Sunday, February 14, 2016

Too much of a good thing?

I am a country music fan.  I admit it.  This video of Alan Jackson starts off with an introduction by Porter Wagoner.  Back in the old days, way back before the internet and even microwave ovens, there were variety shows on TV at night.  Music, comedy, sketches, special guests, and Porter Wagoner had one of those shows.  He introduced Dolly Parton to the world.  My dad loved those shows.  I watched them with him, vowing as a teenager, however, that I would NEVER EVER listen to country music when I grew up.  We see how that went.  Especially since I can sing every word of most of Alan Jackson's songs. And at one point, I thought that being a famous singer would be the coolest job on the planet. Porter and Dolly wore sparkly clothes.  And I do love sparkly clothes.  But I didn't grow up to be a country singer.  Or any kind of singer other than in the shower and in the car.

Okay, back to the topic at hand.  As I was making the chocolate pound cake that I found on Our State's website, I was thinking about when too much of something is not a good thing.  Too much can lead to obsession, to addiction, and to getting yourself into a lot of trouble.  I was searching for more on the Greek idea of moderation and ran across a website called Daylight Atheism.  I am not an atheist, but the post made some sense to me.  The subject was All Things in Moderation, written by a fellow named Adam Lee back in 2008.  He wrote about Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who really lived back in the day, born in 341 BC.  I associate his name with taking pleasure in good food and drink (thus an epicure), but there is a whole school of thought named Epicureanism which emphasizes the pleasure that comes from "reasonable indulgence" or moderation in the good things of life.   I believe in moderation.  That makes sense to me.  I have recently lost weight, by eating more moderately, in other words, and making pound cakes but only tasting them.  (I really think that the best parts of baking are the smell that comes from the hot oven and sharing my creations with my friends.) I am quite proud of myself and I like to measure how much I've lost in bags of sugar.

The BFF thinks that is hilarious, but it is concrete. You pick up a couple of bags and think, wow, that's kind of heavy.  I am sure my knees are glad that I am not lugging around those extra bags of sugar now.  I also equated the weight loss to the bag of kitty litter that I hefted into the shopping cart, into my car, and then into my house a couple of weeks ago.

The point I am trying to get to, and yes, I do have a point this morning, is that I am a bit obsessive about a couple of  few things.  I do not practice moderation in these areas.

Obsession #1  Pens

I have way, way too many of them.  I would say it borders on ridiculous, but it passed that stage a long time ago.  This is what I cleaned out of one cute Longchamp small cosmetic case a few days ago.  (And this doesn't include my desk drawers at home or at school, pencil cups, a couple more pencil pouches in various places, and pens in the bottom of a couple of purses in my closet.) I have passed this obsession on to Son #1, I fear. And I really want a nice fountain pen next.

Obsession #2  Books about France

Now, granted these bookcases also hold some of the Ex-Ex's collection of war stories, biographies, and memoirs, but the majority of them are about France, French art, French cooking, French history-- you get the picture.  There is also a bookcase in my bedroom, a stack of books under a little bench, a few on my night table, two bookcases upstairs and more than I care to admit downloaded on my Kindle.  And that's not counting the ones in my classroom.  What on earth will become of all these books?  No one is going to want them.  I am not a famous person so no one will build a library in my honor when I am gone.  I do not have a daughter who is obsessed with France.  Oh well.  Son #1 and Son #2 can worry about that much later, I hope.

Obsession #3  Black dresses

Okay, this is what I am well-known for with my students.  I do not know how it happened, but I started wearing black dresses to school.  Why?  Easy to get dressed in the morning, spills don't show, and, as one 6th grader blurted out a few years ago, black is slimming.  (Wonder where she heard that?) I did go through my closet a couple of days ago and count them because an 8th grade girl asked me how many I have.  43.  Yes, that's right.  43 black dresses.  Well, two of them have white polka-dots, but I counted them anyway.  I most often find them at one of the local consignment shops or on the sale rack when I shop occasionally.  Some of them I've had for years.  After losing the equivalent of that bag of kitty litter, I can now fit into all of them.  My favorite is this one.  I bought it for last year's school auction.  I have only worn it once, unfortunately, but I will wear it again someday.  It has a bit of a crinoline petticoat under it and sparkles on the cuffs.  I found it at Macy's at the last minute.  On sale.

So, I do believe in moderation, but not where pens, books about France and black dresses are concerned, I guess.  Hmmm... I didn't think about my collection of pink lipsticks.  I'll save that for another day. There are worse addictions, n'est-ce pas?

I found the following quotes about moderation--

“There are those people who can eat one piece of chocolate, one piece of cake, drink one glass of wine. There are even people who smoke one or two cigarettes a week. And then there are people for whom one of anything is not even an option.” 
― Abigail ThomasThinking About Memoir

“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” 
― Epicurus

The recipe for this cake also has a recipe for icing, but I decided to leave it at just cake.  The icing sounds delicious, though.  And for the record, I did not preheat the oven.  Every pound cake I have ever made successfully goes into a cold oven.  The baking time remained the same, 1 hour and 20 minutes, but always test it with a toothpick 10-15 minutes before the baking time is up and add more time incrementally.  And never open the oven door during the first hour of baking.

Our State's Chocolate Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Yield: 16 servings.
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup whole milk, warm
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325°. Butter, cream cheese, and eggs should be at room temperature. Cream together butter, sugar, and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Add alternately with milk to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir in vanilla. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cover with foil until completely cool.

Chocolate Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2 egg whites, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix lightly. In a separate bowl, mix egg whites, vanilla extract, and half of the cream. Add to the dry ingredients. With an electric mixer, mix on low speed, and gradually add the remaining cream. Mix until the icing reaches the consistency of thick syrup. Turn the mixer to high and whip for approximately 2 minutes, until the icing is light and fluffy, like meringue.

Bon appétit and Happy Valentine's Day 2016 to all! Is too much of a good thing a good thing or not?

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