I looked at the calendar today and I saw that August is over.
How can that be? I had no sense of it coming. This is what happens when your schedule is your own and you have no real use for calendars - or clocks for that matter - just days and nights. Back and forth, up and down, an endless side-to-side sashay with no context.
But seeing we were on the very tip-end of August, I thought - Aha! This explains everything! And I became certain that a craving I had a few nights back must have signified the exact moment when summer ran out of breath; when she finally reached up to rub the blood from her eyes due to that last sweaty full-cylinder sprint.
It happened three days ago. I was working through that ambiguous hour past 3am when the night bottoms out, and you're looking down the barrel of dawn, when suddenly I had an overpowering yen for a desserty-something. August has been my month of frozen desserts and my freezer had seen different versions of peanut butter icebox pies in pretty steady rotation to cater to exactly these type of moments.
But no, after wanting nothing but slivers of peanut butter icebox pie for *weeks* - smoother and more slippery on the lips than ice cream, delivering an up-front punch of sweet/salty peanut butter with a dark chocolate finish - this had no appeal. I wanted something toothsome. Something dense, with....spice; I wanted stodge - I wanted... a *baked good*
"In this heat??" I asked myself.
"Absolutely," said the something inside of me that knew summer was downshifting... it could already taste what was on the way.
So sensing that we were starting to nip at early autumn, I was craving layer cake.. I was craving Nigella's Chocolate Gingerbread Brownies (which I'm not allowed to make unless I'm in a position to rapidly give away 3/4 of the pan...)... I wanted anything frosting-topped that I could sink a fork into.
But I had nothing suitable on hand, so I did that decoy grazing thing we probably all do when we have a very particular taste for something, but don't have it. I tried to appease the Craving Gods with some Ryvita with raspberry jam, some Nairn's ginger biscuits... but they weren't having it. Finally I said to myself, "either *make* something, or get back to work, or go to bed, but whatever you do, get your hands out of the granola!"
I think I ate another handful of granola and *then* went to bed.
Happily, like magic, seasonal produce and my cravings have a way of syncing up even when I'm oblivious to the calendar. Yesterday a massive yellow squash appeared at my house. We don't know who its original owner was (poor squash, they are much like the fruitcakes of summer season... and so hastily orphaned), but I was very happy to adopt it and just *knew* that like zucchini (there was actually a zucchini too - but that was rapidly set aside for *the best pickles ever*) it could probably lend itself to a splendid cake.
I was right. This cake is everything I wanted that night when neither peanut butter pie nor granola would suffice: substantial, moist, a little bit spiced, and oh-so-satisfying to carve a fork through. I hate to even bring it up, but it could also be argued that it's healthful too. It's so good, I'm actually wishing a little bit that I could spruce this up with some molasses and fresh ginger to have it at Christmastime -- not sure that the squash will comply...
So make this while you can!! And enjoy!
The garnish(which I realize looks a little like onion rings & moths) is a combo of ground cherries (they come with little flowery wings like that...cool - huh?) and thinly sliced yellow squash - sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and put in the oven at 200 F for about an hour (which tastes *surprisingly* good!)
Adapted from the Squash Cake Recipe via The Meaning of Pie
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C flour (I used a mixture of half all purpose, half whole wheat)
1 T cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 C grated yellow squash
1/2 C apple sauce
1/4 C olive oil
1 tsp vanilla
Mix everything together and pour into a well-greased 9-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 F for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown and until tester comes out clean.
I made frosting with a cream cheese base, plus butter & confectioners sugar (oy! sorry! I never measure these things...)
Toward the end of Wings of Desire, there is a sort of Psalm recitation. A soliloquy voice-over about what we long for and think about as children that remains a thruline throughout our lives.
"On every mountaintop," the voice says, "the longing for a higher mountain yet." And, "in every city, the longing for an even greater city."
This rang so true for me. I've lived in many many places, and in each one, after I've "conquered" them, I've thought - Onward! Upward! And whenever I've returned for a visit, I've often thought, "However did I live here??? [e.g. Boston, San Francisco] It's just so *small*!"
But Berlin seems different. I think it's quite ironic that a movie about Berlin claims that no matter the city, there is a longing for an even greater city. As I mentioned in my last post, I found Berlin rather impenetrable; a great unfurling metropolis... with so many layers.
After all, there isn't a spot of geography without history, but few have been emblematic of so many diverse ideologies in such a short span. This is the place of Prussia! Of Wiemar! Of Nazism! Of Sovietism! Of the Cold War! Of squatters! Of art! Of engineering!
So many elements, all heaped upon the next and then pushed out from the center into a sprawl of districts and neighborhoods so far-flung I couldn't begin to try and get to them. How could anyone really truly long for a greater city than this one? It seems the ultimate in challenge, in riddle. Berlin seems like a place that needs years of deciphering.
So with that as a caveat, since I had days, not years, I bring you some additional promised pictures from my journey there. Enjoy!
The predictable first pic - no? The Berlin Wall...
"Madness" - think that sums it all up nicely.
This footpath could not have happened a few decades ago...
There's a continuous line of cobblestones throughout the city that indicates exactly where the wall once stood.
Brandenburg Gate 50 years ago, when they rolled out barbed wire before the wall itself went up.
And Brandenburg Gate today.
Toys for tots in East Germany during the Cold War... Grenades are fun!
A luxury stretch Hummer going through the site of Checkpoint Charlie (which has all been recreated... and according to my tour guide, is now manned by Eastern European immigrants...)
Love the options here.... "Do you vote?" Ha. "No - I don't care for nothing!"
Couldn't resist... a new cartoon character for 'Don't Walk'!
Am I an idiot for not fully realizing that Berlin has a river running through it??
My hotel (a former bank) - the building beside the green dome (thank you corporate expense accounts that aren't mine). This is also the square where books from a university were burned during the Nazi-rise.
And where I spent a good dealing of my Berlin evenings... a few lovely receptions on top of this roof... (need to get my camera lens cleaned, clearly).
So this wasn't quite as fantastic as the to-die-for breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of every variety of fruit, muesli and yogurt you could possibly imagine (in an atrium setting, no less) but it also didn't cost 40 euros (whoops!)... Rhubarb Kuchen and Caffe Americano by the river.
This bird was seriously interested in my Rhubarb Kuchen... had to enlist that fork to try and fend him off!
The mall, Quartier 206, which looks like it was designed by M.C. Escher.
Nice pic from one of Berlin's many many wonderful parks. Which happens to go well with the last line from the Wings of Desire monologue:
"When the child was a child, It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today."