Success and sadness
I defended my dissertation prospectus successfully last Monday. Five of my committee members (one was out of the country) gathered around a conference table to question me. Perhaps my only frustration with the meeting – and I was weary about this going in – was that my committee would be both concerned about the rather expansive scope of my dissertation – worrying that it might not be doable in a somewhat timely manner – and give me suggestions that would enlarge the project. This is exactly what happened. But in the end they were happy with my proposal and the meeting. One committee member told it was the best prospectus meeting she had attended in a long time (but maybe she tells everyone that).
In the days that followed the proposal defense I managed to cook quite a bit – some brownies with frosting, some cajun chicken pasta, some cold Korean-style asparagus – but for a quite a tragic purpose. The day after my proposal defense a good friend’s (who is also in my program) girlfriend died unexpectedly. She would have turned 33 two days after she died. So the rest of my week was spent spending time with my friend, making food I knew my friend would enjoy, and frantically getting ready for a research trip that I had to leave for on Sunday. Saturday was the memorial. I made a cake for the gathering after the memorial.
I got the cake recipe (the chocolate one) from this book via this website. Then I made a raspberry filling (I improvised with frozen raspberries and raspberry jam and cooked and strained). Then I made a chocolate buttercream frosting from a recipe found in this book.
I started by whisking egg whites and sugar over simmering water. Then I beat the sugary egg whites for several minutes before switching out the whisk attachment for the paddle on my mixer.
Next, I added butter. A lot of butter. A pound of butter.
With the butter added, the mixture was white and smooth but lacked flavor.
I changed that by adding six ounces of bittersweet chocolate melted with a little bit of water over that same simmering water.
Then I assembled the cake. There are no pictures of the final result. It did, however, make some people smile on a particularly sad day. The mother of the woman who passed away passed on several of her daughter’s cookbooks to me. She didn’t want them to go to waste. They won’t.