Sometimes I’m jealous of the squeaky wheel. Not that I want to be known as a complaining difficult person who somehow manages to monopolize the attention of others, but it would be nice to feel like you didn’t have to speak up, loudly, to get what you want. I know psychologically that’s a fantasy a lot of people don’t give up as they move from childhood to adulthood—that just like their mother, the world will know how to satisfy their needs before they even say a word. And I don’t think I have those regressive expectations, it’s just that so often I realize all it takes is one squeaker to change the behavior of an entire group.
For example, take my apartment building. Since I moved in 10 years ago I have never needed to turn on my radiator because the place runs so hot. But every time the subject of adjusting the boiler comes up the response by management is always, “everyone is cold.” Yet in my casual chit-chats with neighbors no one is shivering and most are sweating. So recently we distributed a building-wide survey and guess what? Of the residents who responded only three were chilly! That is three apartments out of 250! But those three had driven the superintendent so nuts, what with incessant phone calls and threats to call “the city” (whatever that means), that the staff relented just to keep them quiet. If only we hotties had squeaked as loudly as the coldies we might have gotten what we wanted: less (heating) oil!
The same thing is going on with our elevators. The doors stay open for what seems like forever and the “Door Close” button doesn’t work for civilians, only for the Fire Department during a please-don’t-ever-happen emergency. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in holding an elevator door open for anyone in a building that has four working at all times. I also don’t expect anyone to hold it open for me. But in our situation you don’t ever need to because the stupid door is timed to stay ajar long enough to accommodate the slower paced residents. Again, out of 250 apartments (and upwards of probably 400 actual people), there are only three who would be considered slower paced (read very old). I know I sound heartless, but these people are not sweet and thoughtful. They are all mean and no, they are not the ones who are cold. Why does everyone else have to be inconvenienced when by the time they shuffle to the elevator bank another one will have become available? Here’s why. Because one woman claimed the door almost shut on her hand and thus the timer was adjusted to suit her. Here’s an idea: don’t stick your hand into the path of a closing elevator door!
The squeaky wheel issue gets particularly heated when one is dealing with parents because the squeak is passive aggressive. It doesn’t need to be loud because it is always implied. Oh, and by parents I mean people who are about to become them, or just became them or have been them for many years. How about the pregnant women who act like they are the first ever to have gestated—from the details of each bodily change and food aversion to blaming every time they are late, lose something and forget something on their “insane hormones.” Or the new parents whose schedules of eating and sleeping mimic those of their kids. “Want to have lunch with us? The pizza place at 11:30am?” or “We can totally have dinner on the later side if you don’t mind coming to our house. At six. In Connecticut.” Far be it for childless me to say a word. It’s my job to be a good sport and accommodate. That really is the fate of the person dealing with the squeaker—making adjustments on behalf of the circumstances of the other.
I know I sound cranky about being (in)flexible and I’m not completely squeaky clean. I ask for accommodation when my sister has to drive me to Target because I don’t have a license and I expect patience from my dining companions when I grill a waiter on the garlic content of every item on the menu. But I don’t think I would ever be comfortable inconveniencing large groups of people when I’m just one.
But there are certain situations in which I am happy to accommodate the squeakiest wheel, especially when not doing so could result in the person literally squeaking for air. Yes we’re back to the Nutless Niece Two. My job as Passover dessert provider was adversely affected in that I had to forgo the traditional Nana Jose’s Chocolate Pecan Flourless Cake. But I would do anything for my nieces and I didn’t mind bringing back the cake I’d made before I discovered Nana Jose, courtesy of Nigella Lawson. Ironically, it is sometimes called an Easter Cake but that’s not my problem. It is flourless, rich, dense with great chocolate and in my version, topped with strawberries and cream. As far as I’m concerned, it’s completely appropriate for Passover. The only problem was that about 30 minutes into the Seder, Niece Two— who was sitting next to me so sweetly, turning the pages of her Haggadah when everyone else turned theirs (even though she can’t yet read) and placing the book on her lap just as I did when it came time to take the first sip of wine/grape juice—fell asleep in her chair. She missed her Grandma-made nut-free haroset and the chocolate cake, not to mention the search for the afikomen.
The next morning she insisted on getting back into her Seder duds, a solo matzoh hunt was constructed for her and she dug into her cake with abandon. After her rejection of last week’s Chocolate Caramel Matzoh Crunch my heart was as full as her belly. In the meantime I have squeaked to building management regarding the elevator door timers. My advice? Watch out for your hands.
Squeaky Wheel Flourless Chocolate Cake
adapted from Nigella Bites, Nigella Lawson 2002
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9 ounces dark chocolate, preferably 70% cacao, rough chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs (2 whole, 4 separated)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, optional
Zest of one orange
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, optional
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for sprinkling (optional)
Two cups berries of your choice (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9" springform cake pan with parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or a microwave, add the butter and let melt in the warm chocolate.
Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 1/3 cup of the sugar, then whisk in add the chocolate mixture, the orange-flavored liqueur (optional) and the orange zest.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the remaining sugar and whisk until the whites hold their shape but are not too stiff.
Lighten the chocolate mixture with a dollop of egg whites, and then fold in the rest of the whites.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the center is no long wobbly. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools.
Shortly before serving, place the still pan-bound cake on a cake stand or plate and carefully remove the sides of the pan from the cake. The cake will look slightly ragged and sunken. It's supposed to. Whip the cream until it makes very soft peaks and then add the vanilla and orange-flavored liqueur and continue whipping until the cream is firm but not too stiff. Fill the crater of the cake with the whipped cream, lightly spreading it out to near the edges. Top with either a dusting of cocoa or fresh berries.
Yield: 8-10 slices