Let’s go back in time. About a month ago, I was living in Hudson, New York, and working like a madwoman in order to finish the sixth print issue of the startup magazine where I worked. The last two weeks before shipping a completed magazine to the printer were always intense. All of five of us on the editorial staff devoted pretty much every waking minute to one purpose: finish. Late nights in the office. Early mornings in the office. As the managing editor, I kept track of each story in the page proofing process, and would dream of spreadsheets. In my dreams I wouldn’t really be doing anything. Just sitting there, staring at spreadsheets.
In the middle of this last magazine close, on a Sunday afternoon, I forced myself to not think about work. Instead, I baked. It was late July, and when I went to the market that Saturday, I spent about a million dollars on blueberries, and every one of those dollars was worth it. Especially when I baked a blueberry pudding cake, which tasted pretty much the way summer should taste, even if you spend your summer mainly just working. I brought the leftovers to the office on Monday. The pan was empty in a few hours.
Let’s go further back in time. Nine years ago tomorrow I was in the accident that caused me to lose my sense of smell, change my career and begin writing. This anniversary sneaks up on me. But every year, a few days before August 30, I begin to feel a nagging anxiety, a trill of panic deep in lungs. I don’t understand it until I look at the calendar. Then I remember where I was that morning (happily planning my first days at culinary school) and where I would be that afternoon (in a Boston hospital with a head contusion, severed knee ligaments, shattered pelvis and a vanished sense of smell). It’s been almost a decade but it scares me, still.
Now: go eat cake.
Blueberry Pudding Cake
From Gourmet, circa 2005
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 heaping cups blueberries
1 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small saucepan, mix together the first 1/3 cup sugar with water, lemon juice, cornstarch and blueberries. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Take off heat.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining sugar in a medium bowl. In another large bowl, whisk together egg, milk, butter and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to this, stirring until just combined.
Pour the batter into a buttered 9-inch baking pan. Spread evenly. Pour blueberry mixture of the top of the batter, and let sink in. Bake 25 – 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan. Leftovers keep well, though won’t last long.