Denial of Cake
July 1, 2000
Dear [bunch of names],
As a new and older young-man I write to you again. The transition from 23 to 24 has more sides to it than meets the eye. 23 is a prime number, whereas 24 is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12 and 24. Whereas 23 is singular, one-sided, and cocky, 24 is plural, versatile, and open-minded. The transition from 23 to 24 comes not solely with an explosion of divisors, but also with a greatness in possibilities, chances and opportunities. 23 is a thick, inflexible, straight line to a known destiny. After a year of silent, subdued anticipation comes 24. 24 is like a tree that suddenly branches and stretches its many thin twigs to the sky letting the wind carry its blossom to an unknown place.
There are 24 keys in music (12 keys, each major and minor). It is no coincidence that they are called keys: 24 opens many doors. OK, OK... far fetched.
In other words: I had quite a satisfactory birthday.
Before that, I had a very traumatic experience on Logan airport when picking up my mother. The plane in which she arrived was surrounded by fire-trucks and police cars. After a little exploration I saw some big gas flasks jammed between the airplane and some other construction. I really didn't feel like seeing my mother explode right before my eyes. That would have been a real bummer on my birthday, not to mention the chocolate cake she was supposed to bake for me. After 1 hour the airplane drove away and docked my mother and the ingredients for my cake at another gate. There, the second trauma was inflicted upon me. The trauma basically consisted of my mother not coming out of the airplane. I felt like an orphan and started to panic slightly. Mommy was gone. Eventually it turned out that she was fast asleep at that time... in Bilthoven, the Netherlands. Her plane (and the ingredients for my cake) had never left Amsterdam because the airplane had some technical problems. The next day she arrived safely in Boston, in contrast to her luggage. It had disappeared, exactly the way it had disappeared when I arrived in Boston; also with United Airlines, by the way. Let that be a warning. Next morning her stuff (and the ingredients for my cake) arrived safely and not eaten. We had a very nice time. We drove to New York, saw Stomp, slept on a 1,5 person trampoline (that's what she called it) and drove back to Boston. By then it was time for the main reason of her visit: The Baking Of The Cake. So that's what happened. But no, no, wait... It's not *that* easy. Of course, my oven broke down. This cake was not going to make things more easy on us than strictly necessary. It wanted intensive attention and care. We tried again. This time we used the blender to whip the necessary 9 egg whites. Whereas you would expect to see the volume slowly increase as the egg white gets whipped more, I saw it gradually, quite magically, disappear until the blender was empty. Egg white gone. I'm not really sure what had happened but it was all lying on the floor when I looked down. Who needs roller skates if you can slide through a house over egg white? Anyway, this whole adventure ended with the best and most outrageously expensive chocolate cake (Sachertorte) that Man has ever witnessed. This cake was worth its weight in gold and let me tell you something else: it was very good. The recipe is at the bottom of this e-mail. Unfortunately it won't taste as good without my mother spitting in the batter.
That evening I had a birthday party. I was surprised by the large number of people present. It was funny to realize that -- 5 months before -- I didn't know a single person who was there. OK, I vaguely knew my mother before.
At MIT I gave my mother a demonstration of the software I wrote so far and gave her an hour-long explanation of how it worked and why it worked that way. Maybe because of my ability to explain things but more likely because of her unfathomable intelligence, she understood it to the finest level of detail. I stopped when we got to C++ syntax, but I was not far off.
I will come back to Amsterdam on August 29. That is in less than 2 months. Actually, I'm starting to look forward to that. Between now and August 23 some work has to be done, though. For one I have to finish programming my IPACC (unfortunately Frans -- my professor here -- did not accept the name DYPERS) and then I have to write the thesis itself. In the meantime I'm trying to work on a compiler (somewhere in a previous mail I explained what that was; zoekt en gij zult vinden), which is, after my thesis, the last thing that stands between me and my graduation.
When the Dutch soccer team played the semi-finals I was standing in a bar with a few other Dutch people, wearing my orange T-shirt. We were all drinking Grolsch at 12 in the morning and being really, really Dutch: yelling, cursing, and being rude in general. Well, I don't have to tell you what happened, but YOU didn't have to work together with an Italian right after that! Max is actually Massimiliano, need I say more? It's funny how I actually don't give a hair about soccer at all, but it's just a nationalistic thing. Especially in this ultra-right, ultra-conservative, ultra-nationalistic country I get all defensive about Dutch-land ("Hmm, you probably don't need a third name for your country, do you?" The same person told me that Stalin didn't know that Holland and the Netherlands were the same and that nobody dared telling him.)
As promised, here's the recipe for the now immortalized cake that my mother baked. The recipe comes straight via e-mail from my mother and she urged me to tell you that it came from her grandmother (not via e-mail). Furthermore, I definitely had to mention that my great-grandmother, the mother of the mother of my mother, was born and grew up in Hungary, which at the time was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Hapsburg Monarchy. Furthermore, I MUST tell you that this cake is also edible after meat dishes (because it's non dairy; there's a Jewish law that forbids eating dairy products after meat). It is also edible during Passover. (Mama, was that OK or did I forget something?)
Before that, let me say bye to you.
9 eggs (18 if your blender spits them on the floor)
200 gram sugar
200 gram melted dark chocolate dissolved in a little bit of coffee
200 gram ground hazelnuts
Mix and stir egg yolks with sugar until creamy and foamy. That might take a while and will cause severe pain in your arm if you have no machine to do it for you. Add melted chocolate and ground hazelnuts. Carefully stir stiffly beaten egg white in the mix.
Bake in preheated oven for about 50-60 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Probe with a knitting needle (my mother actually said that) to see that it's dry from the inside and if so, take it out of the oven. Let it cool down a little and spread some jam on the cake. Top with chocolate icing (180-200 grams of dark chocolate dissolved in coffee and some margarine, all melted and well stirred).