Thursday, February 14, 2008

In Honor of Love

I have the distinct honor of being surrounded, friendship-wise, with married couples. There’s Anne and James, Nicole and Andy, Daphna and Ian, Aaron and Jane, Amanda and Charlie (my sister-in-law and brother as well as parents of the love of my life, Lydia), and on and on. This coupledom is wonderful and cozy and lovely, but let’s face it: the single girl is the odd (wo)man out.

Yes, that single girl would be me.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. These pairs never make me feel uncomfortable simply by being a pair. I’m thrilled for every single one of them that they have found their person, their life partner, their soulmate if you believe in such things. I’m overjoyed. I got misty-eyed at their weddings. I think it’s great. But in a world filled with pairs, odd numbers can make things, well, odd. You can’t go on double-dates with your single friend. You can’t trade husband or wedding stories with her. You can’t ooh and ah over each other’s engagement rings. You can’t trade “couple” stories with her. You can’t even really grump to her about how annoying your husband is sometimes because guess what? She thinks you should be damn grateful to have a husband! Humph!

Am I jealous of my coupled friends? Damn right I am! I’m the kind of girl who would like to skip over that whole dating shebang and just be married. I am way too domestic and routine-oriented to really embrace the so-called “fun” of being single. I spend Saturday nights at home, cooking. I barely sleep in on the weekends. One drink makes me tipsy. I’d rather snuggle on the couch with someone familiar than bat my eyelashes at handsome strangers (although flirting with strangers is awfully fun…). The only real problem with wanting to be married is that there’s one thing missing: a groom.

Any volunteers?

The antidote, I have found, to this sort of jealousy is not to see yourself as fundamentally different than the individuals found in these happy couples. They have not unlocked some mysterious “secret” to happiness. They each have good days and bad days. They still have to go to work; they don’t spend the rest of their lives on perpetual honeymoon, making googly eyes at each other. Darn it, they still put their pants on one leg at a time! And truly happy couples are joyful company. Their love flows outward, like sunshine in which the rest of us can bask. Their physical affection is sweet and comforting, not gag-inducing and reeking of insecurity. In short, happy couples are good friends to each other, and that, I believe, is what love is all about.

Maybe I’m missing a sweetheart these days, but with these friends, I’ve got all the love I need.

Valentine’s Day can be a rough holiday for us singletons. We really don’t need to be reminded that we are not part of a pair. Truthfully, though, Valentine’s Day can be a rough one for the pairs, too! So much pressure to buy a mushy card, a dozen roses, an expensive but thoughtful and deeply romantic present or two…and all of this gift-buying less than two months after Christmas! Oy, the thought of it makes me grateful for my newest Valentine’s Day ritual, a fun and simple one I invented last year as an antidote to the inevitable bad feelings that arise when singlehood meets V-Day: homemade chocolate dessert. More specifically, recipe-testing a new chocolate dessert.

You have probably noticed that I’m not big on posting dessert recipes. Truth be told, I don’t make a lot of desserts. When I do make a dessert, it tends to be simple, basic, and honest, the sort of desserts that your grandma probably makes. (Bless those grandmas.) My sweet tooth is easily satisfied with something small, so my desserts tend to l-a-s-t f-o-r-e-v-e-r at home. On top of all this, food bloggers LOVE posting dessert recipes, so there’s no shortage of new recipes out there. But for today, in honor of love, I bring you my favorite go-to brownie recipe, the first recipe I made for my new V-day ritual.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear reader. May your heart be filled with love and joy, whether you are cozily paired, happily single, or somewhere in between.

Excellent Brownies
Adapted from “Excellently Reasonable Brownies” in Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, who adapted her recipe from “Michael’s Fudge Brownies” in Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts by Alice Medrich

I really love these brownies, so I bring you this recipe with great exuberance. Dense and fudgy, they are a little slice of chocolate heaven at the end of a meal. They are also, miraculously enough, a reasonable dessert, to paraphrase Crescent Dragonwagon. To me, reasonable means that they are sweet and chocolatey enough to satisfy without being so rich in sugar and fat that you’d wince to hear the carb and calorie count. Now, I know nobody wants to talk about calories when it comes to dessert, and I won’t whip out my calculator on you here, but I just think it’s nice to know that some desserts, in moderate-but-not-skimpy portions, can be perfectly reasonable indulgences.

Cooking spray
4 tbsp. (half a stick) of butter
1.5 oz. best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Ghirardelli brand here)
1 c. all-purpose flour
½ c. plus 1 ½ tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 ¼ c. brown sugar (packed)
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp. miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees if you are using a glass baking pan, as I usually do).
2) Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
3) In a medium saucepan, melt together the butter and chopped bittersweet chocolate over very low heat. Stir frequently.
4) While the chocolate is melting or immediately afterward, stir together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
5) Once the chocolate and butter are melted together, turn off the heat and stir in the sugar. Stir the eggs and vanilla into this mixture and beat until well combined. The batter will be really thick here, but don’t worry!
6) Scrape the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture (the batter will be EVEN THICKER here) and blend together using a wooden spoon. Stir in the chocolate chips.
7) Scrape the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan and spread it evenly with a spoon. Bake for ~20-25 minutes, or until the top has dried a little but the center is still a little gooey when poked with a toothpick. In her recipe, Crescent recommends that you wait until the brownies have cooled before cutting, but if you, like me, just can’t wait that long, let the brownies cool for ~20 minutes and then cheat and sample a brownie. This can be our little secret!

4 comments:

JD said...

Excellent article, you should read the blog that I wrote about Valentine's Day to get my take. Thanks for the kind words...

Rosiecat said...

JD, I have followed your instructions all the way to American Life! Thanks for the message. You and the wife are among my favorite of people.

Oh, and dude! Bake these brownies. They are awesome.

Asmodeus said...

That was beautiful, Rosiecat. With this combination of fluid prose and tasty chocolate recipes, I am surprised that you don't have beaus leaping over the dating stage to propose to you.

But it may be that I am biased.

Also, if you sit on the bed sometimes you can put your pants on both legs at a time, though it takes some balance and a little hopping.

Rosiecat said...

Thank you, Asmodeus. If you are correct, perhaps I ought to have a marriage proposal campaign manager. Are you interested in the job?

Oh, no, I don't believe you about putting pants on two legs at a time. Maybe if you are a spider or a centipede, but not if you are bipedal. I have found, however, that is remarkably easy to take pants OFF two legs at a time.