Welcome to Middle Age or, The Cream-filled Center of Life

My life has a superb cast, but I cannot figure out the plot.
-Ashleigh Brilliant

My birthday cake! bonappetit.com

There are many different kinds of intelligence.  The type I have is an ability to surround myself with a superb cast of talented friends. The Germans may have a word for this rare gift. I pick my friends (cooks, bakers, artists, athletes, knitters, musicians, great listeners – they have to be – book-lovers, gardeners, spider-catchers) and I stand back to watch them bloom to my benefit.  I also have friends who climb mountains in Borneo, but that doesn’t do me any good unless they are climbing up there to bring back frozen treats.

Last year, my friend Kirstin made me a Lumberjack Cake for my birthday. Is there a word for someone who is good at everything (including bathroom painting and cat-neutering) but especially good at making cake?  She is that. The Germans must have a word for this one -Fraugeschickallesbesonderskuchenbacken?   I loved having someone who wasn’t me make my birthday cake, but this year, I will be baking my own.  Not a problem: I picked out the recipe and rather than dangle the December issue of Bon Appetit in front of everyone’s nose for 2 weeks, making a hopeful (but actually pitiful) face, I think I will just start cracking eggs – six, in fact.  The other birthday jobs, like taking me out to lunch, presenting me with charming gifts and listening to me talk ad nauseum about the indignities of aging, well, I’m sure there will be plenty of work to go around.

Thank you Kirstin for contributing the Calvados because I am too cheap to buy a bottle.  Also thank you for your help painting my bathroom and burying that raccoon.  And Jesse, you always wrap my birthday gift separately, in not-Christmas wrap, even though I was born so irresponsibly, inconveniently close to Christmas.  Tim, you remember my birthday EVERY YEAR and do I ever, ever manage to get a card to you on yours?  No, but when you see the cake I have planned for you, all will be forgiven in a ganache-smothered haze.

I am not always excited about my birthday because I simply don’t understand why I am so old.  But, as always, it is so much better, I assume, than being dead. I hope I am graced with long life, because there is just so much eating to be done and so many friends with which to share my mood swings.  So as I accept my 43rd birthday statuette,  I must thank the cast: Eaters, you make my life sweet.


P.S. This is about friends this time, not family, but I have to say: thanks Dad for saying, 43 years ago –  when mom sent you out gift shopping for the first and last time I’m sure – that you didn’t think we needed anything for Christmas now that I had arrived.  When I hear that story I know just how your face looked when you said it, almost like I am looking up at you from Mom’s arms. You are wearing glasses, you have a buzz cut and you look like Elvis Costello, if he were not hip.


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