Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Honey-Dripping Christmas Cake and the Hungry Crow in the Snow

Then there was the Christmas a friend sent me plum cake lovingly prepared from King George III's favorite recipe. Yes, we're talking about Crazy George here. So I was doubtful, because you have to wonder what a king who's barking mad likes to put in his food. But it turned out he was sane about cake.

I made a buttery, whiskey-drenched hard sauce and enjoyed a dense slice of the cake. It practically exploded with fat, honey-dripping fruit. The last forkful was in my mouth when I happened to look out the window.

It was that moment of a winter twilight when the snow, late hour and dark sky combine to produce an unearthly, plum-blue shimmer. A lone crow was standing on our icy, bare-bones December lawn. It isn't in a crow to be pitiful, but this crow looked as though, under his brave show of black feathers, his ribs were clapping empty.

On impulse I smeared a big slice of the cake with hard sauce, ran out to the back yard to leave it, and ran back in. When I looked out the window, the crow was swaggering over to the cake, but not fast. A crow is always cool. He takes care of business one step at a time. Right now it was whiskey-scented manna from heaven. Well, he seemed to think, why not?

It was now very dark, and my last view was of the crow's silhouette. His wings flared above the cake, every feather tense with satisfaction. He lifted his head, eye sparkling straight into mine through the dark-silver night air. In his scimitar beak was a giant crystallized cherry.