What they say is absolutely true – it goes by so, so fast. Our wedding week feels like a series of barely-focused snapshots, a string of moments that wink like fairy lights: B2’s parents’ living room in the 6am blush of a quiet Honolulu morning, ironing the iridescent folds of a hanbok for our paebaek ceremony. Hearing my bridesmaids before I saw them as they pulled into the parking lot on their first morning in Hawaii, whooping with their hands stretched out their rolled-down windows. The liquid billows of the most beautiful dress I’ve ever worn. The look on my dad’s face just before our processional, his eyes tinged red at the edges. My brother pressing a glue dot to an Instax mini for our guestbook. B2’s mother, singing along to their mother-son dance with tears streaming down her beaming face.
2015 is in two days.
That’s weird. In my mind, it’s still barely 2014, we still just got engaged, I’m still just a few months in to this new job and I’m still less than a year in to this world of food and food blogs. But in reality, it’s just a few more sleeps until a brand-new year. A year when we’ll get married. What.
Anyway, even if my brain is in denial, my hands made you this little cake and put together a few snaps from 2014 to commemorate our last trip around the sun! There are plenty of grainy iPhone gems thrown in, and a few shots from our engagement shoot (!) and our trip to Hawaii in September that I meant to share earlier. As for the cake, it’s a moist, rich (but vegan!) chocolate cake that last made an appearance in this even teenier version, and it’s bedecked with bubbly-infused festivities in honor of New Year’s — a crisp cranberry-champagne jam and a lightly tart champagne buttercream. (Plus edible sparkles. Of course.)
So, this wedding planning thing, huh?
As it turns out, I’m not the most decisive person in the world. (Bowl #2, who is now diametrically opposed to the phrase “It’s up to you,” is probably laughing right now.) I like things, and I like some things more than other things, but when it comes to actually making a decision — especially a decision for something like a wedding! — sometimes all I can think about is whether the other thing might be better. OK, let’s do a DJ during the ceremony. (But what about live music?) Sure, let’s do a fish option. (But what about chicken?!) Yeah, you’re right, it’d be crazy for me to make my own cake. (But … cake!) I’ve treated everyone I’ve worked with so far to a symphony of really long, really drawn-out “umm”s, which I’m guessing is super enjoyable for all involved.
Happily, we’ve now finalized a lot of our decisions — and signed the contracts, when is when I finally stop thinking about the what-about‘s. But we haven’t decided on cake yet! So far, I’ve impulsively declared about four times that I’m just going to make it, and then about four more times realized I have no idea where I would freeze the layers or where I would store the finished cake or how I would transport it or … how to make a tiered cake to begin with. So as much as I fear the what-about of cold, dry wedding cake with chalky buttercream and styrofoam insides, I’ve shelved that idea for now. (There are a lot of deep messages in there about how it’s not the details that are important on the big day, or how it’s healthy to learn to relinquish control over the things that don’t matter, which are all totally true — but it’s mostly that I was stumped when it came to finding freezer space.)
To assuage my cake-making urges, the other weekend I spent a few quiet hours making the cakes I think I would have liked to make if I actually did it. (You know, except for two people, instead of a hundred.) They were the moistest cakes I knew how to make, obviously — one was a zucchini cake that is one of my all-time favorites, which I’m excited to share soon, and the other is this hummingbird cake. There are so many things I love about this teeny cake. It’s quaintly symbolic, given that it’s a quintessentially Southern cake, sweet and decadent and emblematic of where I grew up, but it’s also packed with all the tropical things that remind me of Bowl #2’s home in Hawaii. (If only I’d added some haupia!) The toasted coconut on top is unreal (how did I never toast coconut before this?), and the mashed banana and crushed pineapple make it so moist that it drives away any thoughts of frozen, crumbly-dry wedding cake. For now, that’s good enough for me!
Have you ever made a wedding cake or considered making your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences if you have! (Also, if you’re mulling it over too, check out this uncannily well-timed series Food52 is doing. So excited for this. F52, I love you all beyond words!)
