• January 5, 2014

    things i did on the last night of 2013

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    2014 came quietly. with the baking of the red velvet cake and the watching of man on wire in the last glow of the christmas tree. with bon iver on the record player and a coffee mug of sparking rosé and a silent “happy new year” to myself. it felt odd to be ringing in the new year alone and without much pomp and circumstance but for some reason, just right.

    the red velvet tradition is in its third year. my amazing friend andrea (who maybe I talk about to annoying levels because why wouldn’t I talk about someone as cool as her all the time?) sent me the recipe in 2011 right around the time it was almost 2012. and so on january 1, when I had the day off from work and not much going on, I decided to bake it. and that first year was kind of a disaster. not enough red food coloring and too much batter mixing and no patience for frosting cooling left me with a pink lumpy cake nearly as flat as a pancake. not my finest hour to be sure.

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    every year, the red velvet almost doesn’t happen. because it’s arduous and time consuming and I inevitably find far flung frosting in random spots of my kitchen for days afterwards. but every year I do make it. because it’s tradition. and in some small way, it connects me to parts of myself that I don’t really let surface too often.

    the baking of the red velvet was the first tradition of my own creation. the first tradition I made for myself as an adult. I didn’t grow up with a lot of traditions and although I always wished I had, for a long time, I thought I couldn’t create them until I got married and had kids of my own to force them on. but with the red velvet decision I realized that traditions are really just about rhythm and ritual – and I can create those anytime I want. and all the mistakes and messes made are part of what make it great. the lumpy frosting and flat cake are lessons learned for next year’s baking. the recipe card almost ineligible from spilled milk and my own addendums (“do NOT overbeat the cake batter!!”)  are memories of a new year begun in flour and sugar and at least two bottles of red food coloring. it’s all part of building a ritual that I will appreciate most for the time it took to create.

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    and in the way that traditions recall people and places we love, the baking of the red velvet cake connects me to friends I don’t see nearly enough of. andrea is my favorite blogging friend. the one I went from admiring from afar to spending time with occasionally to sharing life with across time zones. she encourages me with her simple act of existing online as much as she does with her sweet emails about how to explore paris and love my parents better. and so when I make the red velvet cake I am, in small ways, connected to her own tradition of baking it on her birthday. I am, in small ways, connected to portland and her little house that I used to babysit her kids in. and I am, in the tiniest of ways, connected to her mom, who passed the recipe to her and who I think must have been the most amazing lady.

    even more than that, the baking of the red velvet connects me to parts of my own self that I don’t see nearly enough of. I spend most of my days being a social introvert, which seems contradictory but is who I am. I am there in the running of one thing to the next. in the everyday busyness that I thrive in. but I am also there in the baking of the red velvet. I am there in the self-control it takes to not overbeat the batter. I am there in the patience it takes to let the frosting base cool completely. I am there in the quiet excitement of cakes rising and smooth rhythms of slowly spreading white frosting over bright red cake. I am not always full of self-control or patience or quiet excitement, but it’s always in me. just waiting for the red velvet tradition.

     

    Filed Under: EXTRAORDINARY EVERYDAY, SELF

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