It's fascinating how faltering memory is. My best friend from high school was in town last night and came to visit Tim and I ahead of a one-way trip to South America in June (we never ever see each other so even though that sounds far away, this is, as they say, it.) I lamented how I could go for six months without making a cup of tea but still know how to make one, while remembering language is like trying to grasp the details of a vivid dream. Unless you're in amongst it, it just slips out from between your fingers the harder you try to grasp onto what you know.
I was also recounting to Tim recently a vague yet arresting memory from my early years: being at the house of a friend of my parents, a supercool sophisticated older girl (probably...nine?) being really nice to me, bawling my eyes out when we had to leave because I liked her so much, and then the girl showing me all her Barbie accessories and saying I could choose any one to take home. Even then at age, oh, six? I was floored by her generosity. In hindsight, it could've been a number of things - she'd outgrown the dolls and could afford to be magnanimous, her mother had stage-whispered at her behind my back to give me something to stop me crying, genuine generosity, who knows? All I know is I ended up with a laughably impressive pink Barbie Corvette convertible. I never saw those people again. Or maybe I did, and maybe I remembered this all wrong, y'know? I'm so sure that's how it went, but memory is tricksy and mercurial like that.
Where am I going with this? Literally nowhere. It's just this recipe is quicker than a sneeze and I wanted to indulge in some vignette-ery. Wanna make something of it?
This is my blog, and I will have my clunky segue and eat it too. I recently got to have the spoils of this roasted butternut recipe, invented by my friend Brendan and made by my also-friend Kim, and it was so good that I was determined to make it myself as soon as the opportunity presented itself. It's also so very simple that words haven't been invented yet to describe how little you have to do to achieve the finished result.
Cinnamon-Golden Syrup Roasted Butternut Squash
Full credit to my friend Brendan for inventing this and letting me blog about it, full credit to Kim for txting me the premise of the recipe after already telling me twice, and for just being great.
1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil, or a blasting of cooking oil spray (I didn't have the latter)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons golden syrup or brown sugar
Note: did I actually use these measurements? Nooo. I just enthusiastically shook the bottle of olive oil over the cut halves, gave it enough of a crop-dusting of cinnamon so that the surface was speckled and brown, and lightly drizzled over golden syrup from a squeezy bottle. But on the other hand, I appreciate that sometimes actual quantities can be useful when you've never made a thing before, or if you don't cook all the time.
Slice the butternut in half lengthways, sprinkle over all the remaining ingredients - don't hold back on anything - and roast on a baking paper lined oven tray at about 200 C/400 F (or 180 if your oven is particularly blasty) for about 40 minutes, until it is soft and darkened and almost collapsing in on itself. That is it.
It might sound too simple, it might sound like it's going to turn into pudding, but butternut's dense, firm texture can handle a lot of what you're throwing at it, quietly absorbing all that cinnamon and syrup without turning into creme brulee. The oil and salt are what keep it in check, making it more fulsomely luscious and counteracting the blush of sweetness on the surface, and it smells incredible. Butternut is already a little sweet and rich, and the tickle of cinnamon and stab of salt just points up everything good about it, while slowly roasting it makes it soft and pliant enough that you can plunge a spoon into it. I just dropped a large spoonful of it onto a plate and stirred in butter and more salt, Tim spread his on a slice of baguette and topped it with tomato. The next night I stirred the leftovers into cooked spaghetti with lemon juice, burned butter, capers, toasted almonds and lemon zest. It's versatile stuff. Thanks, Brendan!
Making something so perfect, and perfectly simple was the ideal activity on Sunday night after throwing our friend Ange a Twin Peaks themed birthday/farewell one-two punch party (I just like saying one-two punch, this party had no pugilism subtheme) and also after attempting to make Ange a birthday cake that was far too ambitious in its scope and doomed to failure. A triple-layer bundt cake, make particularly enormous by being layered up on top of a ring cake. It had no structure, it was sliding sideways, bits of bundt were chipping off, it was not the sophisticated elegant thing I'd vainly pictured. Tim returned home from picking up ice to find me recklessly slinging the top layers of bundt into a bowl while Ange laughed, possibly nervously. The blackberry custard I'd made to sandwich together the layers gave the remaining ring cake a kind of blood-smeared look that we decided we really liked, and so I studded it with cornflake chocolate (melted dark chocolate poured over cornflakes, frozen, broken into irregular pieces) and pierced it with long, thin beeswax candles which make anything look dramatic, and suddenly...it worked. But oh damn. It might be a while before I attempt to make a foot-tall, triple layer vegan bundt cake again. On the other hand I did get to refer to myself as Special Agent Fail Cooper.
