the new lazy
May 17, 2008

My mother tells me from time to time that I need to get in touch with my inner slug. Mostly I suspect this is a reaction to nearly 40 years living with my father. If Dad has an inner slug, it wears Joseph A. Banks. And, let's face it, I'm pretty much Daddy's girl when it comes to (not) relaxing.

But I've been going full tilt for awhile now, and things are about to pick up further with a wedding in Boston and a quick-flash weekend in D.C.—so it seemed important to take a day for doing nothing. No duck. No fish. No knife work. Today I'm not even going to prepare for my big Level 1 practical exam on Monday.

The non-plan starts out pretty well. I don't get out of bed until afternoon (helped by the fact that post-class drinks stretched way into the a.m. hours). There's a baseball game on, and a stack of old Bon Appétits that haven't been given a proper look-at-the-pictures browse. Doing nothing means that when Poppy calls to ask for some chicken salad advice, I can spend several hours just contemplating the options.

But sometime in the evening—too early to go to bed, too late to give up sloth—I get...well, bored. I've pretty much surfed the entire Internet (or at least all of it having to do with baseball and food) and my legs are starting to hurt from sitting on the sofa. It's around the time I might consider making dinner, but with a week's worth of class leftovers in the fridge, that definitely constitutes undue labor. But then, inspired by Bon Appétit's gorgeously minimalist April cupcake cover and the fact that it's Emily's birthday tomorrow, I decide to bake.

You see, in a world of culinary-school complexities and an extreme red-meat-and-poultry infiltration into what was once almost exclusively a fish-and-vegetable diet, cupcakes are the new lazy. I dig up a recipe that, if I stick just with the cabinet-friendly cocoa powder and skip the chocolate chips, doesn't even require a trip to the store—a rich devil's food cake spiced with cinnamon and coffee. Luckily this cake is made with vegetable oil, so I can ration the two sticks of butter in the fridge for a further cinnamon-spiced, but not-too-sweet buttercream. (Magnolia Bakery frosting calls for 2 cups of powdered sugar! I use a fourth of that.)

And sure enough, while I've been having fun in the kitchen lately—exploring, mastering technique, getting smarter, quicker—it hasn't been good, old-fashioned, lick-the-beaters cathartic. Despite generous batter-testing, I feel lighter. (Though, to be fair, that could be the coffee.)

I'm about to start Level 2, with an extended two-week pastry primer, so we'll see if I'm still feeling sugar-happy in a few weeks, but for now, should you need to reach my inner slug, it's probably baking peanut butter cookies.