I remember going into the bathroom one night when I was three. It was dark, and everyone else was still sleeping. That bathroom was frightening, with the shadows of mountain ash branches coming through the little window and moving on the dark walls. The wallpaper is still so clear in my memory – such a dark-dark blue – and then the blank white space that was left when I grabbed a little loose edge and pulled away.
There is a sort of fear instilled into you in growing up a poor girl. You are told that the safe road is the only road, because it is the only one the rest of them have ever seen. If you dare to stray from it, your books are locked up, and your drawings stolen from the closet you thought they’d be safe in. That’s a lesson: do what you are supposed to, or bad things will happen.
So I grew up thinking I’d settle for being some Vera to some Vladimir with a very questionable measure of talent. Get through university, through graduate school, get a job to the pay the bills to fuel someone else’s dreams. It was safer to expect someone else to take the risks of putting their heart, soul, ambition, childhood …whatever you’d call that part that comes out in one’s work and art…out there.
Still, I didn’t smother that part completely. A teacher submitted a short story I’d written for class to the school annual magazine’s. Then there was an essay that my freshman English teacher read out loud to the class, the one on appreciating “every, every minute” – the sort of slightly silly, sentimental thing a fourteen-year-old would write.
And there it is, what I’ve been afraid to admit to for all these years. I can’t quite say it yet, it feels too arrogant to even try to dream of it. I’ll say this instead: I’d always been a reader. Books filled my head with ideas, stories. It’s always been what is real, and the outside world feels like the fiction. Silly analogies comparing writing and reading to air and breathing, saturation and focus come into my mind. But this – it is too important to be reduced to that. I know that this is something that I do. It’s part of wresting from life whatever meaning and happiness and version of love I can. To do good works and do something to be proud of, whatever that may be. To not not be afraid, but to look at whatever that fear is in the face, and live fully in spite of it.
I used raspberries in this cake because – they’re finally here! it’s spring! and they are so good! already! – but feel free to use whichever berry/fruit you feel. I bet sliced apricots would be nice.
3/4 cup finely ground pistachios (You’re essentially making a pistachio flour; I used a coffee grinder but a food processor should work)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached AP flour
1 tbsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
7 tbsp softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg white, both at room temperature
3/4 plain yogurt (NOT Greek-style)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground clove
6 ounces raspberries
Line a 9-inch springform (or 9*3) circular pan with parchment paper and butter sides. Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a medium bowl, combine ground pistachio, both flours, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whip together butter and sugar, until the mixture is smooth and pale. Whisk in yogurt, egg, egg white, and spices. Add dry ingredients (flour mixture). Whisk thoroughly, until smooth and homogenous.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Gently fold in raspberries using a rubber spatula (or a wooden spoon). Test at 35 minutes, and bake cake tester inserted into the center of cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool for 5-10 minutes prior to removing from pan.
Tea pairing: A hearty black, such as an Assam or Yunnan. I chose a lighter Darjeeling, which works well with the berries.