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The Meaning of Meals

January 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Received the kind gift of a nice guitar for Christmas. After all the rabid cooking of several Christmas meals and hosting over Christmas and the New Year, heeded everyone’s warnings to chill out before the start of term by tuning it up and lounging on the sitting room sofa, trying to get the fingers calloused enough to play the thing properly.

Between irritating the neighbours with terrible strumming, watching the first episode of BBC’s Sherlock Series 3 (no spoilers here!) and other people’s DVD collections, have also been dipping into Tim Chester’s A Meal With Jesus: discovering grace, community & mission around the table and Herman Bavinck’s stuff on the Church.

caramelised chicory (endives) with serrano hamChester certainly inspires his readers to think carefully about ordinary meals – what they could symbolise and the good they could do. At the risk of misrepresenting him, it seems that Chester sees meals as:

  • enacted grace – Jesus is handing out God’s party invitations and they read: “You’re invited to my party in the new creation. Come as you are.” Jesus’ meals picture the day when the last will be first, as he welcomes the marginal and confronts the self-righteous and self-reliant. Our meals should beautifully embody God’s love for marginalised people and speak powerfully of grace, even to those who cannot understand what is being said;
  • enacted community –  involvement with people, especially the marginalised, must begin with a sense of God’s grace. But not just God’s grace to them but God’s grace to me. When I speak with someone who’s an alcoholic or an unmarried mother etc, I must do so as a fellow sinner. Otherwise I will be patronising. Generous hospitality leads to reconciliation. It expresses forgiveness. Paul uses hospitality as a metaphor for reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 7:2. Hospitality can be a kind of sacrament of forgiveness. Shared meals offer a moment of grace, a divine moment, an opportunity for people to be seduced by grace into a better life, a truer life and a more human existence. Church itself is to come extent embodied through shared meals. Our meals express our doctrine of justification. There can be no distinctions around the meal table;
  • enacted hope – the Christian community is the beginning and sign of God’s coming world – and no more so than when we eat together. Our meals are a foretaste of the future messianic banquet. They reveal the identity of Jesus. They are a proclamation and demonstration of God’s good news. Food isn’t just fuel. It’s not just a mechanism for sustaining us for ministry. It’s gift, generosity, grace. God set a table so we could eat in his presence. This is the heart of what it means to be human. It involves physicality. God didn’t create us for mere mental contemplation, but for a shared meal. But neither is the meal everything. God has put us together in such a way that our hunger for the gift of food is designed to lead us to the Giver (Deuteronomy 8:3). The meals of Jesus are a sign of hope for a renewed creation with bodies and food. It is hope for a meal in the presence of God;
  • enacted mission – what’s new in the story of the great banquet in Luke 14 is the exhortation to invite outsiders to our meals. God welcomes us to his party, and so we’re to welcome the poor. Simply writing a cheque keeps the poor at a distance. But Jesus was the friend of sinners. The poor need a welcome to replace their marginalisation, inclusion to replace their exclusion, a place where they matter to replace their powerlessness. They need community. Meals enact mission. But they enact mission because they enact grace. Meals bring mission in the ordinary. But that’s where most people are – living in the ordinary;
  • enacted salvation – at the fall, food was the way we expressed our disobedience and mistrust of God. Sin distorts all our relationships, including our relationships with food. We use food for control instead of looking to God’s greatness. We use food for image instead of looking to God’s glory. We use food for refuge instead of looking to God’s goodness. We use food for identity instead of looking to God’s grace. We live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3). But this word is embodied in a meal. The communion meal reorients life by relocating us in the story told by the Word. The meal points to the goal: eating in the presence of God as a celebration of his generosity in creation and salvation. We anticipate this in every meal, but especially in the Lord’s Supper;
  • enacted promise – the story of Martha and Mary doesn’t promote a spirituality of disengagement or a contemplative life. It offers a word of invitation. It reorients us to the Word that promises a future banquet. This promise liberates us from the worries of this world so that we can put first God’s kingdom. The meal at Emmaus is the means by which Jesus becomes known as the suffering Messiah. Jesus is known at the breaking of bread, at the meal table, sharing food with friends and enemies. Christ is known in community.

