Who would've thought, when I walked into that office more than 15 years ago for an interview, that those rooms would become such a meaningful place in all our lives?
So much happened there, good and bad: that desk is where I got the call from my husband about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center; I remember calling family and friends before the lines were disconnected, to make sure they were safe. That is where one of us faced the ugly C word, another one of us announced the creation of two lives that were then prematurely lost. But it is also where I planned my wedding and then showed my honeymoon pictures. Where friendships bloomed.
The first person I saw while sitting in the hallway waiting for my interview became my wedding witness and lifelong friend; well, more of a soulmate than a friend if you ask me. We were born and grew up in the same city but our destiny was to meet on another continent. She lives across the Ocean now, but we are as close as if she were still sleeping over on the tiny Ikea couch of the first apartment F and I called home.
One day a Texan at heart walked into those rooms to make and enquiry and never left (the premises or my affection).
The pretty blonde, a real English rose, I sat down and chatted with nervously during that interview is the kind of friend I don't need to see or talk to that often to call her that.
The awesome Tasmanian with the beautiful mane of fiery red hair (to match her creative spirit and the clementines below) and the voice of a black blues singer moved back home recently and took a little piece of all our hearts with her when she did (together with two very precious things she had been waiting for for the longest time, her daughters).
The only true Italian of the gang, a good friend and enthusiastic follower of this little blog, contributed the right touch of Mediterranean character with her contagious laughter and loud chatter to this group of Americans (yes, Canadians included), Brits, Southafricans, Barbadians, Kiwis, Aussies etc. (you name it, we had it) .
What did we have in common at the beginning? Not much really, except we all spoke English. And yeah, were were all young(er), funloving and a good looking bunch if you ask me. But that was it. We came from different cultures, backgrounds and educations. We had different interests, friends, aims.
But we clicked.
I think we all realized to what extent when we separated a few years later.
In time, the evenings spent in front of pitchers of margarita (I am still paying for that night) or downing a few too many vodkas (even those who stated to have never gotten drunk - and you know who you are - are still paying for that party), the late night drives down country roads to hidden-away biker hangouts, the Halloween parties and summer barbecues gave way to weddings, baby showers and family brunches.
Most of us have moved away, others will be moving soon, some closer and some farther. But almost two decades later we still get together whenever possible.
Now we are parents, we party a little less and change diapers a little more. We may be scattered all over the world and have a wrinkle or two, but inside we are the same people and when we are together we connect.
This is a cake I made to celebrate the visit of our "Australian connection". It is the kind of cake you make for a festive occasion, a large group of people. It is rich and decadent and a slice is enough to satisfy your longing for chocolate. Well, unless you are my daughter. Yes, the one who doesn't usually eat my desserts, she had two. If she liked it and if the recipe comes from this girl, then you know you have a keeper.
400gr chestnuts (precooked)
100gr brown sugar
100gr dark chocolate
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp whiskey (or other spirit)
100gr dark chocolate
25g salted butter (I used plain and added a pinch of salt)
2 tbsp cream
First of all, line a small loaf tin with Saran wrap. I used a medium sized tin, because that is all I possess, and it worked fine but the cake will naturally turn out a little flatter.
Blend the chestnuts (I bought precooked ones) and sugar in a food processor until smooth. Process less for a grainier texture. Melt the chocolate in a pan with butter and milk on low heat, mixing until you obtain a smooth sauce and then mix in the vanilla extract and whiskey.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the food processor and mix with the chestnuts and sugar until well combined. Then pour into the tin and cover with more Saran wrap. Let chill in the fridge for 24 hrs. To be honest, I only let it sit overnight but in the morning the cake was firm.
At this point, turn the cake out onto a flat surface and peel off the plastic wrap. In the meantime, start gently melting the chocolate, butter and cream for the coating. Once it is ready, spread it over the cake until fully covered. When you are done, return it to the fridge to set for another couple of hours or until you are ready to serve. A few minutes before serving, move the cake onto a serving dish and slice.