permission and apple cake

Someone important to me once told me a story. There was a man who wanted to change the world, but no matter what he did, the world didn’t change. So, instead, he tried to change his country. But no matter what he did, his country didn’t change. Next he tried to change his city, but his city didn’t change. he tried to change his suburb, but his suburb didn’t change. Then he tried to change his family, but his family didn’t change. Lastly, the man tried to change himself. And he did.
And, all of a sudden, his family began to change. Then his suburb began to change. Then his city. Then his country. And then, one day, the world changed. Start with yourself. Start small. And see the world change around you.*

The thing with this story is also, that changing yourself is not always easy. It takes a while. Maybe you’re stuck living at home, and all you want to do is go live in community with like minded people, growing vegies and minimising waste, having less fortunate people over for dinner every night, talking to your neighbours and doing pumpkin drops.

Maybe you do live out of home but you have to work so that you can pay your rent and you don’t like your job but you have no time to look for a new one because you’re also studying full time and trying to get to know your housemates better.

Maybe you’re on the right track to a career or vocation that you feel God is pulling you towards but it’s a long hard slog and you still beat yourself up every time you have a shower because you keep forgetting to turn that little blue hourglass timer and you’re using up precious water.

Maybe community living isn’t all great all the time and sometimes you want to kill your housemates but you just have to keep pushing on because that’s what all the books say and something good of it will come sometime but in the meantime the dirty dishes are piling up and you have to do them, again, and you wish you could go to soup van but you’re just so tired and sick of everything.

These are just some possibilities of where you might be at the moment.

Last night I went to the house of a couple who have, for the last four months, been a huge part of my journey.  I’ve been an intern with Surrender and we’ve been hanging out a lot.

These guys are a little bit like heroes. I wouldn’t mind if, in nine years, I would be in the same position they’re in at the moment. Hey, I wouldn’t mind if I was there now, to be honest. Everyone has these people. They’re the people you look at and think, hey, I wouldn’t mind being friends with you. I’d like to know your story. I have been hearing their story, little by little, over the past four months and particularly last night. And it’s been inspiring but it’s also a little daunting, because you do have to work to get to where you want to go.

And it takes time. Patience is a virtue, as they say, and it is; but it’s also a burden sometimes, when you just want things to happen. Particularly in this instant gratification society, where you don’t have to wait for what you want and if you do, it gets tossed. Where it’s not how hard you work but who you know.

What does all this have to do with cake, you may ask, and where’s mine? Well, see, last night also, in honour of our las official night together, I made cake. It’d been talked up to the hilt but it was also pretty easy, it just took a while to cook. 1 1/2 hours, the recipe said. Well, I figured, I’ll get there early, make it, stick it in the oven and by the time we’re drinking our mint, lemongrass and liquorice tea after dinner it’ll be ready!

Not quite. The making part was easy. But this oven, it’s a bit of a child and you have to baby it along. I got someone else to light it; we put the cake in and waited. It took a while to heat up but boy, by the time it did… well, let’s just say that the apples on top were slightly more caramelised than I might have wished. So we turned the oven down and covered it with foil, and waited.

And waited.

We wanted cake by this stage but it was still gooey in the middle and we were slightly impatient, I guess. I’ve got myself known as a bit of a baker and my friends wanted dessert!

We waited some more, talking over all this stuff – putting legs on God’s dream, living life as we wanted to, as we felt God wanted us to. Figuring out our values. Who we journey with and who we want to journey with, mentor figures, real-life heroes, books and movies to inspire us. Who’s your mob. What actions we can take in the everyday to live our values out, restricted as we are by our different circumstances.

Finally, the cake was ready. Slightly burnt, but tall and majestic and amazing looking; and amazing tasting, as well, I have to say. Moist and dense, apple-y and spicy, caramel chewy edges and soft middle. Incredible. Life-giving. Well worth the wait.

Just like everything we’d been talking over, all these things we wanted to happen in our lives – they take some work, and they have some hurdles. It looks like nothing’s happening, especially to those who want it to happen. But when it does happen, when you step back and look at what you’ve done in your life, it’s beautiful. And well worth the wait.

*While I did hear this story from someone important, it’s also over here, where some great people are sharing some great stuff about putting legs on God’s dream.

Apple Cake

Adapted, slightly, from Smitten Kitchen

Like I said, we had some trouble with the cooking time of this baby. So I’m going to give you the original baking times and temperatures, and just keep checking.

6 apples (we used organic Golden Delicious, I think Pink Ladies would also be perfect)

1 tbsp cinnamon

5 tbsp sugar

2 3/4 cup flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup orange juice

2 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

1 cup chopped walnuts, optional (I was all ready to use walnuts, and I completely forgot. I think it would be perfect.)

Peel, core and chop the apples. Deb says chunks which would be awesome, but we had an apple-peeler-corer-slicer which I love using so I used that instead. Whatever takes your fancy. Toss them with the cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Preheat oven to 180ºC and butter a cake tin. I used a 20cm regular tin; Deb suggests a tube pan; a springform tin would also be fine. A 23cm cake tin also would work, ours rose about an inch above the top of the tin.

Whisk together the sugar, oil, vanilla and orange juice. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt (you can sift these first separately if you like, I never bother) and the eggs, one at a time.  (This would be the stage you add in your walnuts, if you were using them. Pecans, too would be lovely, I’m sure).

Pour about half the mixture into your cake tin, and scatter half the apples in cinnamon sugar over. Cover with the remaining mixture and top with the rest of the apples. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours.

Gobble up with your friends as you sip tea and contemplate life.

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