Fruitcake missionary

December 20, 2006

Apparently it’s not just me who thinks the much maligned fruitcake deserves a comeback. It’s wise to make a recipe that people don’t think they’ll like. Keep the expectations low. Then the audience is pleasantly surprised at just how good the classic dessert is–and has always been, except when fruitcake hatahs have sabotaged the cake by infesting it with non-fruit abominations and abandoning it for months to dry and harden, alone and unloved.

Why do we serve fruitcake at Christmas? Because Christmas is about peace on earth, goodwill to men. The lofty ideals that we hold in our hearts must not be neglected, but must be kept moist and fresh by nourishing them with sugary syrup and liquor. Like fruitcake.

My gift to you this Christmas, dear internet, is my version of Emeril’s fruitcake recipe, adapted to the capacities of mere mortals.

for the simple syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Zest of 2 lemons (about 3 tablespoons)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)

for the cake
1 pound total of dried cranberries, dried pineapple, and dried apricots
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 large eggs
1 cup Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur (substitute orange juice if baking for Mormons)
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups slivered blanched almonds
1 cup pecan pieces

Make the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lemon zest and juice and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.

Combine the dried fruits together in a large mixing bowl. Pour the simple syrup over them, toss to coat, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain and reserve the syrup.

Cream the butter, sugar, and almond extract together. Beat until mixture is fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between each addition on low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add 1/2 cup of the Grand Marnier and mix to incorporate.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium-size mixing bowl and blend well. Add this mixture 1/2 cup at a time to the butter mixture, each time mixing until smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be thick.

Add the warm fruit and all the nuts a little at a time, mixing well.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Put a pan of water on the lower rack so cake will not dry out.

Lightly grease twelve miniature loaf pans. Spoon about 1 cup of the batter into each pan. Bake until golden and the tops spring back when touched, about 50 minutes (rearranging them after 30 minutes if necessary to brown evenly).

Spread butter on the hot cakes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Remove cakes from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Cover cakes in foil and let them dry out overnight.

Combine the reserved simple syrup with the remaining 1/2 cup Grand Marnier. Make tiny holes with a toothpick randomly on the top of each cake. Pour 2 tablespoons of the syrup over the top of each cake once every 2 to 3 days until all of the syrup is used. Keep cakes in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes 12 (1-pound) cakes.


Apocalypso

December 17, 2006

Is it…

A movie about a young Trinidadian on a banana boat who is trying to escape being given a lethal dose of rum and Coca-Cola to become a human sacrifice to a Harry Belafonteesque deity?

Or…

The name of a steel-drum/death-metal fusion band?


Beware the Christmas crap

December 16, 2006

Despite what you may be reading in every freaking blog and hipster magazine in the universe, the Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas 5-CD album is the most unlistenable piece of garbage that has ever disgraced my CD player. It is so terrible, I had to keep skipping from track to track to keep from stabbing myself in the eyeball. All I can say is that I would rather plunk out carols on my decrepit digital piano and hum to myself than listen to someone else plunk out carols on their decrepit, out-of-tune honkytonk piano and hum to themselves. The album has been unceremoniously resold on Amazon, and good riddance.

And for the second worst song of the season, I give you… O Holy Horrible Singing, Batman!” Night.


I (heart) B.O.

December 12, 2006

My buddy Craig says he’ll withhold his vote from rock-star Democratic Senator and potential first black president of the U.S. Barack Obama because he cosponsored a bill with everyone’s favorite Mormon vocalist, Orrin Hatch, in order to allow people in Chapter 13 bankruptcy to tithe while in bankruptcy rather than scraping every last penny together, forking it over to their creditors and heading off to the work’us. Just kidding about the workhouse.

But really, allowable living expenses under bankruptcy regulations and decisions already include cable TV, gambling, drinking, cigarettes, psychic hotlines, $300/month car payments, and $100/month for clothes. So it’s not like the allowable living expenses were quite exactly limited to bare necessities prior to this bill.

