I love to cook and always have. I learned to cook by watching my mom and as a youngster, the hardest part was patience—putting ingredients together correctly and slowly and waiting through the baking and cooling time. Today as I made a cake from one of her favorite recipes, I reflected on her patience. The recipe required that I fold in beaten egg whites “until there are no white ribbons running through the batter.” When I was younger—perhaps 40 and below, I would rush the process and usually move on to the next step before the whites were fully integrated. Now I take my time. I enjoy the process of watching the small stripes of white become one with the batter.
At 64, I experience life as a time to move more carefully, slowly, living in the “now” and letting the fullness of each event, each word spoken, settle into and become a new bit of “me”. I fold in the whites of day-to-day experiences more completely.
Of course, I am not always able to live in the present—I still worry about the future—the health and happiness of our children and grandchildren, my husband’s and my health as we age, and affording retirement. These thoughts lead me to the “what ifs”—what if I hadn’t moved or had stayed in that fulltime job rather than starting my own business, etc.
However, increasingly I realize the futility of worrying over the future, or judging past actions and words of myself and others. I find I am able to move out of distracting and often negative thoughts and back into the present. This new ability to live in the moment, to walk away from unimportant thoughts, to forgive myself and others quickly is a gift of aging. In younger years as we rush through daily life to constantly seeking power and success, living in the now is nearly impossible.
I’ve noticed that our older adult clients—many who are in their 80’s and beyond are considerably more expert at living in the now than I am. Like many life lessons that make us better, stronger, and more adaptable, the many losses of later years are balanced by the gift of forgiveness, tolerance and hope of what is yet to come. I am thankful for my clients and for myself that the gift of now is available as a buffer to loss.
Meanwhile, if you want to watch the ribbons of egg whites disappear as you reflect on integrating your life stories, here’s my mom’s recipe for German Chocolate cake that she probably wrote down in the 1940’s when she was a young housemaker and my Dad was in the war.
4 ounces German Chocolate if you have it otherwise semi-sweet baking chocolate is OK
½ cup of water (I changed this to ½ cup of coffee—coffee enhances the chocolate)
2 ½ cups cake flour (or 2 ¼ cups regular flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (I use ½ tsp because I use unsalted butter)
2 cups sugar
1 cup margarine (I always use unsalted butter)
4 large eggs separated
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour three 8 or 9-inch round cake pans. I put parchment paper in the bottom as well.
In small pan (I do this in microwave), heat water (coffee) and add broken up chocolate. After it’s melted, let it cool.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside. Beat room temperature margarine (butter) and add sugar until fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time incorporating before adding another. Beat in chocolate and vanilla.
Alternately add in flour and buttermilk beating until smooth after each addition.
In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold 1/3 of eggs whites into the batter until you can’t see any ribbons of egg whites. Then folk in remaining egg whites completely and quickly. Divide the batter into the three pans and bake. If you can’t fit all three pans in the oven, put the third one in the fridge.
Bake about 20-30 minutes testing for doneness. The cake should spring back when you touch it gently or test with a toothpick.
1 can condensed (sweetened) milk
1 cube margarine (unsalted butter please!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups of coconut (best if you lightly toast this in the oven or in a pan on the stove in advance)
1 cup pecans chopped (I also toast these lightly)
In a medium sized sauce pan over a low flame, slowly heat butter, condensed milk and eggs, continuously stirring. Let come to a slow boil for a couple of minutes (stir carefully so it doesn’t burn on the bottom). Remove from heat, add vanilla, coconut and pecans.
When the cake is completely cooked, assemble the cake, spreading frosting between the layers and on the top of the cake—no need to do the sides unless you want to. The frosting is very sweet so doing the side of the cake can be overwhelming.