Dump It

Dump-It Recipe

She changed me.

Her name is Keri, and although she started out as a student in a few of my classes, she ended up becoming a friend for life, someone whose innate light defeated the chilling darkness of her early years.

Keri was treated as harshly as a person can be.

Yet when I think of her, it is her laugh that comes to me first.

Whenever I think of her, I remember the day she walked into our kitchen–having just returned from running a trail race with Byron–and clapped eyes on the chocolate cake sitting on the counter.

“You want a piece?” I asked her.

“Fuck, yea!” she almost shouted.

For me, an important component of hospitality is bounty. It doesn’t feel gracious to dole out small bits and act as though a tidge is generous. Nay, if I’m handing things out, it seems mean-spirited to be chintzy. Were someone to give me a printed apron, and please, for the love of Martha Stewart, may no one ever give me a printed apron, it might say “LOTS ISN’T HALF ENOUGH.”

That day, I discovered Keri and I are of a mind on this issue.

Without thinking, I cut Keri the piece of cake I would have wanted.

I cut Keri a hefty piece of cake.

I cut Keri a piece of cake the size of a block of expired cheese in a dumpster, a kilo of coke, a glock.

It was the size of my smile whenever she banged into the house holding a little present for my two-year-old. It was the size of my heart whenever she shucked off holding my baby, saying, “Naw, I’d just drop him” before stroking the softness of his pudgy leg.

When I slid the plate towards her, Keri got it. “Fuck!” she howled. “Look at the fucking size of that piece of cake. I love how you’re all not shy about the cake–and look at that frosting. You stood up to that cake and gave it half an inch of frosting. Now THAT’S frosting!”

With the speed and focus that never leave someone who’s been hungry, she downed the entire thing in under a minute.

“Jesus, Keri. You weigh, like, 99 pounds on a good day. How did you manage that?” I asked, happy and impressed.

“Ah, you know me and sweet stuff. I fucking love cake. I just don’t know how to cook it. You make it, and I’ll come here and shove it all into my face, ‘k?”

That piece of cake is something Keri and I have not forgotten.


A good piece of cake should not be forgotten.

That’s why I’m glad I’ve carried on my mom’s habit of recording notes on recipes, tracking when and why they were made. There is no better diary than a few hasty, splotchy words jotted next to a recipe.

With the chocolate cake that filled Keri’s stomach, there is the story of how I was driving home one day when I first heard the recipe on NPR.

Hear the Story

Then, there is the story of how this cake, the Dump-It Cake, affected the life of Amanda Hesser, as recounted in her book, Cooking for Mr. Latte.

And, of course, there are all the notes–mini-stories within themselves–that surround my print-out of the recipe, which lives in a three-ring binder in our kitchen.

6/10/03: “Crisis Cake”–tube pan won’t close–cake everywhere. Paco rolls over, eats rice cereal. Allegra loves neighbor Tyler’s swing. John Colbert here last night-

1/12/05: For Chrissy, Sean, & kids–over for falafel

6/16/05: Made for Grandma’s Marathon party. Paco naps with Buzz & Woody. Allegra helps Byron put patio furniture together

6/15/06: Made as cupcakes for Grandma’s Marathon party. Byron twisted ankle at Oxbow race last weekend. Paco naps with Bat-a-ring (metal one), & Allegra loves swimming class

11/13/09: Made x2 for 10th anniversary open house

Two entries for this next date, one written by me and one by Byron (at least we had our stories straight):

3/24/12: Made for Jocelyn’s 45th bday–Allegra is running track & reading Hunger Games. Tommy & Paco are playing Legos and going to see The Lorax; Byron bikes and runs on early Spring warm day


Made for Joce’s 45th birthday. Always better the next day. I make it today. Paco & Tommy going to Lorax. Allegra running track

Nov. 24, 2015: Olson-Browns coming for Thanksgiving. Leggy skiing at West Yellowstone

For every note written on the recipe, there is also a time we made this legendary cake but neglected to add to the record.

