Eating is a small, good, thing.
Friday morning I was grumbling about having to make two kinds of cupcakes for a work lunch on Monday. Then I found out that a friend's father-in-law had passed away, after a brief, brutal struggle with cancer. She and her partner went down to be with family as soon as they heard, and L. suggested that we leave food at their home - M. had a key and would be housesitting - for when they returned. Then I remembered what cooking is all about, ultimately - it is about love. Then I would bake for my coworkers and friends, and I would do it happily, with love.
Eating is a small, good thing at a time like this, wrote Raymond Carver in one of his short stories. People who write about food always bring up this line when they talk about grief, followed by a recipe for something soothing and comforting, a soup, perhaps, or some sort of cookie with a childhood story behind them. The instinct, when it comes to baking, is to make something sweet. I would be doing all that, because I had to make cupcakes anyway, but I wanted something savory. I had bacon in the fridge (home-cured and smoked by my friend L.), a wedge of cheese. Savory biscuits, then, with bits of bacon and shredded cheese. But how was I going to do this all in one day?
I started by measuring out dry ingredients for everything on Saturday night. I scooped out flours, leavenings, salt, cocoa powder, sugar, sifted them into plastic boxes. I made the filling for the black-bottom cupcakes, whipping together cream cheese, sugar, egg, a handful of chopped bittersweet chocolate. I counted eggs and diced sticks of butter, stacked boxes of dry ingredients and washed up dirty dishes. I would be organized, which does not come easily to me. I stopped short of pouring out buttermilk and oil and measuring out teaspoonfuls of vanilla and vinegar (which I should have done - I forgot the vinegar in the red velvet cupcakes).
In the morning I blended butter and lard into the biscuit "mix" with my hands, until flakes of dough appeared. In went buttermilk, crumbled bacon, grated cheese. Too much cheese. Oops. I scooped out the dough with the ice cream scoop that turned out to be too big. Oops. I grabbed the smaller scoop and redid the biscuits, making nine instead of six. Into the oven, and I ran off to get dressed before work. The biscuits emerged, twenty minutes later, golden brown and speckled with bits of smoky bacon, gooey with cheese. I set aside the four prettiest ones for my friends and ate two, quickly, before heading out to work.
Much later I boxed up my cupcakes and biscuits and put them in a bag. Eating is a small, good thing, I thought. I hoped my offerings would give a small measure of comfort.