All year round, I write and cook recipes which, beyond the delicious taste, have a reason and a season. The recipes are anchored at fixed times, ideas embedded in the vegetables that come out of the ground.
As December rolls around, frankly, I look at my cooking a bit differently. Perhaps this is the cumulative effect of the previous months, an “I’m done!” ” the end of the year ! – but the things we should do and eat can start, I find, to feel a little too much prescriptive.
This month, I know I’m taking my cake and eating it – literally – posting a rich, dark cake recipe (for a rich, dark December), and wondering why it’s more or less suitable. at that time of year that, say, a light and airy year. The opposite nature of the devil’s food and the angel’s cakes is in their very names: one is erected as a “sinner”, the other “righteous”. It’s this dichotomy that I just don’t accept when it comes to food and how it should make us feel.
Take Devils on Horseback and Angels Also on Horseback have served as canapes for many guests sipping cocktails this month. Why, really, does the devil manifest as a prune (or date) stuffed with cheese (or chutney or a walnut) wrapped in bacon, while the angel is molded in the form of an oyster wrapped in the same wrapper of bacon? Who says oysters haven’t done more of the devil’s work?
Or how about ‘angel’s share’, the whiskey that ‘disappears’ during the aging process when the spirit is in the cask? If the angels are so good, why are they stealing all the whiskey? Certainly it should be called the devil’s share. While angels maintain their reputation for lightness in things like angel hair pasta and angel food delicacies (the super sweet powdered dessert), the devil’s name is attached to spicy flaming kidneys.
I’m not saying all of this just to play devil’s advocate. Nor am I saying that the time has come to recreate the wheel: traditions are there for both poetic and practical reasons. What I am saying, however, is that anyone who is feeling festive and festive this month should have the cake they want, also eating a really big slice. Bake a beautiful cake (any shape, size or color), savor a slice (without any evil guilt), and be kind to yourself and others. This is the cake I’m going to bake. There are a few things, of course, but you can prepare them ahead of time and put them together when you’re ready.