have gone out -- one in my bathroom and the other in the ceiling fan above my dining room table.
Which was why the kitchen bulb going out was suddenly so momentous and potentially calamitous.
"What now?" I thought in desperation as my eyes traipsed back and forth from the unlit ceiling fan to the kitchen fixture. I knew that in approximately one hour it would be dark outside meaning the majority of my apartment would be as dim as the stereotypical blonde that I am clearly not because I went to Northwestern and can walk and chew gum at the same time.
I panicked, as I realized it would be impossible for me to cook my tempeh with roasted eggplant and squash that night without a functioning light.
"Do I call Ashley?" I wondered, clutching my phone in my hand. "I know she'd know how to fix it. She has screw drivers and drills and stuff." (Ashley is a far more rational blonde who also went to Northwestern and can walk and chew gum at the same time. Not just usually -- always.)
I hovered my finger over her number, primed to hit "dial" so my friend could come over and rescue me from my own lazy stupidity. It took only a few moments for me to realize what I was about to do. It took only a few more moments for me to realize that at 28 years of age I might actually be able to fix the light bulbs myself.
I rummaged through my storage closet until I found the floral hammer/screwdriver hybrid that my dad had gifted me when I'd first moved out on my own, located the light bulbs my mother had bought me when I'd moved into the apartment, and then climbed up on one of my dining room chairs.
"Righty tighty, lefty loosey," I repeated as I unscrewed the glass fixture from the overhead light in my kitchen. Less than a minute later, light was flooding through my kitchen again. Two minutes after that, the ceiling fan that had been dark for the past four months, was shining brightly -- triumphantly -- over my dining room table.
Thrusting my fist in the air, I reached for my phone again -- to call someone -- my dad, Ashley, anyone who would listen -- so I could report my victory over the domestic disturbance in my ceiling. It took me only a few moments to realize what I was about to do. It took only a few more moments for me to realize that at 28 years of age, changing a light bulb is not the type of significant activity that invites a "Way to go, champ!" type response.
At a certain point in life, these things are expected. Like parallel parking, killing a cockroach, bleaching the tub. While to me, these things are huge deals -- activities that clearly mean I am an accomplished woman and successful at being a grown up -- to the average person they are everyday type affairs. No more noteworthy than brushing one's teeth or walking and chewing gum at the same time.
So to receive that affirmation that I crave so I don't feel like a child still floundering around in space, I do what to me actually isn't a big deal.
I make cake.
Honey, cinnamon and plum pudding cake that is composed word for word from the recipe that Molly Wizenberg recently posted on Orangette.
It's a seemingly basic endeavor -- reading, measuring, stirring -- but when I triumphantly presented it to my dad for his birthday last night, it elicited the response I'd been wanting to hear when I'd successfully changed not one, but two light bulbs.
Which, of course, can be roughly translated to mean, "Way to go, champ!"
Nigel Slater's Pudding Cake of Honey, Cinnamon and Plums
Not at all adapted from Orangette who adapted it from Tender, Volume II
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 slightly heaping teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 slightly heaping teaspoon of cinnamon
2 pinches salt
5 ripe plums, pitted and quartered (I used only 4 because of the large size of my plums. Possibly less because a couple bites may have gotten lost in my mouth)
2/3 cup golden syrup (procured from my local Whole Foods)
1 stick + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup golden brown sugar, packed
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 square baking dish with parchment paper. (It's not necessary to grease it, but I usually do on the off chance that the parchment paper might suddenly decide to fail me.)
In a small saucepan, combine syrup, honey and butter and melt over medium-low heat, stirring frequently so the syrup doesn't burn. When the butter has melted completely, stir in the brown sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool a couple minutes.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
Using the same whisk, combine eggs and milk in a separate bowl.
Add the syrup-butter mixture to the flour and stir to combine. Batter will be thick and might smell a bit like fall in a bowl. (Do not be tempted to eat.) Pour in the milk and eggs and continue stirring. Do not be distressed if the batter seems to initially reject the milk and eggs -- keep gently stirring -- it will come together!
Pour the batter into the greased pan. It will be quite liquidy (almost alarmingly so) at this point. Evenly distribute the plum quarters across the top, and again, don't be distressed if and when the plums sink to the bottom. It's possible that slicing them thinner might help aleviate the sinkage -- an experiment I will likely try the next time I make this cake. (And yes, there will be a next time.)
Bake for 35 minutes, then cover loosely with a piece of tin foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. When placing the foil over the cake, form it into a bit of a tent so it doesn't stick to the top like mine did (resulting in the swirled affect you see above). When the center is still a touch jiggly, turn off the oven and let hibernate in there for an additional 15 minutes.
Cool the cake on a rack for at least 20 minutes before lifting it out, using the parchment paper as handles. Continue to let cool before slicing.
Of course nobody would hold it against you if you decide to eat it warm, smothered in a scoop of Haagen Daas Five Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. In fact, I highly recommend you do just that. And then triumphantly thrust your fist in the air.