There is no note for the day Keri had her first piece, big as a block of expired cheese in a dumpster, a kilo of coke, a glock–

–that piece of Dump-It cake the size of my smile whenever she banged into a room holding a present for Allegra, who would grow up to love swimming lessons and swinging and putting together patio furniture and reading the Hunger Games and running track and skiing in West Yellowstone. That piece of cake the size of my heart whenever my beloved friend shucked off holding Paco, the little guy who rolled over and ate rice cereal and napped with Buzz, Woody, and a Bat-a-ring and played with Legos and went to The Lorax.

I don’t know why I forgot to make a note on the recipe that day.

I like to think it’s because I was too busy enjoying Keri’s laugh and offering her seconds.


Scone Recipe
The only recipe in our house more legendary than the Dump-It Cake is the recipe for scones in The Bread Bible. Don’t even get me started.
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asparagus food recipe

“The New Joy of…Cooking”

There’s no better way to challenge the loyalty of one’s readership than to post a recipe.

I could, therefore, entitle this post something Sally Fieldlian like, “You DO like me, right? You WILL come back, even though I’m posting a recipe? I promise it will be just this once, and I won’t weep hysterically and wipe my snot on your shoulder, if only you promise to return one day, when the recipes have gone away.”

But the asparagus furor that arose out of my last post made me want to provide some specifics about one of the backbones of my springtime diet: nearly-broiled asparagus. If you, too, love that green stuff so fervently that even the funky urine odor an hour after eating it doesn’t dissuade you, then this recipe is for you.

First, you’re going to need a baking sheet, the kind of big ole rectangular pan you could hit Simon Cowell in the chest with terrifically hard and then take away imprints of his chest hair tufts for posterity. Now, this pan doesn’t have to be huge-huge (damage can be done to Cowell even with a moderate-sized pan), but you want it big enough that it could double as a clown shoe in a pinch.

Then you’re going to need at least a pound of asparagus–because, really, who eats less than that? And to tell you true, if you live in the Land of the Wild Jocelyn, you’d do well to start out with at least two pounds. Some fine folks, home after a long day’s work at The Company, standing in the kitchen with good posture, wearing a tailored suit, might look at the stack of stalks and think, “Oh, good, we’ve enough for the whole family. Lovely.” Here in our household of unemployment, slouching and t-shirts, though, we are realists and know there ain’t no way the yowling kids are going to eat, willingly, this particular green food (since it doesn’t say “Shrek” on it), so the prep-chant goes: “Screw their nutrition. More for us!”

Your next step will be therapeutic, as there is snapping involved–from tempers to stalks. Pick up each stalk and, as you did as a child with your Barbies (when witnessing adults would mutter, “Hem, er, Dahmer. Jeffrey Dahmer?”), hold each stalk by its “legs” and then, at the natural breaking point, snap off its “head.” Remember when you decapitated your Skipper doll and never again found her noggin? That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Indeed, each stalk can be gently and steadily bent–violent movements are not actually necessary–until it hits the point of breakage. A man named Peter did just such work on my heart when I was in my early 30’s. The stalk, or the Jocelyn, hardly needs to realized what’s happening to it, until the moment of irrevocable and devastating impact.

Okay, now it’s Artistic Expression time. Discard the tough ends that you’ve just broken off (if you have an enemy, perhaps named Peter, put them in his pillowcase while he’s away on a trip to Vegas for two weeks) and then artfully arrange the lovely asparagus heads/bodies on the baking sheet. I sometimes do a hatchmark dealie, wherein I line up four spears and then lay a fifth across it diagonally; this also helps Groom and me keep a running tally of how many spears there are, so fisticuffs don’t ensue at mealtime. But you go crazy; get creative; make a portrait of your grandmother riding a unicycle out of the stuff.

Somewhere in the middle of all this fun, you can turn on the oven to, honest to Emeril, 500 bangin’ degrees. If you have a smoke detector in the house, this would be a good time to go take the batteries out. I’ll wait.

No, seriously. Go do it. The smoke is going to be hack-worthy.

Okay. So you’ve got them babies on the pan. Now you need to take out some of your really expensive ultra-extra-non-Paris-Hilton-but-rather-still-a-virgin olive oil and, placing a finger over the opening (there are more, really crude, Paris Hilton jokes here, but I’ll spare you. Just think “finger” and “opening.” Yes, my work here is done), drizzle it over all the spears. Or you can just use your cheap, years-old streetwalker olive oil. Whatever you’ve got.