This ticks all the right zeitgeist boxes: inclusiveness, community, authenticity (“It’s possible to remain at a distance from someone in public gatherings – even in a Bible study. Meals bring you close. You see people in situ, in life, as they are. You connect and communicate.”), anti-authorianism (“The future of Christianity lies not in a return to the dominance of Christendom, but in small intimate communities of light. Often they’re unseen by history. But they’re what transform neighbourhoods and cities.”), anti-institutionalism (“Prostitutes loved sharing a meal with Jesus. They avoid the church he founded like the plague. Something has gone wrong.”), finding meaning and significance in the mundane.

clementine and almond cake from an Ottolenghi recipe
And he makes good observations and points worth thinking more about like:

  • we do need to think about glorifying God in all aspects of life, even in the mundane things.
  • hospitality has become a performance art, and we’ve lost the creation of intimacy around a meal.
  • think of your favourite food. Steak perhaps. Or Thai green curry. Or ice cream. Or home-made apple pie. God could have just made fuel. He could have made us to be sustained by some kind of savoury biscuit. Instead he gave us a vast and wonderful array of foods. The world is more delicious than it needs to be. We have a superabundance of divine goodness and generosity. God went over the top.
  • not only did God give us food; he also ordained cooking. God gave this world to us to care for and cultivate. But he also gave it to us to explore and develop. It was God’s intention that we should take the raw material of his world and use it to create science, culture, agriculture, music, technology and poetry – to his glory. Every time you bake a cake, you’re fulfilling that creation mandate. (Hmmm, interesting.)
  • Chester’s observations on how sin distorts our relationship with food.

I also rather like his pithy soundbite-y style of writing (though this makes linking up his ideas a little challenging for me). However, am still pondering whether this coheres with what the Bible says. This is not so much a critique as a note-to-self as to where my little brain has got to so far:

  • not completely convinced that Chester correctly interprets Luke’s aims in writing the referenced bits of his Gospel;
  • in many of his categories, I wonder if he might have muddied the distinction between the church (even if just the visible church) and the world. It probably seems unpopularly elitist to make such a distinction, but it is clear from Scripture that the church is made up only of people who have put their trust in God. Therefore, the benefit of church community and unity is available only to Christians. But this is not to say that we should hunker down in our holy huddle. Those outside the family of God should be made to feel welcome as visitors to the household of God, but it would hypocritical and confusing to treat them as if they were part of the body of Christ when they are not;
  • not quite convinced either that meals should, in all cultures, at all times, be invested with the significance that Chester accords them. While some meanings might hold in the culture I come from, I’m just not too sure about stamping “biblical mandate” on them;
  • the offer of community is attractive and I have in the last year been a grateful beneficiary of very loving communities. But it seems to me that the Bible as a whole lays greater salvific significance on the express proclamation of God’s word.

That is all for now…

*the recipes for both the caramelised endives with serrano ham, and the clementine and ground almond syrup cake were Ottolenghi-inspired. They were easily made by someone with very sore fingertips.

Mass Meals for Guests and N00bs

August 29, 2013 Leave a comment

For once in my self-centered life, I’ve been arrowed to play the role of The Concerned Parent to the new associates and random guests. This has meant welcoming newbies, co-ordinating moves, settling people into flats, introducing various individuals, explaining how things work and hints on hacking London, making many beds, enduring hugs and kisses, and cooking big meals to sustain everyone in their packing/unpacking/unsuccessful bank runs.

Because i myself was running around so much and so also to allow for the fullest freedom for newbies and guests, the house menu consisted mainly of large quantities of food left in the fridge to be spooned out and re-heated whenever individuals were peckish; tummy-fillers not haute cuisine nor even experiments to satisfy morbid curiosity:
pork sausage bologanesepork sausage bolognese. I begged the Italians to cook their own pasta, since I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. But they sniffed and said that it was impossible to cook good pasta here in London because the pasta and the water were wrong;

beef stew in an enamel roasterbeef stew – overcooked the meat because I was in a good old yabber with one of the guests. But it seems that if you then dump the lot in the oven for some time with a glug of red wine, the meat relaxes again;

dense chocolate loaf cake + extra thick cream + strawberry and redcurrant coulisdense chocolate loaf cake with extra thick cream and homemade strawberry and redcurrant coulis. Malaysians were happy to have this for dessert. Good for unexpected Aussies, Canadians, and Englishmen, and other random drop-ins at teatime. French guests liked this for breakfast.

