cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

Yesterday evening I took off my apron early and drove home with a fitful vengeance not only to make it through the end of weekend ferry traffic in one piece, but also to reach my glass of French burgundy waiting for me on the back deck. When I walked into my parent's kitchen, however, I was greeted by a sight that caught me between the the desire to either giggle insatiably or to cry from sentimental joy. I took the more Mallory approach: grab the Nikon. I requested a rice flour carrot cake, a real one chalk full of raisins, figs, and coconut with a creamy decor of mascarpone and my favorite sweet treat--marzipan. I got what I wanted, but better.

It is common to hear of the handiness of having a doctor, lawyer, or stockbroker in the family, but what about an artist? I have one. My sister is an artist both classically with the brush as well as with the digital mouse. Atop my gourmet carrot cake were three small marzipan figurines beaming brightly at me, these three figures were characters from my favorite childhood cartoon--Mark Brown's Arthur the Aardvark. What am I saying childhood, I enjoy watching it now. Arthur Read, his caterer father Dave Read, and his third grade nail-eating teacher Mr. Ratburn majestically adorned my yellow mascarpone frosted cake with bright orange polka-dots. The details on these little buggers were not perfect, but the evident time spilled into their creation was undoubtedly colossal, my sisters really are my best friends. These figures could not have been better unless Jacques Torres made them himself. Only one piece remained, ah that was breakfast.

After the photo shoot I finally got my red, as well as a starter of Clotilde's canned tuna pate. As the evening progressed it turned into pinot grigio and then semillon. Dinner was seafood, naturally. I cannot imagine a birthday without seafood. Last year appeared the clam and bay scallop, while yesterday we gorged upon tuna steaks and salmon. A few days ago on the food network Tyler Florence made his "ultimate tuna steak," it looked so good I almost fell off the bike. Well, maybe that was due to the missing foot straps, a display of malfunction only too common among the cardio exercise machines at the swank Poulsbo Athletic Club. 45 seconds per side on the flat griddle: white on the outside, grapefruit pink on the inside. Coated slightly with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few basil leaves, so fishy it was reminiscent of a bouillabaisse. New level of my sashimi love. Alongside were the grilled salmon, Parmesan risotto with peas, fresh fruit salad with a ginger lime sweet dressing, and grilled white corn on the cob. With dessert came the carrot cake accompanied by a cosmopolitan in my beautiful jewel-encrusted martini glass bestowed upon me by my best friend miss Katie.

I am no expert wine taster, but I wouldn't mind being one. I've been introduced to the wine lady at the market by my dad, a true lover of the grape himself, but I have no real knowledge on what makes the distinction between wines other than their color and year of fermentation. Yes I understand the variant flavors derived from many forms of grapes and the fruitiness of wood barrels, but I am behind schedule on the terminology and identification, something I would like to amend before arriving in Paris. The Latin Vinum, wine or grape, is the root of the Germanic wine, and the romance vin, vino, et cetera. The Italians and French shockingly are not the eternal godparents of wine, such a title rather is bestowed upon ancient tribes of the Middle East, in the areas of modern day Iran and Egypt circa eight thousand BCE. The ancient Greeks developed the pallet for the grape nectar around seven thousand BCE, and henceforth introduced the fruit northward. Due to the rapid spread of Christianity in the Middle Ages, wine served at Catholic communion set the beverage on a whole new platform. As we learn in the pages of Cod, the Norsemen under the guidance of Lief Erickson, deemed their North American discovery (Newfoundland) Vinland, due to the abundance of wild grapes. A true mystery in that there is no evidence that a grape has ever grown, or been spotted near the region. Needless to say, the grape has many a function; while they are decadent when eaten fresh, comforting when eaten dried, they are divine when consumed fermented.

What I have garnered of the art of wine thus far: there are two types, varietal and blended wines. Some are made strictly from a single variety of the European grape vitis vinifera, such as pinot noir, merlot, or chardonnay. A combination of the different varieties of vitis vinifera result in a blend, such as the region named Bordeaux or Tuscany. There are other forms made from a different grape altogether, such as the American Concord grape. European wines are named for their location of creation, while wines from the rest of the world denote the specific grape used. Now the clincher--the difference of color: red or white depends solely on the fermentation process, not the grape used. Red wines obtain their colour from the skin of the grape which remains present during fermentation, a process known as maceration. The naked white, on the other hand, is skinned and stewed alone. There are many more classifications such as roses, cooking wines and sparkling wines, but not now. The blood can only absorb so much before reaching the saturation percentage. Simply put wine is a lifestyle, abused and it becomes a cheap six dollar box, cultivated and it becomes a life enricher.

As for birthdays, they produce cake. And meals beyond the average Sunday evening fare. Designer handbags are added bonuses, as well as airfare to San Fransisco. Above all, they really do let you know that you are loved. The majority of world cultures celebrate birthdays, everyone deserves a bit of specialness. Food and drink will always mark a celebration, wherever one may be, and that is something to count on.

A bientôt

3 comments:

Ryan said...

That caked looked amazing! Mr. Ratburn is proud, I'm sure of it.
Happy Birthday!

Chris said...

A happy birthday indeed. One might even go so far as to call it jubilant. Enjoy the upcoming Harry Potter releases.

Mallory Elise said...

thanks guys! what gave away the fact that im a Harry Potter fan?