:: Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Frosting ::
Carrot cake is one of those desserts that people seem to either love or hate. In my case, there is deep, deep love and it seemed like the perfect dessert for my summer potluck given the abundance of fresh, organic carrots this season.
I used the recipe for Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Frosting from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs. She makes cupcakes in her recipe but, as she writes, it works perfectly well for two 9-inch cake pans and there is more than enough frosting! I agree that grating the carrots by hand is key to a smooth, moist batter even if it is a royal pain in the behind. The maple cream frosting is just the right amount of sweet to compliment the notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in the cake. If my guests didn't love carrot cake before, I have certainly won them over with this version!
As an Anthropology major at Barnard College, I spent a lot of time reading about the important role that food plays in cultures throughout the globe. No matter what corner of the world you visit, food will always be a central part of human relationships, custom, and culture.
I grew up with parents who frequently brought to light the social importance of sharing food - inviting friends, students, and colleagues to share meals ranging from the casual barbeque to Christmas dinner to multi-course affairs, held late into the evening, that my small, pajama-ed self was not allowed to attend.
When I was in grammar school, my mother spent several years preparing "teacher gifts" that consisted of baskets brimming with homemade wonders - bottled vinegars and oils, peanut brittle and truffles, small baked breads and other treats. They were always received with the utmost delight and appreciation.
Food literally brings people to the table. It smooths over all that has gone wrong in a day. We are encouraged to create and renew bonds over new flavors, smells, textures. Recipes are passed from generation to generation and family identity is forged out of the dishes created in ovens and on stovetops.
I started hosting potlucks when I began nursing school. I wanted to create an environment in which I could get to know my new friends better. And, for those who were far from home, I wanted them to remember the comforts that can be provided by a warm meal, the laughter of those you love, and conversation long into the evening. The guests that come to the big, Cherry wood dining table in my childhood home always seem to change, but the meaning behind the meal never does. I am always excited to see what others bring, how their creativity is made manifest in the most delicious of concoctions.
...quinoa with sweet corn
We gather, we share, we eat. For an evening, no matter where we have come from or where we are going, we can be family.