Ah, the start of the academic year. Greatly encouraged by the Rector’s welcome talk at staff meeting a few days ago, on 1 Corinthians 12 and John 15; we can all read the Bible and understand it for ourselves, but it’s always helpful when someone who has lived a little longer points out how God’s word applies to one’s own situation.

Dean & Deluca (Orchard Central, Singapore) and Service

July 4, 2012 1 comment

Blackboard menu. Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Cafe. Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore
Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Drinks menu. Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore

The attraction of the flagship Soho branch of Dean & Deluca was the atmosphere, said a dinner companion; tempting displays of supposedly gourmet food and incredible New York service. The Singapore branch (facebook. 4th floor, Orchard Central) was so cramped we could hear, quite distinctly, the private conversations on two neighbouring tables while we watched two waitresses/kitchen staff wander to-and-fro for the next few minutes trying to locate the rightful owners of the plates they were hefting.

Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Breads and pastries. Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore

Other than the food that was prepared/heated on the premises (pies, salads), Dean & Deluca played a curatorial function: a selection of imported cheese, an edited list of the best local breads, cakes, and pastries that fit D&D’s Noo Yawker image (from Baker & Cook, Maison Kayser), etc.

Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore
Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore

Our nicoise salad contained exactly three pieces of tuna and was decent. Despite the height-challenged buns, i liked the flavour and texture make-up of the burger. Roasted onion tomato relish was a tastier condiment to plain old Heinz tomato ketchup. Unfortunately, we had a female server/cashier who wasn’t at all pleased to be answering excited questions about the pastries, and some other people had a male server/cashier who didn’t bother to tell them, while they waited patiently in line, that the last order had already been taken even before 9pm. This did not encourage anyone to think that the experience was worth the premium prices.

Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore
Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore

The evening was salvaged, however, by the caucasian lady who appeared to be running the show. When we returned a faulty confection, she was not only apologetic even before verifying the alleged fault, readily acceding to our request for another cake, but also generous enough to throw in a second on the house. Teething problems for the rest perhaps and what a great help to the Singapore F&B industry if the waitstaff manage to learn the basic service principles from her. It’s not about giving free stuff but actually allowing customers to have the opportunity to enjoy, well, being served and being properly taken-care of.

Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, SingaporeThe requirements for Christians are higher though. What’s expected isn’t just the fake smile and trained thoughtfulness before hiding behind the counter to bitch to friends on Facebook or Twitter but, just like Jesus’ own service standards, a willing sacrificial service, even for one’s enemies:

Jesus called them together and said,”You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

In the grocery section:

Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore

A good selection of products that we’ve usually had friends bring back from overseas grocery runs. Kitchen Language seems to have been a bit generous on the profit margins though.

Chocolate, chocolate-coated stuff, nuts, dried fruit. Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Teas. Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore
Coffee beans. Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore

Teas: Kusmi Tea, Mariage Freres (was available at Changi Terminal 3 for a brief period), Tipu’s Chai, Dean & Deluca House Brand
Coffees: Papa Palheta, Dean & Deluca House Brand
Coffee paraphernalia: Clever drippers, Chemexes

Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore
Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore
Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore
Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore Dean & Deluca, Orchard Central, Singapore

Variations on the themes of herbs and spices, olive oil, jam, preserved vegetables, salt, sugar.

A Saturday at Carpenter & Cook, Old Holland Road, Orchard Towers, and Singapore International Acoustic Guitar Festival

June 24, 2012 1 comment

Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong KilatSpent Saturday morning baking for breakfast. Then legged it to Carpenter & Cook (19 Lorong Kilat, facebook, The Business Times article), where we were to check out the subject of blogdom and Twitterverse raves.

Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat

A vintage-chic home decor blog post in the flesh! British flag bunting! The retro factor was no token – there weren’t just old Singer factory chairs and tables made from old sewing machine ones, or random old cash registers and Underwood typewriters and weighing scales, but also tea towels!, lovely old plates and cups and glasses and cutlery you could use there and then purchase for home! Are those chairs made from old church pews? Even one wall was plastered with retro wallpaper. It was the experience of being immersed in an eclectic antique shop without the dust. (The Singer sewing machine table and my legs had a bit of a fight though with the knees taking most of the hits.) Yes, the old telephone does actually work. And yes, almost everything is for sale. Retro stock was shipped over from London in a container or sourced locally.

Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat

The better thing about the cafe was that so much of the food (even the jams – pineapple & rosemary, blackcurrant & pinot noir) was made in-house by Shenn Sim. This meant variety throughout the week, the ability to tweak recipes in response to feedback, and freshly baked goodness. The two separate groups of people i met prior to arrival highly recommended the passionfruit meringue tart – it was indeed refreshingly satisfying. The quiche wasn’t warmed up but still tasty. Someone gave the thumbs-up for the Valrhona sea salt caramel tart. The pear frangipane didn’t really stand a chance in this company.

Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat Carpenter & Cook, 19 Lorong Kilat
Creme de Cassis and Pinot Noir Jam, Carpenter & Cook, Lorong Kilat

The scones were alright (we generally prefer cream scone recipes): no clotted cream to accompany them, liked the unique taste of pineapple & rosemary jam but the sweet kick of the blackcurrant & pinot noir was something else. Coffee from Liberty Coffee beans off an old Elektra machine.

Big Field at Old Holland Road Big Field at Old Holland Road
Big Field at Old Holland Road

After, a bit of fresh air and sunshine trying out the new boomerang someone got me in Perth, in that lovely big field along Old Holland Road, attempting not to knock pretty RC planes out of the air.

Jane's Thai, Orchard Towers Jane's Thai, Orchard Towers
Jane's Thai, Orchard Towers Jane's Thai, Orchard Towers
Jane's Thai, Orchard Towers Jane's Thai, Orchard Towers
Jane's Thai, Orchard Towers Jane's Thai, Orchard Towers

Then dinner at Jane Thai at the somewhat dodgy Orchard Towers before Thomas Leeb and his percussion-hacked guitar took to the stage at the RELC Auditorium.

In line with the week’s discussion about supporting missionaries, headed up North in the early morning to speak with a family there. Which leaves the next few hours for clearing China work.

Many miles to go before i sleep. Chuffed.

SPRMRKT, Franken-Monkey and Rabbit from Aranzi Aronzo’s The Cute Book, Cake

April 28, 2012 2 comments

SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, SingaporeThe prevailing holiday mood meant people were taking it easy on Friday. Since i wouldn’t be able to dally at Ocean Curry Fish Head while waiting for someone to run her banking errands, ended up next door at SPRMRKT (2 McCallum Street. facebook. No relation to the Amsterdam outfit).

Lights and seating, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore

Exterior, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore Door and Display, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore
Blackboard menu, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore Drinks menu, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore
Quinoa salad, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore Beef lasagne, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore
Flat White, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore Carrot cake, SPRMRKT, McCallum Street, Singapore
SPRMRKT, McCallum Street SPRMRKT, McCallum Street

Opened three weeks ago by a pair of siblings, the emphasis was on fresh (and therefore dearer) food. There was also a retail section for fruits, some veg, and homeware. The flat white from Smitten Coffee’s Thumper Blend was at times excellent – hot chocolate in a mug, and as personal preferences go, more favourable to me than what i’ve gotten onsite. Good texture in the carrot cake thanks to obvious bits of shredded carrot and nuts, and the citrus zest in the cream cheese was quite refreshing. Several people liked the peanut cookies.

Felt Monkeys and Rabbit from Aranzi Aronzo's The Cute Book

Back in the office, the girls were cooing over the kawaii-ness of Aranzi Aronzo‘s The Cute Book. I had a go for a lark and the unanimous conclusion was that not only would i never come near the likes of Ashley Isham, Kevin Seah, Edwin Neo of Ed et al, Jeremiah Ang of The J Myers Company, that OberBlünck bespoke jeans guy, or Woffles Wu for that matter, if i were old and decrepit and selling these franken-dolls for food, even sweet charity might turn heel and run like the hounds of hell were after her.

Felt Monkeys and Rabbit from Aranzi Aronzo's The Cute Book
(Old Monkey done by an expert, the Franken-creatures by Why-Can’t-We-Just-Use-A-Hot-Glue-Gun)

But altogether nice for a chill and chat.