Photo by the aforementioned Kim. Whose photos from early in the night you should most definitely check out, because they are stunning and my friends are all such babes that I have no more swoons to give.
Fortunately the party itself went off without a hitch, in fact describing it like that does it a disservice. It went off amazingly. Our clever friends Kate and Jason had sent us a rasterbated image of the waterfall used in the opening credits - rasterbation is when you blow up an image across as many pieces of paper as you want and it's all pixellated and it looks amazing - and yes, I cannot even deal with the fact that rasterbating is a word - and we all put it up on one of our walls on Thursday night.
As Saturday went on, the place acquired a black and white chevron rug; a red curtain (actually an old duvet cover, but who can tell in the dark?) red and black balloons; the stunning Welcome to Twin Peaks sign painted by Kate pictured above; a slightly crappy RR Diner sign painted by me; a table full of donuts; a cherry pie (made by me and it was so great, in case you're thinking I'm being self-effacing for the sake of it); lots of coffee; a Wanted sign for BOB; red light bulbs; owls; candles; brie and butter baguettes, and finally: a framed picture of Laura Palmer whose eyes follow you round the room. Even when you uneasily sit it face down on the shelf.
I went as secret-video-footage Laura Palmer, wearing a turtleneck for the first time since, oh, 2003, a dark green sweater, a tweed skirt, peachy ballet tights and brogues. I sweated myself into a stupor, but it was fun. I had planned to get progressively deader and plastic-wrapped as the night went on, but a guest arrived already wrapped in plastic looking so committed and excellent that I decided - with some small relief - to just stay put.
Tim was special agent Dale Cooper because who else could he be? We also had a David Lynch, a Bobby Briggs, a swoonful Audrey Horne (that was Ange) a Nadine, a Lucy Moran, a cousin Maddy, a veritable creepy suburb of characters in fact. And because it was a party thrown for someone else, I only knew about half the people in the room and so got to live out my somewhat pitiable fantasy of introducing myself to people and saying one or all of the following: "It's a little lavish, but we call it home"; "We're very informal here, as you can see" or "we're tres liberal". If you hear a faint whooshing sound, it's probably the breeze caused from the collective shaking of heads of people reading this. But I care not.
It was an incomprehensibly fun night, although all the frantic dancing and fun-having and so on merely clouded the fact that I'm going to miss Ange so much when she moves to London. She was the very first person Tim and I met when we moved to Wellington, and while it was no meet-cute ("I guess we're living together...okay bye") we nevertheless have stayed firm friends, getting firmer and firmer as the years go on, our friendship near-on calcifying by this point in fact. Sigh. Partying is such sweet sorrow.
(I also love saying that.)
Title via: The Music That Makes Me Dance, from the musical Funny Girl. I kinda tear up even just typing the name Laurie Beechman, but it's worth the inevitable sniffles to see her sing this gorgeous song.
I liked it just fine at the time, and I wouldn't necessarily play it for fun on a day-to-day basis, but put R Kelly's Remix to Ignition on and suddenly there's ain't no mountain high enough to keep me from the dancefloor. Verily, this was proven on Saturday night.
I've already mentioned it a zillion times on this blog but in case you've been hiding under a bushel like some self-effacing person's light: Rockin' Back Inside My Heart, from Twin Peaks, sung by Julee Cruise. It gets better with every listen, and not a week goes by that I don't play it about five times over. So.
Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man In The Universe from the record of the same name. A record that I can keep flipping over and over and not get sick of.
Next time: Something slightly more complicated, but...not triple layer bundt complicated.