I’m sitting outside our lovingly restored stormy-blue and crisp-white house, thinking about where to go from here.
A pair of main roads intersect a couple of blocks away and are definitely the fastest route anywhere. They’re also noisy and dirty, filled with huge trucks headed to and from the docklands on one road, and fleets of cars cluttering up the other.
The alternative route is packed with windy lanes, planted with apple trees and tomato vines, pale pink roses and dripping wisteria. Going this way, you’ll take longer to get anywhere, but there’ll be riotous colours, sounds of children playing and more than one conversation, while leaning on a front fence, about life and garden produce.
As I pushed my son’s pram to the playground earlier today, I thought about how happy I am to peacefully meander my way through a longer route when I’m relaxed about my destination; but that I rigidly stick to the certainty of main roads if I’m unsure about exactly where I need to be.
I become so focused on getting to the right place, that I’m willing to miss the potential for discovery that back roads always seem to offer. I may arrive a bit quicker, but I don’t have the looseness in my mind and the gentle smile in my heart when I’ve steeped myself in the little wonders that make roaming so much fun.
I’m beginning to think seriously about how I can start earning again, resolved not to go back into big corporate life, and determined to find a writing or editing role, maybe food and produce related. As soon as I start mulling it over, I can feel the panicked anxiety to reach an end point as quickly as possible, that I need to know immediately whether I’m going to end up somewhere I want to work, doing something I love and earning some money.
I’m completely unclear about where this new work could come from, or even if I’m good enough to do it at all. There’s a part of me, steeped deeply in cynicism and fear, that assures me it’s never going to happen and I’m a fool to even try. But, I also have hope that belief, passion and hard work can overcome a multitude of barriers, particularly those erected by a sceptical mind. And if I can keep taking the next written and edible step, it’s all going to work out, until I’ll eventually look back on this time and wonder why I ever doubted.
The big temptation with this fear is to grasp for the nearest solution, whether it fulfils my desires or not – to hop onto the biggest road I can find and arrive somewhere I’m not sure I want to be, but at least I can stop feeling afraid for a while. In the past, it’s been enough to freeze me in my tracks and send me scuttling back into monolithic office blocks with their recycled air and stultifying businesses.
However, this time, I want to believe it’s more important to live with a sparkle of trusting gratitude for the journey I’m walking, and that the destination will come as a result of purposefully enjoying the windy roads that make me so happy.
And who knows? Something wonderful could be just around the corner. As one of my friends regularly says, “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens”…
Today’s recipe is the very embodiment of how rambling over a longer period of time produces something far, far better than a straight-lined solution. I’ve been making carrot cake for years, and regularly try something new. I have at least 70 recipes for carrot cake from all over the world, versions with pineapple or ginger, topped with nothing or whipped goats’ cheese, ingredients added as chunky or fine, and all manner of spices.
I won’t pretend to you that I’ve reached the end of my search yet, I’m enjoying my culinary wanderings far too much! But this carrot cake is a delicious waypoint in time. My current favourite and popular with absolutely everyone.
- 175g light brown sugar
- 175ml vegetable oil + more for oiling
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 150g finely grated carrots
- 60g raisins
- 60g walnuts (use organic or fresh if you can, to avoid the slightly bitter flavour of supermarket walnuts)
- Juice and finely grated zest from 1 large orange
- 175g self raising flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 175g icing sugar
Pre heat your oven to 180˚C / 350˚F
Drop some oil in each of a 12 cup square muffin pan and, using your finger, smear around each square. If you prefer a single cake, oil and line an 18cm square cake tin.
Using a wooden spoon, mix the sugar, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl
Lightly stir in the carrots, raisins, walnuts and orange zest
Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then sift into the bowl with the carrot mix
Gently mix all the ingredients with your wooden spoon until everything is just combined, be careful not to over mix or your cake will end up too heavy. Your mixture should be quite soft and almost runny.
Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin squares, filling each one nearly to the top and bake for 30-35 minutes (if you’re baking the single cake, bake for 40-45 minutes), until the cakes feel firm and springy when you press them in the centre
Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool on a wire rack
Whisk the icing sugar and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth – the icing should be about as runny as single cream (pouring cream)
Drizzle the icing back and forth over the top of the cakes, letting it drip down the sides