I've made my own birthday cake every year since I've been twelve. (Okay, I'll do the math: hmm...that makes 42 cakes. Yikes.) My mother wasn't a big fan of cake, but she whipped out a cake mix for every family birthday. I started baking seriously at twelve, and told my mom that I was done with cake mixes, and that I'd make my own cake, and she was not happy. I wasn't rejecting her, per se, just Duncan Hines. Thus the tradition began.
Yesterday I was tempted to forego the tradition, as it was just Paul and me here, but relented late afternoon and made a half-recipe of cake-heaven: Golden Butter Cake with the simplest of ganache icings -- bittersweet chocolate and butter melted together. Like I said, heaven. Baked amidst a kitchen filled with the scents of chicken simmering in red wine, and sauteed pearl onions and chanterelle mushrooms. And roasted sweet potatoes, roasted Brussel's sprouts. (Is there a more vegetable more beautiful than a B. sprout sliced in half? Dollhouse cabbage!)
The weekend after Julia Child died, my boys, who were teens at the time, had invited over a houseful of friends. I often cooked up feasts for this group of boys, and that Sunday I decided to honor the memory and legacy of Ms. Child by preparing her Coq au Vin. My Dutch oven was of the cast iron variety, which imparts an odd tint to chicken cooked in red wine. When the boys sat down to dinner, I told them what we were having, and the guests all looked a bit nervous. French food? And why was the chicken purplish? (Of course, no one said this, but their expressions told all. I could hear them saying to themselves how are we going to get out of this and not be rude?) I told them about Julia Child, told them about the cast iron pan, and they sat down with more than a modicum of hesitation. But just minutes into the meal, their groans of pleasure and their exclamations of delight quickly shifted the mood from trepidation to glee. OH MAN! This is good! My own boys, old pros at the dinner table, winked and twinkled at me.