No matter what they say, giving birth is neither easy nor remotely fun. But at the end of it - the beginning, really - when you are holding what looks to be a slightly shriveled, tiny alien in your tired arms, you feel powerful and complete.
Today, I'm not talking about literal birth, as in pushing out a small human, which is what I've done once. And how immediately afterward, I developed the iron-clad certainty that I could do anything to which I set my mind.
I'm talking about starting a blog. Yes, one of the ways in which I am celebrating Mother's Day is by remembering how a year ago, after my neighbor, Heather, kept saying I should start a blog, I actually did it. I birthed this.
One year. Happy Birthday dear blog!
What an experience it's been, plunking down words and doing my best with making my food shots look appetizing (still working on it, yes indeed). I've been learning and learning about all sorts of things from so many people. Some highlights...
At a food photography workshop this Spring, I had the opportunity to meet other bloggers, writers and photographers, all wonderful folks. The two amazing days together were led by Sara and Hugh Forte of the Sprouted Kitchen. Sara helped me to realize that a tomato looks most beautiful and enticing when you actually cut into it. Her husband, Hugh, provided us with guidance on ways to shape light, among other things. And both of them emphasized the need for an authentic voice, one that is true to you and only you.
I got to meet Molly Wizenberg of Orangette at the Pantry in Seattle in February. In her warm, kind manner, she too stressed authenticity of voice. Actually, I can't stop thinking about the experience I had there and I've been reading the whole of her book, A Homemade Life (I'd only read excerpts before). Oh my, can this woman write. Bravely, beautifully, the way I too want to write about life and all the people and things I love.
Pie crust! I figured out how to make pie crust without fear or anxiety from Kate Lebo and her lively little book, Pie School. If you are as scared of making pie crust as I was (for years), the fear ends now. Just get her book and soon, you'll be dreamily massaging butter into flour (ahhh, so relaxing).
I don't know what will become of this child, this blog of mine. But I am tending to it the best I can. The British pediatrician and child analyst, D.W. Winnicott, said that as parents, we can ever only be "good enough." The idea is that there might be times when we cannot meet our child's every single need. We may even disappoint him or her completely.
But then that is exactly what children need to grow -- a subtle push toward independence and knowing that even without Mama or Dad, they can manage a few small things on their own. I'm not sure if being "good enough" necessarily applies to blogs, but we'll see.
On Mother's Day, I think it's worth remembering that we can all be mothers, each and every one of us, regardless of age or gender. I firmly believe that to be a mother is to create. Nearly all of us have the capacity to do just that -- to make each day into something, whether it's getting pancakes going to feed the family, stitching together an apron or cooking up a pot of chicken soup. Just bringing something into the world with energy and joy is what matters.
Happy Mother's Day to all the makers and creators out there! Don't forget to just be you.
Now, let's eat cake.
Mango Celebration Cake
This cake is adapted from Tessa Kiros. It has become our family's go-to Spring birthday cake, when after a long, dark winter we are dying for something fruity (and not rhubarb) and it's too early yet for strawberries. It's a homely, barely sweet cake which reminds me of the cakes I enjoyed growing up in L.A.'s Chinatown. You can play around with the fruit fillings. Kiwi, banana, strawberries. Go a little crazy. If you like a weightier topping than whipped cream alone, the addition of some mascarpone is also delicious.
1 3/4 cups (164 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cups (151 g) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons baking powder, divided (see below)
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup warm whole milk
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium-sized, ripe mangos
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 1/2" springform pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and 1 teaspoon of the baking powder. Stir in the melted butter and then the milk. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Beat well.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, incorporating the remaining 2 teaspoons of baking powder after the whites have foamed up and begun to turn opaque and fluffy. Fold the whites into the cake mixture using the largest spatula you have.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. The top should be crisp and golden. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack. Once the cake has cooled, slice it in half and place the bottom on a serving platter or cake stand.
Peel the mangoes. Cut one mango into lengthwise slices about 1/4" thick. Set aside. Dice the remaining two mangoes (about 1 1/2 cups), sprinkle with lime juice, and place in a medium bowl.
Whisk heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar together until it forms stiff peaks. Mix slightly less than half of the whipping cream in with the diced mango. Spread this mango mixture onto the bottom half of the cake. Place the top half on the mango mixture. Scoop the remaining whipped cream onto the top of the cake and sides. Decorate the cake with the mango slices.