Thursday, October 12, 2006

Same Story, Two Sides

We have a long weekend coming up; Saturday is my birthday, Sunday is Mother's Day and Monday is, in Guillermo's words, "Invasion of the Americas Day", more commonly known as the day of the Discovery of America.

However you would like to consider this public holiday, it means four days packed with social engagements and I just wish I didn't feel so damn tired all the time. Zoe, my friend a.k.a the Feng Shui Master, has not only altered the Feng Shui of our apartment but nourished me with soups and ginger in vinegar. However, I have not been able to sleep much at all and subsequently am walking around like a zombie by day.

Apparently, this is the sign of a weak spleen. Oh, just to complicate matters further, "spleen" in the context of Chinese medicine is not just spleen but also the digestive system; the powerhouse of one's "Chi". To strengthen this group of organs, I'll have to drink various kinds of Chinese soup, eating more pumpkin helps and proper meals is also mentioned on this "to-do" list for the sake of my spleen.

Hence, I've already offered to bring food to the family lunch on Sunday. There are many ways to skin a cat; instead of saying "I don't want to eat picadas (cured meat and cheese) and empanadas for lunch because they are junk food", I have simply offered to bring something to lighten the workload of the organisers – the abuelos.

A Swiss chard and goat's cheese pie with wholemeal crust would do nicely; most of the family wouldn't touch it even if their lives depend on it so there should be ample for the abuelos, to sample, and for me as lunch.

Trickier is the cake I "should" be bringing. My birthday has been recorded by the headquarters since I joined La Familia. On the day, I would receive phone calls all day long from the abuelos, my in-laws and each of Guillermo's siblings. This is because my mother-in-law would ring each of her children to remind them to ring me. The concept is really lovely except in any numeroso (large) family, there are ones who don't get on, therefore, making one-on-one conversations quite unnatural...and this brings me back to my dilemma over my birthday cake.

I get on with most of Guillermo's siblings and their spouses – four out of six is a pretty high rate, I would say. The one pair in question, unfortunately, I simply haven't been able to find anything on which we could build rapport. This sister-in-law is also particularly competitive and herein lies my dilemma.

I've lived through enough birthdays to be blasé about female competitiveness; it is a pointless and futile exercise. We attended this sister-in-law's birthday party last week in which she proudly presented a typical Argentine concoction made by her own fair hands – overcooked, dried–out brownie topped with dulce de leche and shaving foam-like Italian meringue. Knowing her competitive nature, I need to think of a birthday cake which wouldn't put hers to shame.

For this reason plus I really haven't the energy, the labour intensive cakes involving multi-stage preparation, are out of the question. On the other hand, I need to take into account the local taste because I am still vain enough not to want my cake to be an undesirable left-over; so it has to be chocolate something.

I'm tossing between following Pierre Hermé's recipe for a chocolate fudge cake which he named Suzy's Cake or adapting it to form the base and then combine with a semi-freddo or a parfait to go on top to make sort of an ice cream cake. Well...and there is always the third option – Como en Casa.

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