Also, my understanding is that to take advantage of the new tithing provision, you don’t have to give 10% to a church. You can give up to 15% of your gross income to any charitable organization. So if a liberal Barack-Obama-ite finds herself declaring Chapter 13, she can still give up to 15% of gross income to Doctors Without Borders or the Girl Scouts or the League of Conservation Voters, apparently even if she hasn’t been giving 15% to them all along. I don’t think a huge number of bankrupt people are going to be making ginormous donations like that. But if they do, and it drives up the cost of credit, so be it. Cheap credit is what started this bankruptcy mess to begin with.

I’m still abuzz over Barack. This bill is bipartisan (which we really do need more of) and is far from the worst thing Congress has spewed forth in the bankruptcy department lately.


Free advice

December 12, 2006

Now that there are TV shows about making TV shows, such as Studio 60 and 30 Rock, not to mention classics from the past such as Mary Tyler Moore and Home Improvement, the next step is to make a reality TV show about making a reality TV show. I’m not saying it would be a worthwhile use of time or resources, just that it’s the next step.

It would be lots more gripping than a DVD commentary because it would be produced in real time, not in retrospect, and (AND!) there would be visuals. This would require a second camera crew to follow around the real camera crew. The producer would have her little confession cam to which she could whine about how the reality show participants are not cooperating with her artistic vision. I can’t imagine what the camera crew would say when interviewed, probably lots of one-syllable grunting and hankering for a Manwich. Lots of potential for hilarity. I don’t know why no one has done it yet.


I hate being right.

December 12, 2006

Back in 2003, someone thought it would be a good idea to invade Iraq without having an exit strategy in place. I wrote my Congressional representative to say it was a really bad idea, don’t do it, but to no avail.I’m reminded of that cliché, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Well, I want to be happy. I hate being right.


That does it!

December 6, 2006

I’m tossing in the razor!


Law school, depression and hopelessness

December 3, 2006

Studies have shown that law students suffer from clinical stress and depression at a rate that is three to four times higher than the national average.

The ABA found that of the young lawyers they surveyed, around 80% or so said that they would not choose the law as a career if they could live their life over again knowing what they knew then.

A Johns Hopkins study in 1990 showed that in all graduate-school programs in all professional fields except one, optimists outperform pessimists. The one exception: law school.

I just posted a slightly different version of my little essay below on a discussion group for one of my law school classes. It’s the first (and I expect the only) time anyone has ever asked for my feedback on the overall law school experience.

Most law students say that the best cure for the stress of law school is to put more emphasis on other areas of life and less emphasis on law school. And I agree with them. Reminding yourself of your core values, volunteering, spending time with friends and family, getting out into nature…all of these things are indeed good ways of coping with law school.

Unfortunately, the underlying assumption seems to be that law school is inherently an awful experience, an experience that will discourage us and make us cynical if we allow it to get through to us. But why should that be so? Why should the only positive things in our lives during the law school years be unrelated to law school itself? Why shouldn’t law school itself be emotionally rewarding and uplifting to some degree (for everyone, not just the hypothetically happy few at the top of the grade heap)?

I think our willingness (“our” meaning students, faculty, administration, and legal community) to accept cynicism, pseudo-Socratic grilling, pointless drudgery, vicious competitiveness, etc. as inherent to legal education, is why law school induces depression.

A key symptom of depression is hopelessness or pessimism; a belief that things will never improve. Most of us seem to accept that legal education will never improve significantly. No wonder we are prone to depression.


Currently admiring…

December 3, 2006

New favorite Christmas carols from the UU hymnal:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Christina Georgina Rossetti

purer than purest pure
whisper of whisper so,
so (big with innocence)
forgivingly a once
of eager glory,
no more miracle may grow

childfully serious
flower of holiness
a pilgrim from beyond,
beyond, beyond, the future,
immediate like new,
like some newly remembered dream

flaming a coolly bell
touches most mere until
(eternally) with (now) with (now)
with luminous
the shadow of love himself:
who’s we–nor can you die or i

and every world,
before silence begins
a star

e.e. cummings


In which our heroine is presented with the opportunity to meditate

November 30, 2006

Today I was in a coffee shop that shall not be named, waiting on my eggnog latte, and saw a flyer for conveniently located, reasonably priced meditation classes. I shall check them out. It would be good for me.

Next, I’d like conveniently located, reasonably priced Chinese foot massages. Pretty please, Universe?


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