Sunday, July 20, 2008

Looks like Red, Tastes like Cake

This past Friday was Charlie's birthday (one of the other REU students). He wanted red velvet cake. Red Velvet cake is red simply because of ridiculous quantities of food coloring. As in, we dumped two one ounce bottles of red food coloring into the cake batter (well, first just into the buttermilk)

With the bright red batter mixed, we dumped it into the one casserole dish we have that is almost the right dimensions for a cake pan. You can see the two empty food coloring boxes behind it. In the process of baking, the red got darker - but no less red. We frosted it with cream cheese frosting and I used the few drops of red food coloring that did not make it into the cake itself to dye a little of the frosting red for decoration:

It is a tasty cake (delicious and moist with a hint of chocolate), but in the future I am going to be inclined to replace the food coloring with water or more buttermilk unless there is a good reason to need a red (or for that matter any brightly colored) cake. There will be more cake baking this week. This time it will not involve the dumping in of food coloring...

Friday night several of us met one of the professors for dinner at Hickok's Bar and Grill (their website is rather entertaining). It is themed after the old west and in particular after the shootout between Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt. In fact, they were going to be doing a reenactment of the shootout later that night, but we decided we did not want to wait around that long. I was overall amused. Oh, and they had tasty fried okra :-) .

It was determined that the REU group ought to visit Branson at some point. One of the professors discovered that Yakov Smirnoff (a Russian comedian) has decided that he wants a talk show and so was giving out free tickets to the taping of a pilot episode. When we arrived at the theater one of the ushers that was catching everyone at the door realized that we were a group of mainly college students and as a result pulled us aside and took us in early to pre-seat us near the front.

It was an interesting experience. I can't say that it made me have any desire to watch the talk show if it actually becomes one, but then again I would be amazed if there were a talk show that I would consider worth watching. He had interesting ideas about the importance of laughter in relationships. I was amazed at how disorganized it all seemed to be. I would have thought that they would have figured out things like how they were going to get the right camera angle to film objects on the table ahead of time...

I finished both Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Dickens's Oliver Twist this week. I am greatly enjoying reading both authors, but I think I have a slight preference for Dickens. Dickens likes to have a narrator that is not afraid of breaking away from the story for a moment to directly address the reader and for me this seems very natural (when I am relating a story to my friends I am very prone to going off on side tangents). Dickens also uses amazing analogies, for instance, in Oliver Twist the narrator is justifying jumping back to the countryside when Oliver has found himself in quite a mess in London and starts out his explanation with:
It is the custom on the stage, in all good murderous melodramas, to present the tragic and the comic scenes, in as regular alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side of streaky bacon.

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