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Bitter-sweet Chocolate

You slam the door. The room shakes.  Ignore the knot in your stomach, the worm of self-loathing that taunts your loneliness.  Grab the boom box from your room, plug it in, and turn it up.  Drown yourself in the music.  Feel the tightness in your hips as you dance around the room.  Glance at your reflection in the window, and sink into the forest green desk chair.  Put your face in your hands and let the wisps of hair that have escaped  your braid tickle the tips of your fingers.  Open the desk drawer and pull out a manila folder with worn edges, and a fading label of “deserts” written in delicate cursive.  Find the small card and run your fingers along the serrated edge where it was pulled out of a magazine, probably “Cooking Light” or something like that, even though this recipe could hardly be considered “light”.

Glazed Fudge Brownie Almond Pie

1 unbaked pastry shell

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

¼ cup margarine or butter

 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk

½ cup biscuit baking mix

2 eggs

½ to 1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake pastry shell 10 min; remove from oven and frantically puncture the holes that have bubbled up in the crust.  Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
  2. Melt chips with margarine. It barely fits in the bowl.  After 30 seconds only the outer layer of each chip has melted and they sit slightly shiny in a puddle of sun yellow butter.
  3. In large mixer bowl, beat chocolate mixture with sweetened condensed milk, biscuit mix, eggs and extract.  Strain your biceps to lug the bright red mixer from the cabinet.  Shove magazines, a pile of mandarin oranges, and some miscellaneous papers to the side of the counter.  Carefully select your spatula (the faded blue one with scratches up the wooden handle).  Scrape the glass bowl, and drizzle the chocolate into the mixing bowl.  Watch how the light reflects off the dark surface.  Scoop out the biscuit mix from the large glass jar that your father keeps it in so he can make pancakes every Saturday morning. 
  4. Rummage through the freezer, cabinets, and pantry.  Find some almond slivers buried in the freezer, add all of them.  Watch the mixer spin and hear the crunch as the slivers split in half.  (Find out that all the almond slivers sink to the bottom when it is baked, don’t add them next time).
  5. Pour into pastry shell.  Hope that it doesn’t over flow.
  6. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until center is set.  Feel the knot in your stomach slowly untwist. 

Survey the room: watch white powder float down to settle on ocean sky blue linoleum floor, drips of hardened chocolate create a Hansel and Gretel trail across the room from microwave to mixer.  Collapse once again into the desk chair and let the sharp smell of almond extract and the heavy bite of chocolate waft through your nose.  Breath in and out.  Notice how the radio is still playing some P!nk song, you don’t feel strong enough to sing along.  Drown your sorrows in left over chocolate chips.

Chocolate Glaze

  1. Melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips with ½ cup unwhipped whipping cream.  Feel bad that you have used half of a 72oz bag, but pour them in a bowl anyway.  Realize you’re going to need a bigger bowl.  Reach all the way to the back of the cabinet to get the big glass bowl and transfer the chocolate chips.  Listen to the way they pelt the glass like dull beads.  Pour the whipping cream over them, it contrasts white, with dark.  Don’t measure the vanilla, that’s lame, pour it from your spoon and watch the stain spread like an ink blot through the whipping cream.  Set the microwave for a minute, when you take it out be concerned at how it doesn’t look melted at all.  Stir it anyway.  The whipping cream will slosh back and forth, threatening to escape and the chips will stick together just slightly.  Put it back in for another minute, and this time the chips have begun to soften.  Be careful not to scald the chocolate. 
  2. Stir until smooth. Stir. Stir. Stir.  Feel the burn in your arm, like the sting of fire ants, the wetness at the corner of your eyes. Will the cream to somehow mix into the chocolate. Stir.
  3. Once smooth, immediately spread over pie. 

Don’t wait for it to cool, cut the slice of your reward—the chocolate will overwhelm the bitterness in your mouth.  Decide it needs a counter balance and bring out the other mixing bowl knowing it will add to the dishes already piled precariously in the sink.  Pour the rest of the whipping cream, and a dash of powdered sugar and set the mixer on high.  Watch the whisk spin, each carefully bent wire, in the elaborate dance of a whirling dervish.  When the cream has the consistency of cotton, take a dollop and add to your pie.  The cool, crispness balances out the rich, chocolate laden fudge.  Eat until your stomach is full, and your tongue is heavy, coated with sugar but the knot of bitterness still sits at the bottom.  

Overall



Having read this entire piece, my biggest take-away from it is confusion. It seems equal parts satirical recipe, "choose your own adventure" (sans choice), and a second person view so specific it's as though I have to possess the traits of the person being addressed in order to understand what is happening. (Wisps of hair from my braid? I have a braid?)

Are these instructions or is this a second person narrative? Within three sentences my answer to that question was a resounding, "I have no idea."

You slam the door. The room shakes. ...
... Ignore the knot in your stomach, the worm of self-loathing that taunts your loneliness.  Grab the boom box from your room, plug it in, and turn it up.  Drown yourself in the music.  Feel the tightness in your hips as you dance around the room. 

You start by saying "You slam the door." And it seems it will be a narrative, but then I am being instructed. "Ignore the knot ..." If the purpose of this beginning is to set the scene so that you can present the recipe as second-person instructions, then it should all be narrative. eg., "You slam the door and the room shakes. You ignore the knot in your stomach ..." If the introduction is supposed to be part of the recipe, it should all be directive. eg., "Slam the door. ..."

Your use of tense is very inconsistent. I was tense trying to understand when this was all happening. The inconsistent use of present, past and directional tense — often in places where there is no excuse for the tense to change. eg., the method of the recipe — meant it was a very hard piece to follow at times.

In the method for the almond pie, the first direction worked well:

... frantically puncture the holes that have bubbled up in the crust ...

But from there, the tenses start to go awry:

Melt chips with margarine. It barely fits in the bowl.  After 30 seconds only the outer layer of each chip has melted and they sit slightly shiny in a puddle of sun yellow butter. 

This has slipped back into past-tense narrative again. It should read something like:

Melt chips with margarine. It will barely fit in the bowl.  After 30 seconds only the outer layer of each chip will have melted and be sitting in a  slightly shiny puddle of sun yellow butter.

I won't quote all of the places where the tense slips in and out of where it should be, but you really need to go over this entire piece with an understanding of what tense you want it to be in. If you do that and get it consistent, this work will start displaying some of its potential.

I really like the root of the idea behind this piece and I think it can be turned into something humorous and quirky. The dry wit and defeatist tone of the narrator is actually very entertaining. If you can sort out these major issues with your tenses and what you want each part of it to be, I think you'll be onto a very clever bit of prose.


Overall

Wow. This is honestly an awesome piece! I've never seen anything written like this before. You are very creative I must say, I would have never thought of this! The way you balance the sweetness of what is being baked with the overwhelming melancholy of emotions is great. To anyone else reading this don't let the length intimidate you! Definitely a good read!