Thursday, October 11, 2007

Latest Evidence of Insanity

I must be insane. Not because of the loony tune I'm about to play for you, but because -- in my heart of hearts -- I don't actually think this is insane. Only I know it is. C'mon, even I get that. Only I don't. Not really. There! See? Insane! (And talking to myself!)

Starman [-- who's legal now! Did I mention that? Yup -- we had the interview on 25 September with a seasoned USCIS officer who was more interested in how I could get divorced one week and remarried the next; seems he'd gotten divorced the hard way 18 months ago and was still getting over it; anyway, he approved Starman on the spot, and even approved of me, which was nice] and I were in England over the weekend, staying with High-and-Mighty and Multitasks-With-Ease (Starman's brother and sister-in-law, using their "indigenous peoples" name). I'd already planned this trip with my "Crone-of-Honor" (Coffee Jones; her husband rejected the title "maid of honor" in favor of this version...) but when USCIS said Starman could come too, we just juggled the arrangements slightly. Starman nipped off on his own to visit his mother in Oxford, than on to London to see his two sisters. Coffee and I drove (yes! I drove! I'm not that bad at the whole "wrong side of the road" thing) from Manchester to Yorkshire. First, we visited Fountains Abbey, where the wedding will be, and then we went on to Naburn, south of York, where H&M and MWE live. (During the week of the wedding, the American contingent of the wedding party will be living here, which is a nice perk to this experience.)

On the Friday, Coffee, MWE and I went back to Fountains Abbey, met with Jenny Arugula (representative for the caterers) at Fountains Hall to discuss menus, and so forth. That afternoon, we met with the florist -- Elspeth, a lovely person! -- and then on to Trevor, the baker everyone had recommended. This is where the insanity starts.

I gather the traditional English wedding celebration is slightly different from the traditional American wedding. While a lot of modern UK couples get married in the late afternoon (rather like we do here), the tradition there is to get married in the morning and then sit down to the "wedding breakfast" which is actually lunch. The meal has three courses: a starter (our appetizer), a main course, and "pudding." Yup, that's what they call dessert. All desserts are "pudding," perhaps because they don't have Bill Cosby. I don't know. But the weird part about that, of course, is not the name, but that it exists at all. You're going to be eating wedding cake, so who needs dessert? Okay, I accept that isn't actually the point. I also get it that the cutting of the cake -- a traditional element on both sides of the pond -- is at the very end of the shindig, so why make people wait. And finally, it's traditional in the UK to serve fruitcake in a royal icing (shiny & white; dries solid and hard) shell with an underlayer of marzipan for good measure. Nobody needs a huge slice of fruitcake, so you can well imagine a traditional three-layer fruitcake wedding cake serving everyone within 2 miles. So, the guests have sticky toffee pudding (served with double cream -- yum!) for dessert, and then sleep through the speeches before waking up for a wafer-thin slice of fruitcake.

The trouble started with Trevor (we suspect him of being Wallace & Gromit's kindly older brother -- he definitely had the family smile!) and his fruitcake -- it wasn't very good. (And that's assuming you can have a "good" fruitcake. If you don't even accept that, then this was really bad.) So that option gets crossed off. The alternative is to have his sponge cake with chocolate truffle center. These were much yummier. (He had little teeny ones for us to try; one wedding option is a tiered stand with lots of these teeny ones in place of a solid cake.) So I tentatively approved -- but didn't book -- a smaller version of the sponge cake: two small layers, which he said would serve 50 people. (We're only planning on 30 people, so that would seem to be a no-brainer.)

But the whole thing stuck in my head, as though I hadn't resolved the issue at all. Think of a check list: Venue {check}; food {check}; flowers {check}; photographer {check}; cake {check}. Cue the crickets. And this is crazy, right? The sponge cake with truffle center is very yummy. And if I'm just worried that a small, two-tiered cake is only going to serve teeny slices to people already full from "pudding," then I should just order a bigger cake. Right?

Only that's not the way my brain works. I realized this just recently: when I'm falling asleep, I solve problems. Real problems, imagined problems, other people's problems, whatever. It is, I gather, a nice soothing activity for me. Who knew? Now that I see this, I recognize myself doing it all the time. Which is how I knew that I had somehow put The Wedding Cake back on the list of problems to solve. Here's the analysis:
  • I bake. I'm not great at it, but I'm good for an amateur. I like to bake. And I like to bake for family and friends.
  • Guess who's going to be at this wedding? You got it: Family and friends!
  • I could bake a fruitcake no problem. I have a great recipe (assumes you like fruitcake; if you don't like fruitcake, it's merely in the "if I liked fruitcake this would be really good, no, really" category) which has to sit soaking up bourbon for a month and can be transported, safely, at room temperature, so it would be easy* to do that a month before the wedding, then take it over, drape some fondant (solid white but soft icing) over it and let Elspeth do flowers for decoration.
  • If I know I can do a fruitcake with no effort at all* then why not see if a more traditional American wedding cake would be possible. You know the style: somewhere between a layer cake and a pound cake, with really yummy filling and buttercream frosting? If I could take the layers over frozen, it wouldn't be impossible** to frost it there and let Elspeth do the flowers...
  • I would really like to be able to say I made the cake.

You see immediately where this is heading, don't you? And let's be honest about this: * means I'm exaggerating the ease of a) hosting a bunch of guests in a foreign country, b) getting myself & Starman ready for the big event, and c) serving as my own pastry chef in an unfamiliar kitchen; ** means I'm outright lying to myself.

At its lowest level, this is what we have: I think it's a harmless obsession, good for falling asleep, to figure out how this MIGHT be done, even as we all know I'd be insane to try it. So why not do trial runs of wedding cake recipes to see if one suits? What's the harm (other than to my waistline) to practice frosting techniques? So what if I'll be presenting guests and loved ones with suspiciously nuptial-looking "birthday" and "holiday" cakes. No harm there. In this country, no one dislikes wedding cake, right?

But I'll be brutally honest: It's that last bullet point that's the killer, so to speak. I would totally love to be able to say I made the wedding cake. I know that looks boastful, and maybe it is, but it's also who I am. I find it hard to do stuff that other people take for granted, but baking is relatively easy, and problem solving how to do something is -- well, it's a snooze, innit?

So, I'm insane.

I kinda think that's implicit in the title of this blog.

1 comment:

  1. The cakes' centers will have to be 3 ounces or less in order for you to get them on the plane. Plus they'll have to fit under the seat in front of you.

    And I don't like wedding cake, although I would eat some just to be polite.

    Obvious non-starter. Move on. Dot org.

    Couched in all that non-feeling-hurting stuff that you can't see online, of course.