No. 25 >> The Valentine Issue: Seasonal correctness, ticklers, and love cake.

MAKING THE WORK // Stupid Cupid & Other Valentine Vignettes

I’ve always liked to be seasonally correct. When I was a kid, we had a set of four TV trays with a different seasonal landscape on each tray. If it was October, I’d want to eat off the autumn landscape. As an adult, I’ve refused to watch The Long, Hot Summer in January, but very much enjoyed it in late August. I do slip up sometimes though. The other day, because of the snow, I accidentally caught myself whistling a Christmas carol and felt that life was suddenly out of control. I’m a person who thrives on order—the kind of order, for instance, that one might get from having seasonal linens. I frequently site seasonal linens as an example of how perfect my life could be if I had money. This has turned into a way for A. to make fun of me. Out of the blue, he’ll get a faraway look in his eyes and say, “You know what would make life better?” He’ll pause for dramatic effect while I lean forward, eager for any life improvement suggestion. “Seasonal throw pillows,” he’ll say.

It stands to reason that a person like me might also feel moved by holidays. I don’t mean moved in the way a Christ-lover weeps upon seeing Baby J in a manger, rather I mean being proud of making Etsy-worthy salt dough ornaments for the Christmas tree. In other words, I’m but a shallow reveller in the aesthetics of the season. Take Valentine’s Day—known to some as “Single’s Awareness Day”. What a syrupy load of horseshit of a holiday. If A. were to buy me a heart-shaped box of choccies or a dozen red roses as a romantic gesture I’d be disheartened by the cliché of it. And yet, just last week I found myself in the seasonal aisle at Dollarama for a full ten minutes, carefully curating purchases that I had no intention of making to package the hand-crafted fleur de sel caramels, the heart-shaped raspberry meringues dipped in dark chocolate, and the adorable mini pink ombre cakes that I’d sell at my imaginary bakery. 

It also stands to reason, that a person such as myself would feel moved to reflect the proper seasons and holidays in her writing. And so it is that every year around this time I think of “Stupid Cupid & Other Valentine Vignettes”, which is the catchy title I gave to a piece I started a decade-and-a-half ago. Not until this week, did I actually re-locate the piece. Disappointingly, it was like reading an overwritten, self-conscious diary. I’ve chosen the highlights to recount here:
 

1.  All these years, I’ve been telling my teen Valentine’s Day story with the duct tape, the garbage bags, and the canola oil wrong... I didn’t, in the end, really wear my hair cinnamon bun-style like Princess Leia. 

2.  An older creep I dated—the one with the pierced ear and the braided bracelet from Costa Rica—made me fried bananas in a flaming brandy cream sauce for Valentine’s Day. ‘Bananas... how cute and Freudian,’ I thought, while trying to remain conscious because I’d accidentally gotten blottoed on his home brew. I put my head back and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, he’d put Gowan on the stereo and was dragging his penis through the sauce because I guess he thought it’d be sexy to wake up the drunk girl and have her monkey down on his own banana.


That’s it. Underwhelming, but there were only three entries and one of them is boring, except that it involves a guy named Moonbeam and a yogi-electrician. In my memory there was a fourth entry, but I guess I didn’t write about the guy who picked me up at a poetry reading and had the looks and demeanor of a white member of The Jackson Five. And honestly, I can’t really remember any memorable Valentine’s Days after that anyway. At least, not until 2009 when A. asked me out and we accidentally booked our first date for V-Day. Now we’re stuck with the cheesiest anniversary possible. We tend to celebrate it on Halloween though, which may be my one exception to seasonal correctness. Healthy, middle-age-ish love has made me a little wacky. 
 

CULTURE // The Only Cosmo Article You’ll Ever Need to Read

Fifty Shades of Grey, the film, is about to get its wide release in time for Valentine’s Day. Target (in the States anyway) is purportedly selling Fifty Shades handcuffs and ticklers next to the bonbons for the holiday. Gag me with a bullwhip.

I’ll never read the book, but I’ve enjoyed some of the humour pieces that have been inspired by it. My old favourite was Gilbert Gottfried reading Fifty Shades of Grey and belting out words like “MY CLIT-OR-IS”. And now, with the film, there’s a second spate of humour pieces, among them the only Cosmopolitan article you’ll ever need to read, in which Krista Mcharden’s editor asks her to try all the sex stuff from Fifty Shades of Grey in one weekend and then write about it. 

In a society where sex is often depicted as either violent, or something only performed by lingerie models and porn stars, I fully support sex being portrayed as funny and done by real people, which it is in Mcharden’s article. The article is explicit, but not cringey, like so much sex writing. It doesn’t aim to titillate (which only writers who are writing actual erotica should try to do) and the language isn’t purple, rather it sounds like the language inside our heads when we have sex. 

After two solid days of boning, Mcharden describes her boyfriend as “an empty shell of a man”, which makes his willingness to participate in the project its own sub-textual love story. And at the end of it all, Mcharden realizes that “for all its bluster, Fifty Shades is just a bunch of oral into missionary.”
 

DOMESTIC ARTS //  Chocolate Love Cake with Cocoa-Spice Sugar Crust

First, you’ve got to listen to “Love Cake: A Baking Song” by Rocky and Balls—two cute girls with bangs, a ukulele, and a kazoo. It’ll get you in the mood with lyrics like this:

I'm gonna bake you a love cake 
I'm gonna bake you a love cake 
I'm gonna put it on a love plate 
and serve it up to you

I'm gonna mix it in my love bowl 
and add a little bit of my soul 
I'm gonna put it in your cake hole 
I'll serve it up to you 


Now you want to bake a love cake, right? Even if you don’t have someone else’s cake hole to fill—or maybe especially if you don’t (more for you)—you'd be well-advised to bake this cake this weekend. It’s moist, super-tasty, cheap, and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen. Plus, you can easily decorate it to make it real pretty. It’s also one of the most egalitarian cakes I know of. Vegan? No problem. While this cake isn’t vegan per se, it calls for neither dairy nor eggs. Gluten-free? Swap out the all-purpose flour. Avoiding refined sugar? Use coconut sugar. You can use healthy coconut oil instead of canola or vegetable oil too. Don’t like chocolate? Can’t help you and we probably shouldn’t be friends anyway.


Chocolate Love Cake with Cocoa-Spice Sugar Crust

Ingredients for the Cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose/gluten-free flour
  • 1 cup granulated/cane/coconut sugar 
  • 1/4 cup (heaping) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable/canola/coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon white/apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water/coffee/water with 1 teaspoon espresso powder

Ingredients for the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup granulated/cane/coconut sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 generous pinch ground ginger
  • 1 generous pinch ground cloves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk ‘em together. Make three holes in the mixture (in three sizes, like the three bears). Pour oil in one hole, vanilla in another, and vinegar in another. Pour water/coffee over top. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Pour batter into a lightly greased 8" round (or heart-shaped) pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over top of batter. 

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. When pan is cool enough to touch, place plastic wrap/wax paper/parchment over top of the cake to protect the topping and quickly and gently remove the cake from the pan. Don’t freak out when some of the topping falls off.

If you like, you can decorate your love cake like mine in the picture by making little flowers out of sliced almonds with chocolate chips for centres.

Put it in your face warm or at room temperature. Eat as much as you want.