Tears and Cheesecake

May 04, 2006

Yesterday I made a cheesecake following my mom's recipe. This is true New York style cheesecake; obscenely rich, creamy, and decadent. It's also quite an undertaking to make with a pound of cream cheese, a pound of small curd cottage cheese, a pint of sour cream, grated lemon rind, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, flour, a graham cracker crust, and four eggs.

Once everything is well mixed (thank goodness for a stand mixer) and poured into the pan you bake it for an hour and a quarter. Then you turn the oven off and let it cool for two hours before taking it out and letting it cool more on the counter. When it finally reaches room temperature, you cover it and refrigerate it. Twenty-fours hours in the refrigerator helps to bring everything together taste and consistency-wise. Or at least that is the plan.

In hindsight I should have either used less than all the batter when filling the springform pan. My pan was full to within a fraction of an inch of the top; this sucker is going to expand considerably as it cooks. Next time I'll either leave an inch or so of clearance or make a collar out of parchment paper to contain the mushroom cap. Luckily I had the foresight to position the pan on a cookie sheet so nearly all of the overflow that spilled was caught and dealt with easily. While I haven't had a piece yet I think the sides look slightly overdone. Instead of cooking it at 325 I need to lower the temp perhaps 15 or 20 degrees during the cooking stage. Despite the overflow and cracking in the top of the cake it looks and smells just like a cheesecake.

Towards the start of the cooling stage I called Illinois to talk to my parents, and to ask mom some questions about the finer details of cooling the cake. Do I open the oven door for the two-hour cooling period, or leave it shut? In talking to me dad I learned that her decline is speeding up. He says that she is now displaying some memory loss and some disorientation as to when and where, and what's happened recently. I can only imagine how extremely difficult it must be for my father to see her decline on a daily basis. Last fall she had a bad episode of back pain and the pain medicine caused her to hallucinate quite badly. She is using the same medicine now, and the same or higher dosage, so it is hard to know if her lapses are drug induced or an indication of further spread of the cancer.

After talking to both of them I sat at my desk and just cried and cried. I fear her time is now very short, and I think this weekend will truly be the last visit I have with her. Dad says that she is becoming increasingly inward and reticent to talk, so I may not even get much of a visit with her this weekend. All of which just plain sucks.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.