musingsNotebookRecipe

Killing off the Kids

By October 28, 2020 November 2nd, 2020 No Comments

chocolate cake

The hardest part about editing The Food Podcast is having to cut some good stuff. At journalism school they call this ‘killing your children.’ In less violent terms, this means ‘don’t let your attachment to every detail prevent you from telling the best story.’ This doesn’t mean ‘all the children’ aren’t important, they just don’t all have to be in this particular story.

If you’re not sure which children to kill, follow the advice my sister-in-law gleaned from a workshop she took with writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner: ask yourself what the story is about. Then ask yourself what the story is really about. Then ask yourself what the story is really, really about.

Episode 35 of The Food Podcast is about a person from small town Nova Scotia who travels to the big city after the death of their father and dives into work, only to be crippled by alcoholism and PTSD. It’s about seeking treatment and becoming sober before winning MasterChef Canada 2019. But it’s also about someone who, along the way, discovers faith and learns to trust in themselves.

I had to cut the part about Jennifer as a kid, breaking 80 on the golf course, using yard sale golf clubs. It killed me. So here it is, a part of our conversation that made me cheer for little Jennifer like I’ve never cheered for a kid before.

“This is a part of my life that I don’t talk about a lot. But it’s funny. Cause at one point I thought it was going to be my whole life. I thought I was going to be a golf pro actually. I played golf all my teenage years. My Dad had started playing at the club down the street from us in Kingston. For a junior membership for the whole summer, it was $50 and I got a set of clubs from a yard sale and I think it was like the, the first time that like I beat my dad with them that like maybe I got to upgrade the irons or something like that. But, it took two years.

There was something really neat about here where I can be this kid who had these yard sale clubs and I don’t know, 50 bucks for a summer membership and get to like play with adults. Like I would just go join whatever foursome and I can see their, like I could see the like, Oh a 12 year old girl.

But then I would out-drive them. It was really valuable for me to learn that my yard sale set of clubs, um, could break 80 just as well as a really rich guys. You know? It was really freeing and really… what’s the right word, I guess like some sense of power and agency. Like if I work really hard, I can succeed in this. I hit so many balls at the range, like thousands, thousands. I just loved it. I played 36 holes a day. And I loved the social aspect. I loved meeting people, and seeing them go from so depressed that this child had been added to their threesome, to being so happy and trying to take pictures with me. It was so cool to see, and, I don’t know to feel the embodiment of that it’s actually hard work and showing up that matters more than how much you look the part. Cause I did not look the part! I would paint golf shirts with sailor moon characters, and pair them with plaid shorts from Northern reflections. It was an amazing look. I was a little misfit!

I really just loved that feeling of making stuff out of nothing, like the magic of making a cake. It still doesn’t make sense to me that you can put all these inedible things together, make it into goop and then bake it and it’s something beautiful.”

So in honour of these words, cut, I walked into the kitchen and made a cake. It was a version of one I’ve made so many times I know it by heart: chocolate and butter melted in a bowl over simmering water. Eggs and sugar, whipped till frothy. Just a touch of something to bind it – almond flour, or today, a little rye flour, slowly added to the froth, along with the cooled chocolate, then scraped into a springform and baked until ‘still a little wobbly’.

Or as Jennifer would say, a magical bowl of goop, baked until beautiful.

Wobbly Chocolate Cake
a rich, special occasion cake with an optional soft, oozing middle

1 cup (230g) butter

200g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped

2 cups (400g) sugar

5 eggs

2 tablespoons almond flour ( I substituted rye flour)

½ teaspoon vanilla

Frozen berries, to garnish, if you too have a stash, or a dollop of something creamy

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

Line a 9” spring-form pan with parchment paper and butter paper and sides of the pan.

Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. When everything is melted, remove the bowl from the heat and cool a little. Whisk sugar and eggs together until frothy; whisk in almond flour, or in my case today, rye flour, along with vanilla. Carefully pour in cooled, melted chocolate and stir just until combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 17-19 minutes. For a ‘molten’ chocolate cake, remove the cake at 17 minutes when the cake is still wobbly in the middle. For a firmer cake, cook a few minutes more. Cool on a wire rack, in the cake pan, before running a knife around the edge of the pan and serving. A dusting of cocoa is optional, as are the berries or a dollop of something creamy.