Now comes the philosophical section of the recipe: what is life without spice? Life, and food, are significantly diminished without it, all the less for their bleak, uninterrupted sameness. Translation: add some salt and pepper. If you have any character at all, make it freshly-ground pepper, not just pre-ground flakes from a can. Splurge, honey, and buy some peppercorns. You are so worth it.

Hang on. We’re ready to rock. Open the oven, slam in the pan of goodies, close the oven, lean back against the kitchen counter, and pick up your beer again. If you use a timer, set it for five minutes. If you don’t use a timer, then sing the “ABC” song about 7 times. Or once through the extended dance remix of “Tainted Love” would work.

After five minutes, put on a big ole silicon oven mitt and a gas mask (or, at the least, safety goggles) and open up the oven. Reach in like the hero you are and shake that baking sheet–hokey pokey all those stalks so that their left feet and right arms are in a big tangle. I watched my kids play Twister the other day, and it was pretty much the same–limbs everywhere; all I know is that this step involves some sort of analogy to a kids’ game. So go ahead and liken this process to, em, Clue Junior, and then close the door and back away slowly, reaching around blindly for your beer as you wipe the smoke out of your eyes.

Set the timer for another five minutes, or sing “Stairway to Heaven” while musing about how poorly all those formerly-hot classic rock stars have aged. Ah, Robert Plant, we hardly know ye.

After the final chorus, or when the beeper goes off, put on all your gear again, and head in to the inferno one final time for The Extraction.

Toss the pan onto the countertop or the burners of your stove. Head to the fridge and take out some feta cheese. There are no substitutions here, so don’t even try to sprinkle some cheddar on the Holy Stalks. Jesus Marimba, could you not plan ahead for once in your life and have actually bought the feta? Presuming you want to stay on my good side, you’ll just have the damn feta and won’t dither about in front of the cheese drawer, trying to find something to fool me with. And this is no time to get distracted by those old tupperware containers on the back of the shelf. Yes, that is mold you see; yes, those are the refried beans you opened when Clinton was still in the White–and the dog–house. But there’s piping asparagus awaiting you, so hop to!

Plate your half of the spears, angling for one or two extra when your friend/spouse/partner isn’t looking (“Hey, check out that, er, UPS truck backing up to the neighbors’ garage! Why are they filling it with all their electronic equipment? Could it be a heist? Maybe you need to do something…”). Crumble the feta, liberally (always the best approach, in cooking, morals, and politics), all over your spears.

Set the timer again, this time for two minutes. Or hum “Hit Me, Baby, One More Time.” See if you can beat my record and eat your entire plateful in that time.

By the way, asparagus fangs hanging out at the buzzer DO still qualify as “eaten.”

I’ve also heard of people eating their food in a leisurely fashion. Suit yourself, ya delicate little poncey poodle. The rest of us will just sink our heads into the feedbag and make some indelicate chomping noises for awhile here.

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Nine Plus a Spare (agus)

