Sometimes, usually on a Friday, our friend Bethany drops in. She has keys to our place, so she could just come over un announced, but usually she calls to say that she’s going to drop by after school. She is in Medical school at SUNY downstate which is right around the corner from our house. Bethany is adopted family. I do pretty much do exactly what I would have been doing if she had not come over, only I have someone to talk to while I do it. I am pretty exhausted from teaching all week by Friday afternoon, so it is nice to transition from work to socializing in a very low impact way. A typical friday visit might go something like this…
- I do the dishes that have piled up, and ask Bethany about school and her love life.
- The kettle boils and I make tea.
- We sit and drink tea and I tell Bethany about my teaching week and/or about all of the stuff that I have been cooking or wanting to cook. I show her the photos of food that I have taken since our last visit.
- Chris comes in to the kitchen for a snack and forces Bethany to eat some thing. Often she is willing to eat, but her willingness to eat is irrelevant…Chris will feed her one way or another.
- I rummage through the fridge to see what we can cook from leftovers. Bethany is a very good cook and she helps me come up with a plan. Usually we ask each other about our mothers and siblings at this point, because food conversations lead to family conversations.
- I cook something and then make Bethany and Chris eat it, even though they had a snack not to long ago. Their willingness to eat is irrelevant…I will feed them one way or another.
- Sometimes the three of us stream a funny TV show you tube clips, because all three of us are actually so brain-dead and tired from the week of work that we really, really need to look at funny cat videos.
- Occasionally, we get a second wind and embark on some big project. Last week we bleached Bethany’s roots and Chris’ entire head. On other occasions, Bethany has talked to me until late at night while I attempted to clean my puppet studio.
You may be asking yourself “Why is Erin telling me all of this?” It’s true that there is nothing particularly exciting about the nature of our visits EXCEPT that this kind of informal, relaxed visit is very rare in New York City. We tend to work a lot here. When we are not working, many of us hide in our apartments because we are tired of having to interact with other human beings so much. When we do socialize, it takes a big effort so we dress up and go out and present ourselves in some fabulous manner. Often socializing involves drinking, because there isn’t time to properly switch gears without the help of booze. Maybe I am just projecting my own habits onto New Yorkers in general…but I know that I am not alone in this.
I find that my emotional health is greatly improved when I have someone “just dropping by” every once in a while. At a few points in my life in NYC I have had friends as my neighbors, which really encourages that kind of interaction. I am someone who needs family and neighbors. This is part of why I cook. If you cook, people will come and visit you. It’s not just that they come for free food either. On a very basic level, food is love. I learned this from my Grandpa Orr. Humans need food and love, especially when they are worn out from a long week of work or school.
Last Friday, I wanted to make some sort of sweet treat from some ripe pears that I had. I had been wanting to try making a pear and almond cake in the style of my gluten-free version of my grandmother’s Magical Estonian Apple Cake. My theory was that pears would make the cake even more pudding-like and I liked the idea of a pear and almond pudding. It turns out that my sliced almonds had turned rancid though. Also, when Chris came in to raid his snack cupboard he discovered a jar of hazelnut milk jam that Bethany had made and given us a long time ago. It was supposed to be in the jam and pickle cupboard and had gone un-eaten because it was in the wrong place. So we made the pear cake with hazelnut milk jam and chopped hazelnuts and it turned out very well indeed. It was in fact, very pudding-like. Here is the recipe…
PEAR AND HAZELNUT PUDDING CAKE
- 1 and 1/2 cups flour (I used bob’s red mill gluten-free flour mix)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 7 tablespoons butter
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 tsp almond extract (we weren’t sure about this. If I had some Frangelico I would have used a tablespoon of that instead. Or you could try vanilla extract)
- 3 to 4 pears cored peeled and sliced (I didn’t bother peeling them)
- A jar of Bethany’s Hazelnut Milk Jam OR about 4 tablespoons of butter creamed with brown sugar and finely ground hazelnuts
- A handful of fresh hazelnuts coarsely chopped
- Put the butter in a baking tin and place it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.
- Measure the buttermilk into a large bowl. Swirl the butter around the baking tin to cover the bottom and the sides and then slowly pour the rest of the butter into the buttermilk, whisking as you pour.
- Beat the eggs into the butter milk.
- Add the dry mixture to the wet and mix well. If it’s too dry, add more milk.
- Arrange the pears in the buttered hot tin.
- pour the batter over the pears.
- bake for 25 minutes or until it is just beginning to set.
- Remove the cake from the oven and spread the hazelnut milk jam or creamed butter, sugar and ground hazelnuts onto the cake. Sprinkle the top with the chopped hazelnuts.
- Return the cake to the oven and bake until the hazelnuts are toasted and the cake is lifting away from the tin at the edges (about 10 more minutes). This cake is good warm or eaten the next day!
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE…