Plum Poppyseed Cake and Friendship Thoughts

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Lately I have been thinking about friendship. I made this cake for my friend Joy’s birthday party yesterday. Joy’s kind of a bad ass. She wears a lot of lace but also rides a motorcycle, is a blacksmith, and has agreed to come whisky tasting with me. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been getting in touch with all of my friends in the States, and I keep being struck by how awesome they are.

My one friend is part of an art show put on by the Getty in LA. Another is planning a trip to Sweden to do cutting edge soil chemistry research (okay, I think this is rad; if you don’t, you can just go kick rocks). Somebody’s helping open a new farm-to-table restaurant here in town. Somebody else is a fleet captain in the Caribbean, teaching kids to sail and study ecology. It’s super wonderful, but it’s also kind of alarming.

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Too many awesome people; not nearly enough time! I am trying to cram in as many morning coffees, baking parties, and yoga dates as I can in the next six weeks. I’m not doing badly, but at the same time, if I’m lucky, I’ll see most people once or twice. Which is hard for me.

So much of friendship is small, simple things over time; the accumulation of coffees drunk, goodies bakes, asanas posed and then later discussed. Little pieces of good times and also bummer times that weave our lives together and let us know and be part of each other’s stories.

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But as I get older–live more places, meet more people—so many friendships become a single coffee, a long phone call, a periodic e-mail. There’s part of me that wants to rail against it. I want to spend a whole lifetime watching foreign films, traversing mountain trails, dusting off my dancing shoes—doing whatever we do together–with every person I know.

But of course, I don’t get a whole lifetime with each of you fabulous folks.  If I’m lucky, and I have been, I get a few months or a few years in proximity to build shared memories, rack up inside jokes, learn everything I need to know to blackmail you, should ever the occasion arise. And then. And then I hear your voice or see your face for a couple hours or a couple days every few months or every few years. And I miss you and I think of you and I hope that you feel the joy and love that I feel for you even when we aren’t sharing it or making it in the same time or place.

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If you want to feel some love, or share some love, this cake is a good place to start. It is homey and grounding and a little surprising; like a good friend, perhaps. It also happens to be gluten-free, not because I combined a bunch of random things to make it that way, but just because it’s an awesome cake that’s not made out of wheat. Poppyseed and buckwheat give the cake its fragrance and earthiness. Honey and plums add sweetness and tang. We eat a lot of poppy seeds in France. I dunno if that’s a regional thing or just ‘cuz Chef likes them, but it got me thinking.

They’re a little floral and a little herby and I happen to love them. They don’t get a lot of play, but I’m out to change that. This recipe was adapted from a cake that mixed buckwheat with almonds, but I’m swapped out the almond meal for ground poppy seeds. It’s a win. More experiments to come!

Recipe after the jump…

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Raspberry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake and Gallery Wooing

On Wednesday, I had a meeting with the folks over at Gallery Acero, a local art gallery run in tandem with an iron forge. It is a wicked cool place. There’s heavy metal music (not sure if they intend the pun) playing over the sound of hammering and torches. The three brothers who run the place and their cohort create everything from custom furniture to fine art.

I am fantastically lucky enough to be friends with one of their production assistants, who  also helps out with running the gallery. She encouraged me to send images of my work to Dan, the owner, and propose a show, which I did. He liked my work, so we set up a meeting. And then suddenly I needed, like, a portfolio, a really spiffy up-to-date artist statement and exhibition history, some kind of plan for how I envision my current work being shown, and a face that says, “I’m a grown-up and a serious artist.” Gulp.

I decided to cheat a little and bake Dan a cake, in hopes that the instant affinity created by sugar and butter would help him overlook whatever fears and faults of mine peek through. Turns out berries are a straight route to his affections, so that went well. But funny thing, while showing up with baked goods always makes me feel more at ease in new situations, I was amazed to find that despite my nerves, I’m plenty capable of having a business meeting about art. When I take a deep breath and trust my own ideas and intentions for my paintings, I really enjoy discussing them with like-minded people. Having a dialogue with some one who is as passionate about art as I am and who responds to my ideas with interest, respect, and even a bit of challenge is seriously fun.

If that’s how to conduct business in the art world, I might just be able to make this work. And when I have doubts, there’s always cake. This particular one comes with high commendation from the gents and lady over at Santa Barbara Forge and Iron.

Recipe after the jump… Continue reading