Afternoon Adventures and Cinnamon Squash Cake

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Yesterday I took myself on a mini field trip. It was partly a failed attempt to buy a government stamp to pay for my visa (which has been issued—hallelujah! Can you hear the bells ringing? Because I can.) that I get to pick up in Perigueux tomorrow, but I turned it into a sweet little afternoon outing. I wandered through town reading the opening and closing times of various establishments and concluding that all errands should be done between the hours of ten and noon on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. I sometimes wonder how things get done in France. I stumbled onto a craft show that did happen to be open (and run by some British ladies), bought a felt owl to cover my phone, and strolled around snapping pictures with said phone. Later, I went down to the river to draw. And if you have Alison Krauss stuck in your head, I think it works because making things is a kind of prayer too, isn’t it? It’s a kind of looking for harmony and the internal calm and courage to let a thing or help a thing come into this world.

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I tried to take pictures by the river too, but I struggled a bit with my iPhone, which takes excellent photos when the light is perfect, and when the light is not perfect takes mostly overexposed nightmares or blurry frustrations. No luck with the river photos; I think the reflections puzzle my little Mac camera’s brain. But I did manage to get a shot of my favorite street in Montignac, which makes me chuckle every time I pass it, if only because the name feels a lot like my life a lot of the time: The Impasse of Sentiment. Feelings: you just have to live with them.

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My feelings lately are that I’m grateful that I have a little time to sit around and think about my feelings. To ask myself what images are for, what words are for, what food is for. To find out that my camera takes square pictures and knock myself out taking abstract-y photos of my feet and the tire marks in the town parking lot. I only posted one here—I don’t want to tire you guys out—but trust me, there are many. I’m grateful to get to stop and consider what this little internet space is for: what is does for me, what could be awesome if it does for others, what makes it work and what makes it not work so well.

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I realized that as much as time and organization keep me from showing up more or putting together posts that are more consistent or finished, there are also simple technical limitations. Like, as much I love my iPhone and its newfound capacity for square pictures, if I’m going to be subjecting people to my images all the time, I should maybe consider getting a decent camera. Not just for the viewer, but also for myself, to be able to construct a visual narrative more based on the story I’d like to share and less based on the few photos I managed to snap that are not atrocious.

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Ditto for food. While I admit that there is a diversity of reasons that keep me from posting recipes, two of the most frequent culprits are that my pictures are often deplorable and my recipes are hard to scale because I have very few pans that relate to anything standard. I’m learning a lot this week about how quandaries that feel complex in a busy mind can become rather simple when the mind is posed. As far as the blog goes, the basic prospect that arises is that if I really intend to develop this space as a platform for sharing and communication, I need to invest in it. Which is at once daunting and exciting (really good reasons to actually go to Ikea—buy a decent lamp for drawing. And a bundt pan!). Gonna let that simmer a bit more and see what comes to the top.

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Also, as you can see, I, um, cracked with my baking resolution. Butbut, I had to be in the kitchen for Lama anyway, and then Loïc brought home a potimarron from some one’s garden he’s helping with, and it’s almost starting to smell like autumn in the morning, and well, as much as I say I want to draw more and read more and study more and go outside more, and while away fewer of my hours in the kitchen, this cooking thing might be as ingrained in me as this art thing, and though I don’t really know what to do with that, I know that if you give me something that resembles pumpkin, you inevitably wind up with cake. Pre-autumny, afternoon snack-y, earthy, spicy cake.

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Recipe follows…

Potimarron is a French kind of squash. It has dense flesh and a chestnutty flavor. If you don’t happen to have potimarron where you are, I recommend kabocha as a good equivalent for the texture and earthy flavor. And of course, no one is going to blame you if you use good old canned pumpkin.

Cinnamon Squash Cake

Inspired by Food and Wine

2 1/4 cups (270 grams) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking soda

2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon (5mL) salt

2 cups (480 mL) squash purée (instructions included below)

1/2 cup (120 mL) vegetable oil

1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted

3 eggs

To make the squash purée:

You will need one small-to-medium squash. Skin your squash. Depending on the shape, cutting it into several large pieces and then slicing off the skin may be the simplest approach. Chop the skinned squash into 1/2-inch chunks. Steam until completely tender and easily mashed, about twenty minutes. Render into purée with an immersion blender, potato masher, or even a fork.

To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350˚ F (180˚ C). Grease two loaf pans.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl, beat together the squash purée, butter, and oil. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add dry ingredients, and mix just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly between two pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about thirty-five to forty minutes.

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