ANZAC Biscuit, Sarnies, Telok Ayer Street

Dark Chocolate Mousse, Grin Affair, Everton Park Dark Chocolate Mousse, Grin Affair, Everton Park

And later on, we were biscuitted and caked-out by, inter alia, very lovely Anzac biscuits from Sarnies, dark chocolate mousse from Grin Affair, tiramisu and banana toffee tart from Da Paolo (after which there was yet another round of desserts after bumping into more friends).

This world is a brilliant place to live in with so much to see and do and enjoy, but still later on, listening to Richard Coekin on 2 Corinthians 5:9 – 6:2 (Motives for Gospel Ministry), i was reminded that when i became a Christian, my priorities changed and it became my purpose to please not myself but God. In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul defends his ministry against the accusations of the false apostles and in so doing states the motives for ministry and unpacks the meaning of pleasing the Lord:

  • fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:10ff) – when Christ returns, we must all stand before the judgement seat of Christ who will judge everything we have done and spoken and thought. If we have trusted in him, we have no reason to fear his condemnation because he has taken that condemnation when he died on the cross for us. But precisely because we have been saved from all this, we ought to know that God will have a reckoning for all we have done in this world. Jesus tells two parables of the talents – in one, when the servants were at first given different amounts of talents, the same reward was given in the end; in the other, the servants were rewarded according to what they had done with what they had been given. So we are encouraged to make the most of what we have been given to do what we can to please him. But more than that, there is a great seriousness in facing Christ’s judgement – it lasts for all eternity and a disappointing review but the person who matters most in the universe can never be changed. How much more frightening it will be for people who are still unforgiven. Therefore, just as it would be unspeakably cruel and inhumane to walk past a house engulfed by flames without warning its sleeping occupants, so it would be unconscionable not to persuade people to be saved from hell;

Cream Scones with Clotted Cream and Sarabeth's Orange Apricot Marmalade

  • love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) – the immense love that caused God the Son to come to earth to live the life we could never life, and to die the death that we should have died, as a sinner and a criminal, as our substitute and our representative. So when Christ died on the cross, we died together with him. We know we are now acceptable to God because we were raised with Christ. Therefore, we can no longer live for ourselves but for him;
  • responsibility for the message of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:19-20) – God entrusted the impossibly important message of peace and reconciliation to the apostles which the apostles passed on to us. As ambassadors of God, they were not not at liberty to change the message, and neither are we, just to make it more popular or palatable to others. And we are not at liberty to keep the message to ourselves, that would be stealing; we must pass it to others;
  • this is the day of salvation – this is the time to alive, not the days of the prophets of old. This is the period that the prophets of the Old Testament foretold and looked forward to, the last days before the judgement of Christ. These are days of opportunity and urgency.

Flat White and Anzac Biscuit, Sarnies, Telok Ayer Street

Sarnies (facebook)
136 Telok Ayer Street

Grin Affair (facebook)
3 Everton Park

*SPRMRKT
One Monday’s Menu
SPRMRKT, McCallum Street SPRMRKT, McCallum Street
SPRMRKT, McCallum Street

Reading Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 on the First Day of the Chinese Lunar New Year

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Broccoli, Hokkaido scallops, pine nuts Chicken rendang with unfortunate oil slick
Tomato-based minced meat bolognaise pasta sauce Chinese New Year Durian Cake, Jane's Cake Shop

After attempting to obey the fifth commandment with some un-inspired cooking for/entertaining guests who had come over to the family home to celebrate the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year,

A slice of lemon cake, cubes of cranberry walnut brownies, Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, Chinese New Year decor

settled down for a long read of Haruki Murakami‘s 1Q84 tome that i’d picked up at Kinokuniya Liang Court after some CNY eve grocery shopping at Meidi-ya.

Rather enjoyed it though couldn’t help thinking that Philip K. Dick and Jorge Luis Borges would have written this more succinctly and with more oomph. Still, its 925-page length and generous vagueness would provide something for everyone to feed on: if one wished to view the book as touting the power of literature (eg. Douglas Haddow for The Guardian), well…then as the Little People might say, though only as Marshall McLuhan,”Ho ho.”, as they might also chuckle if one was inclined to contrast the insidious tyranny of the Little People in 1Q84 with George Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984. Someone else (perhaps the scriptwriter for the movie spin-off) might also quite easily read it to mean that only true love will keep people alive.

