The Past, The Present, Chocolate
Sometimes traveling to visit my parents is exhausting. I leave the house at 6:30 am to catch a 7:00 am train. That means getting out of bed at 5:30. In winter, it’s still dark at that time, but the birds are already up, already piercing the quiet of my back garden. Now that it’s almost summer, the birds seem to have doubled their noise. There’s quite a bit of daylight, and the chilly morning air is refreshing.
Mom and Daddy signed their revised wills at their lawyer’s office today. It’s not a subject I like to dwell on, but preparing for the future is important. Mom read and understood in that moment what it was she was signing. Whether she remembers now, hours later, is a different story.
I am writing a lot of poetry at the moment, taking on an assignment to try my hand at composing 21 poems in 21 days. Whatever I write is in rough form, and once I’ve written it, I put it away for another two weeks. One assignment was to write “a poem of forgetting.” Guess what I wrote about. Yesterday’s was to write an historical poem. This type of poetry tries to delineate past events in a poetic manner. I immediately thought of the stories Daddy had told me about my grandfather, Mick Cohen, who was an air raid warden in London during the Blitz. I remember a piece of shrapnel that sat on our bookcases when I was growing up, a memento of sorts of Grandpa’s escapades. So, I asked Daddy to retell the stories. Mom listened as avidly as I did, though we’d both heard them before. I learned wonderful details about the time he saved a church from burning to the ground, and an episode in White Chapel where some men, fascists, were preventing Jews from entering a shelter while the bombs were falling.
When it was time to go, I went to say goodbye to Mom. She had laid down with her glasses and shoes still on. I gave her a quick hug and she lamented that I was leaving all too soon. She insisted on getting out of bed and coming with us in the car to drop me at the bus station, saying, “please don’t leave me out,” hugging me as if I were going away forever, as if I were the parent and she the child. She was so sad I initiated a tickle fight. That made us both laugh.
I slept on the bus, waking groggily as we braked for the first light after the highway. When I walked into my house, I mentally began to unwind. I decided it was ok to eat one of the left-over cupcakes (ok, maybe two) as a treat. There’s nothing like chocolate to ease your troubles.
Deep Dark Chocolate Cake
Though the number of ingredients may seem imposing, this is a cake that works even if you “schittareyn,” as my grandmother would say. That’s Yiddish for pour it all in together. This cake recipe is from my friend Ruth. The batter yields about 30 cupcakes, one large cake, or two small cakes.
2 cups flour
1½ cups sugar
1 cup cocoa
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup canola oil
1 cup milk or ½ cup orange juice and ½ cup water
1 cup hot water
½ cup chocolate chips
1 tsp water (2 tsp for a thinner icing)
1 tsp vanilla
Measure dry ingredients into a bowl and mix. Add oil, vanilla, eggs and milk (or milk substitute—I like to use ½ cup water and ½ cup orange juice) and continue mixing batter. Add the hot water last and slowly work it into the batter. Pour into greased pan and bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes. In a microwave-safe measuring cup, measure chips, water and vanilla. Heat on high for 40 seconds, stir and repeat. Stir until chips are melted. Pour over cooling cake. Ice cupcakes by dipping them first into a small bowl of the warm chocolate icing, then into a bowl of sprinkles.
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