“Nine Plus a Spare (agus)”
Some weeks back, my good pal Dorky Dad (whom, in the weirdness that is Bloggerworld, I wouldn’t know if I ran over with my scooter in front of the Dairy Queen, but whom I nevertheless dote upon) tagged me for the most straightforward meme ever. No “tell us your top five brushes with the law”; no “from least to most important, rank the international issues that make you wince”; no “if you had a million dollars, what kind of house would you build” kind of stuff to this meme. Jehosephat, no.
This meme is mercifully simple and pretty much allows the tagee to reveal or exclude–mental photo of me: quivering with the power–just about anything. The meme is this, in the shell of a nut: tell us ten things about yourself.
Honey, I do this before 8 a.m. to strangers passing by the fire hydrant outside my house. Ten things about me? The workers at my favorite Caribou Coffee could tell you ten things about me in the time it takes them to make a skinny hazelnut latte (large, that is; if you ordered a medium, they could probably only squeak out Eight Points of Jocelyn Trivia before adding the final dollop of foam).
I’m hardly shy when it comes to personal disclosure.
Which may be why people blush so much in my presence.
Is it wrong that I greet the mail carrier with “Kee-ripes, but I’m bloated today”?
Or that I toss off a quick, “Hey, so I’ve actually been legally blind since the age of 7. I still thank Ben Franklin for those bifocals!” to my son’s preschool teacher as I hang up his backpack?
Surely, my lack of boundaries might be why patrons of the Barnes & Noble shimmy backwards, discomfited, when I edge up to them and randomly start an unsolicited sentence with “…and so when I was 35, my mom divorced my dad. Yea, after 40 years of marriage. And the next morning, after she had the papers served on him, she went and got a nose job. She was 67! You feel me?” C’mon, without an opener like that, how else could I pave the way for a new friendship, made right there in the self-help section?
So, hmmm, jes’ to mess with you, let’s call this meme “Ten Things About Jocelyn, Nine of Which are True, and One of Which Only Is in Her Dreams.” You can try to ferret out the lie, and more power to you with that.
1) I only saw STAR WARS because my dad told me to. I was ten in 1977, and he came up to me one day and suggested, “I’ve been hearing a lot about this movie–sounds like a good one for you kids.” So I went to it, and my recollections of that seminal film, even a day later, went along the lines of “It was in space or something, and they shot some stuff. At the start, these words scrolled backwards, kind of, across the screen at the start, and I got all dizzy. Oh, and there was a desert planet with some robot things on it. One of them beeped a lot.”
2) I sometimes think the only thing that could lure me to abandoning chocolate is asparagus. I set a timer tonight for two minutes and managed to eat seventeen broiled-with-feta-on-top asparagus spears by the time the beeper went off. Admittedly, two were still hanging out of my mouth like fangs at the end, but my point was made.
3) I can still sing all the lyrics to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” without missing a word. If you don’t know who Rick Springfield is, do the words “Dr. Noah Drake” help clear things up? If the answer is still no, I’m not sure you and I can ever really, really take it to the next level.

4) I once ran out of gas in the middle of Wyoming, where there are three gas stations, and had to walk along the highway until two scruballs stopped their pick-up to offer me a ride. Wanting my parents to one day see me again, I refused their offer but handed them a twenty-dollar bill and threw myself on their gas-retrieving mercy. Ten minutes they were back, and they only asked me once as they helped me refuel if I would like to play miniature golf with them later in Casper.
5) When I was 24, I started dating a 40-year-old. We were together for six years. He was really into tai chi and owned a Nordic Trak. We grilled a lot of chicken together, and for one spate, we both got addicted to playing Wolfenstein and Duke Nukem. I mean, my stars, but that first-person shooter business knocked the liberal arts education right out of me!
6) I reached my adult height in fourth grade. My breasts grew along with my legs.
No, I did not just type that my breasts grew on my legs. That would be freakish. Read more slowly, ya skimmer.
7) I am not a high school graduate (no GED either), yet I am a graduate school graduate.
8) I lived in Denmark with a host family for the summer before my senior year of high school–in the home of a single mother with three young boys. Every time I would draw a bath and slowly ease in, a pounding would start on the bathroom door, followed, in Danish, by the words, “I have to pee! I have to pee!”
9) I once had a pixie cut that, in my deluded mind, made me look like Pat Benatar having love on a battlefield. When I added in a skirt that looked like it had dishtowels hanging from it and a pair of those fingerless gloves from “We Belong,” the look was complete.
10) When I volunteer in my daughter’s first-grade class, I play a little internal game called “What Will Their Futures Hold?” with all the Girl’s classmates. I’m pretty sure I’m right about that brassy Audrey, in particular, who will be–I soothsay–pregnant in ten years. It probably wouldn’t be right of me to pull her mother aside, though, to pass on that prediction, right? Even though it might be helpful to have a heads-up and all.
Mostly true, plus one lie.
Thanks for the tag, Dorky Dad. I’ll be sure to run you over accidentally on my scooter next time I’m in your neck of Minnesota.
Note to self: buy Vespa.

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