Teeth, chocolate and bells
I’ve been to the dentist again. He has many children to put through college.* This time however I came home with TEETH. Well, more teeth. Oh, all right, one more tooth. But it’s one of the big fat chewing ones. Plus a recap (so to speak) of the one behind that.** The truly horrifying thing however is the Next Phase which involves a phoenix egg and a sliver of bark from Yggdrasil and a drop of water from Charon’s bow-wave and one or two other things that . . . well, I really could buy a new car for what the Next Phase is going to cost. But ordinary dentists won’t look at my teeth*** Would it be so bad living on porridge for the rest of my life? Porridge and cake. I tweeted when I got home, numbed to the eyeballs barring the distant precognitive throb, that I was looking at my nice healthy green salad in dismay because it required chewing and would it be so bad to have cake for lunch? —And was promptly encouraged by several responding tweeters. Twitter is dangerous. In a lot of ways that don’t make it onto the stats.
Cake may have been somewhat more prominently than sometimes on my mind today however because last night I made:
I realise that the concept of leftover chocolate is foreign to many of us, and once upon a time it would have been foreign to me too and at least mildly implausible to Peter. But that was Then. This is Now. Peter has mouth trouble and I have Post Menopausal Zero Metabolism. Meanwhile, however, we are notorious for loving chocolate, so people tend to give it to us. I do not wish to discourage this excellent habit. And furthermore now that I’ve invented Leftover-Christmas-Chocolate Bars I may have to arrange for leftover chocolate henceforth.†
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 x 9” pan
¾ c butter
1 ¾ c sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 ½ tsp REAL vanilla††
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder††
½ c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c chopped-up Leftover Chocolate. The point here is that it should be lots of different kinds. I had four or five different sorts plus some ginger fudge. Don’t chop too small or it’ll disappear in the baking.
Cream butter and sugar. I scrape with the spoon in my right hand and knead with my left. Better results sooner. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Then the dry stuff. Be sure everything is THOROUGHLY mixed. Then finally stir in the chopped-up chocolate.
Bake about half an hour. I started checking after about twenty minutes because there’s kind of a lot of chocolate involved and I wanted to make sure nothing untoward happened. It’ll still be slightly squidgy when you take it out, and I assume it’ll fall a little—mine did, but I was expecting it to. This is a sign of excellent chewy-squidginess-with-crunch-around-the-edges to come. I also wasn’t sure what the ginger fudge would do if it was baked so I sprinkled it over the top and put the pan back in the oven for five minutes, just to melt it enough to stick.
From a health and safety standpoint I have to admit these are not a great deal better than pure chocolate, but they are fearfully good. And they give you something to pass around during your handbell tea break.†††
* * *
* Not to mention the horses. I was going to say that I didn’t think they went to college . . . but in fact one of them does. And horse college costs as much as human college. Maybe more.
** Was I just In Denial or, thirty years ago, did dentists lead you to believe that once crowned, your tooth or teeth will stay crowned? This is I think the third refit I’ve had. At vast, three-years-undergrad-at-Cambridge prices, of course. And that doesn’t count the disintegrated root canals, which were another thing that thirty years ago were supposed to be for life. Pardon me, but first-world life expectancy for women has been well over fifty for longer than the last thirty years. Teeth: design FAIL.
*** At least not any longer than it takes to scream and run away.
† I’m aware that this is not an original idea. I’ve done something like it before myself. But this is probably the first time I’ve thought ‘why don’t I sweep up all the bits and pieces from not-quite-as-indulgent-a-Christmas-as-in-years-past and do something egregious?’
†† Maybe. I was making them at the mews and Peter doesn’t seem to have a set of measuring spoons. I know he made me take the fourteen or twenty-six spare sets of measuring spoons^ away with me but I hadn’t realised he didn’t have any. This Will Be Rectified. Meanwhile after forty-odd years of baking I probably know what a measuring-tsp quantity looks like.
^ When I was first over here, it was hard to find measuring cups and spoons in standard American sizes so I got . . . kind of paranoid. And would come back from a visit to the States with my suitcases not merely full of All Stars and black jeans but measuring cups and spoons. Glass jugs—which I prefer—have a built in population control mechanism, but metal measuring spoons live forever. I may have got a little carried away with the reserve measuring spoon sets.
††† I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a way to mention this on the blog that won’t just bore you all to death. I need to gloat here, okay? You might give me the benefit of remembering that I had a brain full of dental anaesthesia this afternoon, and in fact when I’d tried to practise on Pooka before real people showed up with real handbells it had been so awful I’d considered that perhaps it wasn’t the anaesthesia at all, I really had lost my mind. So I was feeling pretty cowed when Niall came in, started unwrapping handbells^, and said that we were going do an exercise that James had had the Saturday handbell group doing last weekend, which you might call Merry Go Round Plain Hunt. Plain Hunt is the pattern-before-the-pattern to all bell ringing: it’s the first thing you learn after you can more or less handle your bell, and it gives you a dreadful clue^^ of what is to come.^^^ Merry Go Round Handbell Plain Hunt is that after you have rung however many ordinary ‘courses’ as they’re called of plain hunt you pass one bell to the person on your left. And then you ring normal plain hunt again. On whatever weird pair of bells you’re now holding. This is not how you ring handbells: you ring the trebles, which are the one and the two, or the three and the four, the five and the six, or the tenors (if you’re ringing on eight), the seven and eight. This is what you learn; this is what you’re used to. This is what you can COPE WITH. But for merry-go-round, after the first pass you’re holding the one and the eight, or the two and the three, the four and the five, the six and the seven. Which means that diabolical SHAPE of what you’re ringing is blown to pieces. I can’t do this! I wailed—I can’t do anything unless I’ve thought about it and practised it first. I can’t think handbells on the spot like this.
But I did. It just about killed me, but I did it. I got it. I got all of the weird pairs: the 2-3, the 4-5, the 6-7, the 8-1. Yaay me. Gloat.
^ And yes, I agree, one of the reasons I need my own set of handbells is so I can knit little storage bags for them.
^^ Although not nearly dreadful enough
^^^ ARRRGH. Have just wasted half an hour trying to persuade either Google or any of my three bell-ringing simulators to produce a diagram of plain hunt major. It can’t be this hard. So, here. I’ve just written it out. Make that scrawled. The point is just to look at the shape of what you’re ringing if you’re ringing two bells. The method line is the same for everybody: you go straight out to the back, strike twice in last place, go straight down to the front, strike two blows in first place, and go out to the back again till someone says ‘that’s all’. The only trick when you’re ringing it in the tower is where you’re starting in this very straight in and out pattern. If you’re the two (or any even-numbered bell) you go down to the front first; if you’re the three (or any odd-numbered bell) you start by heading out to the back. Easy peasy. Now get your head around it if you’re ringing two bells. The front and back pairs are still pretty simple; they stay pretty parallel, one ‘blow’ as it’s called apart, and they only have to remember to cross at the front and the back. (The treble is in red, and the two is in blue. I should have done them both in the same colour, but bell ringers are trained to think of the treble by itself, because it usually is.)
But look at the shape of what the 3-4 rings (both in green). This is what I mean about the inside pairs. The 5-6 is like this only mirror-image. (I will spare you why the 5-6 is worse than the 3-4 in bob major.)
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