A couple of weeks ago, Bowl #2 and I made a little move to a new place just across the street, scooting into our friends’ apartment after they moved uptown for grad school. Adjusting to this apartment so far has been, for lack of a better simile, like taming a giddy, unrestrained crush. So much light! So many shelves! So clean! So new! CLOSETS! POT AND PAN RACK! For the most part, the last week has consisted largely of Bowl #2 and I looking at each other, firmly ensconced in our old squishy couch on our old chevron rug in our new living room, saying over and over, “I love this apartment. Don’t you love this apartment?”
Of course, being a New York apartment, it’s not without its faults. So far, mainly just a minor (and fixable) one — a stubborn oven that releases gas but refuses to light. (And has since caused the gas company shut off the gas to our apartment altogether. Me: “But … are you sure I can’t just use the stove? You know? Just the stove?” Them: “Yes, unless you want to risk gas building up in the oven and blasting the whole thing apart.” Me: “So … no?”) But, like with most giddy crushes, we’ve readily rationalized its shortcomings — no working stove or oven means an excuse for delivery pizza, right? And green smoothies for lunch, and contemplating crazy shenanigans involving hot water kettles and instant ramen.
A few weeks ago, I posted some teeny pies with a dollop of vague, cryptic dazed-happy-whirlwind news on the side. The news was … as some of you dear friends guessed … that we’re engaged! The Two Red Bowls are getting married!
(Also, yes, I got him a ring too. The party line is that it’s egalitarian and modern, but really, I was just impatient and love buying shiny presents.)
I really wanted to think of a food for this post that meant something to B2 and me. And ideally something that would go in the two red bowls that started this whole blog off. Then, after Mandy posted these incredible pineapple buns, it came to me — BBQ pork pineapple buns, as inspired by Tim Ho Wan. And now I will tell you a long and hopefully not boring story about us, our bowls, and where these buns fit in. You can go to sleep and wake up at the end for the recipe, I won’t mind.
Bowl #2 says his first impression of me was in one of our first classes in law school. Some of our professors have a lovely tradition of “cold-calling,” or calling on students at random to answer questions instead of asking for volunteers. Some people handle this process with grace and dignity. Others, like me, black out in terror and lose their handle on the English language. So Bowl #2’s recollection was something like this: “Oh, yeah, I noticed you really early. You were that girl who got cold-called first that day. And I remember thinking, boy, she looks scared sh*tless.” The first time he told me this, I fluffed up like a vain little bird in anticipation of what he’d say and then deflated somewhat suddenly.
That actually has nothing to do with Tim Ho Wan, I just think it’s funny. We were friends for most of law school, and didn’t begin dating until just before the beginning of our third year — or, right before a semester where I’d be studying abroad in Hong Kong. (Impeccable timing.) Long-distance relationships are always crazy fun (sarcasm) but never more fun than when they start that way, so it was a little bit of an uncertain time for us, with a few ups and downs.
Bowl #2 came to visit me about halfway through the semester. We did a whole lot of eating, but for only being in Hong Kong two weeks, I took him to Tim Ho Wan an embarrassing number of times, always for these baked buns. They’re the love child of two of Hong Kong’s best treasures — their famous pineapple buns, sweet and pillow-soft rolls with a crisp, sugary crust baked on top, and their char siu baked buns, rolls with juicy, sweet and savory caramelized roasted pork chopped up and tucked inside. We had an inappropriate number of these — and at a time where things were falling into place, and where what we were was becoming clearer and steadier and more and more wonderful. So I think they’ve come to represent a time that was truly special to us.
This year marks the first Christmas that either Bowl #2 or I will spend away from our parents. But it also marks the first Christmas we’ll spend together. So it’s a little bit of sad, but also a lot of happy. (Like the fact that we stayed up late last night playing cards and eating chips and ice cream.
Instead of going to midnight mass. And celebrating Jesus’s birthday at home.)
This is the first Christmas, too, that I’ll be sharing with you all through this blog! I don’t know if I’ve ever stopped to say this, but this blog brings to life dreams and passions I didn’t know I had even six months ago — it’s given me an outlet for so much that brings me joy. And obviously that wouldn’t have been possible, at all, ever, without you. So, for all that you do, thank you so very much. It means the world to me. And for those celebrating, I hope you’re all having perfect Christmases. 🙂