Nietzsche's Angel Food Cake: And Other "Recipes" for the Intellectually Famished

Sample: Carl Jung’s Epiphany Cakes

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INGREDIENTS:

  • White flour (or youthful arrogance, whichever is in your pantry).
  • Butter.
  • Lemon zest. You may substitute a difficulty, as long as you triumph over it by calling forth your Inner Warrior.
  • Sugar (or sugar substitute).
  • Also: Salt, milk, yeast, water, dried grapes, and 1 “token” such as a bean, silver coin, china figurine, or thimble that you will hide in the cakes for a lucky child to find.

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large bowl, mix 6 cups of white flour with 1 teaspoon salt. When I made my very first batch of Epiphany cakes, I was completely out of white flour. Fortunately, I had arrogance. At just 29 years old I was second-in-command at the Burgholzli, a renowned mental hospital in Zurich. That year—it was 1904—a beautiful Russian Jewess traveled to Zurich from Rostov-on-Don in Russia to enroll in medical school. Her name was Sabina Spielrein. She was extraordinarily naive. Her anxious parents had cosseted her all her life in a bubble of protection so impenetrable that, at age 19, she was entirely uninformed about sex. By the time she arrived in Zurich, however, nature had taken matters into its own hands, and Sabina’s hormonal status had become disturbed. Indeed, she fell spontaneously into waves of orgasm that terrified her, and in the midst of one particularly overwhelming wave, she destroyed her hotel room. The police brought her to my emergency room in handcuffs. My diagnosis: Hysteria. Primary symptom: Orgasms. Secondary symptom: She had lost the ability to speak. Remember, I was only 29 myself. I thought both symptoms were about me.

2. To the salt and arrogance/white flour, add about 1 cup sugar or sugar substitute. I told Sabina a sweet lie. I said I would help her.

3. Stir in 2 eggs. Set the mixture aside.

4. Then, in a smaller bowl, dissolve 1 ounce of yeast in 5 tablespoons of warm water. Add 2 additional tablespoons of sugar, or a few more lies. (“Everything will be fine” and “I will hold anything you say in complete confidence” would both do nicely.) Now set this mixture aside, too.

5. Sabina spent almost a year in the Burgholzli under my care, during which time she regained her ability to speak, and I diverted my eyes from her bodice while intoning Christus, oratorio to keep my behavior assiduously correct. After her hospital time, she continued as my outpatient. This is when she developed an intractable fantasy that she and I were twins who, having been separated at birth, had unwittingly become incestuous lovers. She believed that, with me, she would conceive a baby who would grow to be the messiah. Let’s call this butter.

6. Melt 1 stick of it in a saucepan, and add to it 1-1/2 cups milk.

sabinaframed7. Have I mentioned that the Twelve Days of Christmas are followed by the Epiphany? In an analytic session on that particular feast day, Sabina had a sudden intuitive realization; she wondered aloud whether her fantasy was not a sexual or romantic delusion but a symbolic manifestation of her desire to become a psychiatrist—and, working at my side, to make a difference in the world. An unfortunate development, that. And, indeed, “lemon” is what I quickly called it. Drawing on my Inner Warrior, I assured her that sometimes even a delusion holds a literal truth; if hers did, she would discount such truth only at great loss to the world. We can always use an extra messiah, I told her. There you have it: “zest.”

8. Pour the lemon zest, the butter and milk mixture, the yeasty sugar water, and the flour/egg/salt/sugar mixture together. What will result is a soft dough, which, for simplicity’s sake, I will refer to as Sabina’s easily molded personality. Add the dried grapes, distributing them evenly.

9. Optional: Add cheese.

10. Tear Sabina’s personality apart, forming six or eight discrete dough balls of confusion. Trust, love, purpose, integrity, respect, and even reality would all qualify. Realizing that one of the balls—perhaps the confusion about reality— is the largest of them all, arrange the other balls around it on a greased tray. Think “livestock around a manger” if you need creative direction in the arrangement.

11. Slyly insert the token into one of the balls. Ouch!

12. Let Sabina’s confusions grow until all of them have at least doubled in bulk. One way to accelerate this would be to leave her in a warm, draftless room for as long as it takes. More fun would be to engage her in “We’re Making a Savior!” whoopie romps for a minimum of three years of analytic sessions, withholding from her for at least some of those years the satisfaction of actual intercourse. (You see, I was married to one of the wealthiest women in Switzerland. Were I to have engaged Sabina in actual intercourse, I would have needed to explain to her about biological reproduction while putting on a condom, which might have given even my messiah-focused darling pause.)

13. After the three years, if Sabina’s mother lets you know she has received a letter from her daughter disclosing her ecstatic love, sweep the cakes with the yellow of an egg. You’ll have egg on your face, as well.

14. Bake the cakes for about 40-50 minutes at 440 Fahrenheit. Perhaps this is where my own original batch of cakes fell flat. Instead of baking my darling, or even telling her that anything was now amiss, I wrote her a short note letting her know that I was no longer available to be her doctor.

15. Some people create a paper crown to give to the lucky child who finds the token in the cakes. I didn’t, because Sabina so clearly was not a lucky child. As things turned out, neither was I.

16. I neglected to respond to Sabina’s increasingly desperate letters. She arrived unannounced at my office one day, and stabbed me with a knife.

17. Injured, and now the target of my wife’s righteous anger, I drifted free of my own emotional and cognitive moorings. Diagnosis: Hysteria. Primary symptom: Everything I wrote.

18. Set the cakes aside for 3-4 years. This is how long it took me to gain my wife’s forgiveness, recover my sanity, and begin my steady ascent toward celebrity psychoanalyst status. By the late 1930s my client list included high-ranking members of the Nazi party.

19. And the icing on the cakes? In 1942, Sabina died in the Holocaust—but not before becoming a student and adherent of my chief rival, Sigmund Freud, and writing a seminal paper on a possible link between the urges towards sex and death. From this paper both Freud and I borrowed liberally, usually without attribution.

20. Ambivalent as I was to hear about Sabina’s demise, I found comfort in Epiphany cakes—delicious if you remember to bake them, and full of inspiration!

  • Epiphany #1: The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. Well, not for me.
  • Epiphany #2: The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
  • Epiphany #3: I am not what happens to me. I choose who I become.
  • Epiphany #4: As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

These cakes are cheesy, gritty, and yummy! And, heavens be praised, I have so many more recipes!

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This is from NIETZSCHE’S ANGEL FOOD CAKE: And Other “Recipes” for the Intellectually Famished, a gift book available in hardcoverpaperback, and Kindle

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