Man and woman intertwined in a loving embrace, a perfect marriage. Different yet alike, black and white, night and day, what makes us work so well together?
Different backgrounds, different cultures, different religions, different upbringings. Brought together by the search for a different world, finally forming another, a unique culture all our own. Diverging and converging, separate and together, a delicate balance, a carefully choreographed dance, weaving in and out – or an organized accident, a lucky fluke like a perfectly synchronized Jackson Pollack splatter, a De Kooning woman, both ugly and gorgeous at once.
Intertwined like marble: contrasting colors, separate but intermingling, each holding its own yet creating an intriguing, unusual combination and balance. Opposites attract, yet each searching for, and discovering, the similarities, the passion for books and art, for food and cooking, the desire to both seek out and solve the mysteries of the world. I was different than the others, quiet and thoughtful with always a book in my hand, passionate and a dreamer; he was silent, observing, both scientific and literary, equal parts pragmatic and adventurer. Curious, we were drawn together afraid of the mystery that was the other. Scarcely alike yet somehow, an exchanged glance, shared laughter, a common interest or two and it was all that we needed to know.
Welcome to our world: a world of cartoon characters with a silly black & white dog, starring in our own sitcom, our own comic strip. We spend our days guffawing over the silliest of things, inside jokes about famous people, our mocking tone misunderstood by many, our behavior looked at in awe and wonder by those who expect such as us to behave in a more dignified manner. Silly us or silly them? Walking hand in hand through the streets of Nantes chuckling, nodding in the direction of this one or that, look-alike or silly walk, odd clothing or odder behavior and guessing at who they could possibly be, the secret life they live. And wondering if others look at us and laugh as well. Nights shared cuddled up together, reading history books aloud to each other or news stories of interest, duking it out on the battleground of politics. Giggling over the gossip column or filling in the squares of the crossword puzzles: he knows the names and dates and places, she knows the contemporary trivia. Curled up on the sofa watching mediocre American series, dubbed into the silliest French, or documentaries, dreaming of other places we could be, other lives we could live. Huddled under the covers sharing our worries and concerns or playing out the future.
We scamper around the vineyard or through the forest, the black & white one trotting at our feet, occasionally dashing off into the underbrush to unearth a mushroomly treasure or sidling up to nibble at the grapes dangling just above his head, very un-doglike. These outings give us the chance to dream, to think beyond the barriers of “this is your life” and slide into “what our life should be”. Where would we go next, what should we do? Travel the world, taking pictures and writing books? Live in some Third World Country, build a house, cultivate a small patch of land and create a safe space with food and medical advice for the locals? Move to an island somewhere in the warm sun of the south or the windy wilds of the north and be self-sufficient, an island unto ourselves? Or move to Italy and grow fruits and vegetables or wander from one archeological dig to another, living the dream?
We are a mixture of the tartly sweet, cool and fragrant and the dark and rich, intensely flavored, spicy and exotic: like the perfect marble cake, blended into one beautiful, dense delicacy, separate yet impossible to separate. He pulls me up onto my feet and keeps my head on straight, looking forward, pensive, exacting. I turn his head when necessary, wrestling him back down into the silly cartoon world that is life, triggering the inane laughter, the daring to dream. Books piled up around him, he keeps me grounded in history and art, literature and solid goals, things I have a tendency to abandon in favor of food and fun. I incite him to keep cooking, gloriously, make him look at life in a less serious way, put those vermin that swirl around him every day in the rat race back in their place, standing around looking absurd in their underwear.
Occasionally we clash, voices raised, accusations flung, the frustration of living this mock life, cartoon characters trying to pass for Realism and the anger flares. But once the dust settles, we look around us and face who we are, two people caught in a Twilight Zone, a world not our own, waiting for the moment that we can burst forth, rise like the perfect cake, a mish-mash of single ingredients blended together, the perfect marble swirl, light and dark, tart and bittersweet intertwined, gathering all the intensity of our flavors and create a unique, delightful concoction of our own.
CHOCOLATE LEMON MASCARPONE MARBLE POUND CAKE
Influenced by a classic recipe found in Heirloom Baking With the Brass Sisters
3 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsps finely grated lemon zest
1 oz (30 g) bitter or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
3 cups (425 g) flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups (24 Tbs, 340 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
8 oz container (230 g) mascarpone cheese
1 cup (160 g) packed light brown sugar
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
6 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two 9 x 5 x 3-inch (23 x 12 x 8-cm) loaf pans with parchment paper, using one long strip that covers the bottom as well as the two end sides, allowing overhang on either end to help remove the cake from the pans.
Melt the chocolate (I do this in the microwave, partially melting then stirring with a spoon to finish the melting and start the cooling down process). Set aside. Combine the lemon juice with the grated zest in another small bowl and set aside. Sift or stir together the flour and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, mascarpone, the brown and white sugars and the vanilla until combined, smooth and creamy. Add the eggs in thirds, beating after each addition until combined.
Add the flour and salt to the batter and beat briefly just until combined.
Transfer a quarter (I weighed to be exact as I have the tendency to transfer much more than called for) of the batter to another bowl and stir in the melted chocolate thoroughly. Stir the lemon juice and zest into the ¾ of the batter left in the original mixing bowl and blend thoroughly.
Divide half of the lemon batter between the two loaf pans. Then divide all of the chocolate batter between the two loaf pans, spooning it on top of the lemon batter already there. Divide the remaining lemon batter between the two loaf pans carefully smoothing the batter on top and around the chocolate batter, trying not to blend the two batters together.
Now take a very sharp knife and, holding the knife perpendicular to the table, gently swirl it through the batter to create a swirl (I could have done it more).
Bake the pound cakes in the preheated oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes – I have to say that this was enough for the loaf I baked in my classic loaf pan, but the cake I baked in the aluminum disposal pan took much longer to bake, so check on your cakes often.
Remove from the oven when set in the center – a tester should come out pretty clean –and allow to cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes before gently loosening and turning out of the loaf pans. Once the cakes are removed from the loaf pans, allow to cool completely before slicing.
These cakes have no rising agent in the batter so are dense and moist. The lemon flavor is intense and tangy – amazing! and the chocolate flavor beautifully chocolatey! This is a wonderful cake for breakfast – JP loved it – but gorgeous for an afternoon snack with a cup of tea or a mug of coffee.