In 1Q84, Murakami’s usual OCD-ly-disciplined alienated protagonists find themselves picking their way again through the leitmotif sands of shifting reality, only this time, the alternate reality is easy to identify – it has two moons. (For a summary of the plot, try: Boyd Tonkin for The Independent, Christopher Tayler for London Review of Books.) In the parallel world, there are cults with their own version of reality (see New York Books’ quick reference to Murakami’s earlier research on cults) – the suffering Leader willing to sacrifice himself, the prayer of the Society of Witnesses for the forgiveness and for the Lord in Heaven’s kingdom to come, closely referenced Christianity.

It had been my argument, many years ago, that Christianity was just another cult trying to impose its warped version of reality on the right-thinking postmodern public, until someone pointed out that the truth was easily evidenced and that if i actually looked, i would see that twin moons hung in the night sky.

PS:
Lemon cake, All Good Things Bakery, Watermark, Robertson Quay Tub of cranberry walnut brownies, All Good Things Bakery, Watermark, Robertson Quay
The lemon almond cake with pistachio and rose flakes, and the cranberry and walnut brownie cubes were delicious in a good homemade way: the barely-discernible almond in the cake kept it moist and the thin icing provided just the right amount of sweet sourness; the brownies were made with melted chocolate and cocoa for a properly chocolatey taste. Everything was baked in situ at All Good Things Bakery (facebook) at Watermark, Rodyk Street, Robertson Quay:

All Good Things Bakery, Watermark, Rodyk Street, Robertson Quay All Good Things Bakery, Watermark, Rodyk Street, Robertson Quay
All Good Things Bakery, Watermark, Rodyk Street, Robertson Quay

A Banana Cocoa Yoghurt Loaf Cake

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

We stared remorsefully at the expired contents of the refrigerator and tried not to think of starving children in Africa (incidentally, Nigerian housemates claim their mothers told them to think of starving children in Mongolia).

Lucky Peach Issue 2Then, it was hard not to laugh out loud to find this article in the issue two (“The Sweet Spot”) of Lucky Peach magazine that landed in the mailbox yesterday.

Banana Cocoa Yoghurt Loaf Cake
So we made a loaf of banana cocoa yoghurt cake from:

113g butter, at room temperature (didn’t check expiry)
250g dark muscovado sugar (expiring)
2 medium free-range eggs, at room temperature (not expired!)
187g self-raising flour (expired 2 months)
1 teaspoon baking soda (expired 2 years. what? don’t look at me!)
1 teaspoon salt (no expiry date)
2 medium bananas, mashed (well, it’s meant to be ultra-ripe and black, right?)
3/4 cup La Fermière vanilla yoghurt (expired 2 days)
100g chopped walnuts, toasted in oven at 150°C for about 10 minutes
a few tosses of Valrhona cocoa powder (expired 5 months)

Directions (mostly from Nadia, who probably wouldn’t want to be associated with this lawsuit-bait!):

  1. preheat oven to 175°C. butter a loaf pan and set aside. using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. add eggs, and beat to incorporate.
  2. in another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt. add to the butter mixture, and mix until just combined. add bananas and yogurt and mix to combine. stir in nuts, and pour into prepared pan.
  3. bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

The aroma of the cake was so enticing, there were people loitering around the kitchen even before it came out of the oven. (Is there real banana in there? asked one. Yes, was the reply, the two that you left to rot on the table.) And it was not a bad save at all – tender with good crumb and moist but not wet like some other yoghurt cakes i’ve made, full of flavour and the crunch of the walnut prevented textural monotony. (Could do with some good dark chocolate in chip form or as a thick drizzle over the top.) Also, it was easy to make – my work shirt and trousers remained spotless at the end of this affair.

Lemon Drizzle Pound Loaf Cakelemon poppyseed drizzle loaf pound cake

If one was so inclined, one might use this metaphorically to illustrate some vague notion that good things can come out of bad. But perhaps that would be as nonsensical as comforters who repeat the “Don’t worry! Everything will be alright!” mantra – surely they mean well but such words are empty unless they have special foresight or some divine revelation of the future or sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the worries are not legitimate. Similarly, why utter platitudes that difficulties and setbacks will make us stronger? In many instances, as a quick flip of any newspaper in the world will show, hard times may lead to clinical depression, psychiatric illnesses, violence, theft, suicide, murder…

Only the one in control of all things can make any sort of promise of this sort. And this is the promise:

we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)

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