Eraserhead is a nightmare of fatherhood, but its problem is matter. For the moment, mine is persistence--"nothIng's more changeable than a young man's heart," as Mrs. Patmore puts it, before a cut to a young man carrying flowers. I would say that Downton Abbey's scene-to-scene cuts have gotten less subtle, but it's been pointed out to me Downton is the model of consistency. It's true, or at least, one has to get one's bearings somehow.

First let me say that Nigella's choice of fruit cake fruit are a stroke of genius. But I only realized this at first glance, and then later, when I tasted my one slapdash substitution. I convinced myself that figs might actually be better than pears. Figs are twofaced. Fresh, they are lush; they carry just the right hint of exoticism requisite for winter sweets. But dried, I can only taste fig newtons. These ones had me confused: they were a cheery yellow on the outside. How could they taste like the filling of a mealy cookie? Nigella's choices had worked all this out to arrive at a consistently sunny tone, by eschewing both the obvious tropical choices and the somber traditionals. Apricots, pears, and golden raisins (in her parlance, sultanas, which sounds as good as the figs looked).

But dried pears were nowhere to be found, and my "contribution" started to sound better, in retrospect, because it was there, because I wanted the fruit I had already bought to matter. This bizzarre aspect of my heart became apparent when I took a bite of the cake.

Fruit cake is so dense it takes more than a night to cool, so to arrive at this point involved about twenty-four hours of zig-zagging. My baking partner had her doubts and therefore I did. Making the cake was the reverse of a Sarah Waters novel: every step made me more uncertain it was a good idea, so that the end result only confirmed my suspicions. No, that's a lie, I had never smelled anything so good as dried fruit simmering in rum and butter. I was in love until I held its weight. It was one in the morning. It had been cooling for several hours and it was still hot (more evidence of its superpastry density). I suddenly felt very tired. Or maybe I had been yawning the whole time?

In any case, the evidence of one's own self-servingness, however obscure, is never very welcome.

19 October 2013