When failure can be sweet.

JOB SEARCH. These are two of the most miserable words in the English language. They make your stomach ooky and keep you from posting to your food blog as much as you used to. Before I started my job search, life was more idyllic, and the two most miserable words in the English language were FALLEN CAKE. Actually, for this particular post, the seven words CAKE THAT NEVER HAD A FREAKIN’ CHANCE are probably more apt.

Chiffon cake, sortaMy chiffon cake recipe warned that it’s far better to overbeat the egg whites than underbeat them, lest you end up with a doughy chiffon cake bottom. What the recipe didn’t tell me is that over-overbeating is the worst of all because not only do you end up with a doughy cake bottom, you don’t technically end up with a chiffon cake at all. You end up with an over-sized doughnut.

I should have known something was wrong when the stiff wad of egg white I attempted to fold into the batter wouldn’t break up without heavy stirring, which if you know anything about folding, is the opposite. Unlike folding, stirring is essentially unfolding, and unfold it did. Helpful tip: When you can’t spoon batter into a two-piece angel food cake pan but instead have to hastily wrap the bottom of the pan in foil then pour in the batter, things have already gone very very wrong, so you might as well let the dreading begin.

But you know what? It wasn’t bad. Sort of like a poundcake. I hope the job search goes better.

In search of lost lime.

Today is Bon Appegeek’s second anniversary. I’m marking the day with a long post that has taken more than two years to write. There’s a recipe at the end. I promise.

In search of lost seedsAfter several years of on-again off-again reading, I finally started volume 4 of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu), entitled Sodom and Gomorrah. After you spend your life reading mostly English and American literature, French literature is a shock to the system. I should have suspected something back in junior high when every single one of Guy de Maupassant’s characters engaged in rampant adultery or random copulation, in light of which I wonder why I didn’t read more French literature. Have I mentioned the whores? It should not surprise me that Proust covers these scandalous topics and augments them with the gomorrahesque twist, a popular American dance in the fifties (I might be wrong about that).

My complaint about Proust, wonderful writer though he is, is that he often writes about fine dining but rarely describes the food. He doesn’t even include photos. Recipes? Forget it. Oh sure, he can write ten pages about his love of hawthorn flowers and twenty pages about the beauty of a church facade, but an author who has nothing to write about, say, the delectable sauce atop a succulent pheasant, won’t get read as quickly as he might. Yet many readers, botanists and architects probably, claim he was brilliant.

In search of lost leavesProust’s greatest contribution to food writing was to glorify the madeline. I read the famous passage with all due attention and was riveted by it—not because of the madeline, which I’d already baked and read about a great deal by then (food bloggers adore madelines)—but because of the unusual tea he drank with it. Nobody discusses this magical elixir. True, the tea alone didn’t trigger Proust’s epiphany, but it did dissolve the madeline and release the flavor that would catapult the shell-shaped cake into food blog stardom and forever alter literary history. You’d think the tea would get at least as much attention as Robin gets in the shadow of Batman. (Nothing about Sodom or Gomorrah implied by that Batman and Robin reference. Until this parenthetical.)

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How to find free local food without risking death or maybe a really bad rash.

1. Recall vague memory of your high school biology teacher noting that this widespread weed is edible somehow.

Garlic mustard flower2. Flip through your copy of Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson. Frown.

3. Flip through your copy of Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson again. And again. And again. Frown some more.

4. Go outside with your copy of Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson and stare at the plant. Flip through the book again. And again. And again. Develop permanent line between your brows.

5. Feel sad because you know that later your mother will see your new wrinkle and say, “I told you so,” and you really don’t need that right now.

6. Finally settle on toothwort, eaten for its horseradishy root, even though the leaves don’t seem quite right.

Garlic mustard root7. Pull up the plant and sniff the root. Feel elated when it smells pungent and horseradishy.

8. Look up toothwort on the Internet. Feel discouraged again when the pictures still don’t look right.

9. Come across pictures of garlic mustard, a plant popular in Europe but an invasive species in the Americas. Yell, “Bingo!”

10. Rip leaf from plant and verify slight garlic odor from bruised leaf.

11. Look up recipes using garlic mustard.

Next week: Annie uses the garlic mustard without dying or developing a really bad rash.