* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we prefer to avoid direct conflict at any cost. Oddly enough, this is one trait that master chef Elizabeth Bastos shares with us.

The Passive-Aggressive Recipe

By: Elizabeth Bastos


For Meyer Lemon cake:

3 cups cake flour, double sifted through fine mesh (pretend like you even care).
2 cups granulated sugar
The juice and rind of 3 Meyer lemons
Whatever milk you have on hand, in whatever amount

For Lavender cream:

3 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup crushed organic lavender buds, from the garden
What? Everybody has an organic herb garden. Your neighbors Brad and Nancy have one. And they’re very busy, successful cardiologists.

Equipment: One 8-inch springform pan
But if you have a 7-inch or a 9-inch, things might still be possible.
Sure, if you clap your hands and believe in fairies.

Garnish: confectioner’s sugar, but really, the whole idea of garnishing anything is exhausting.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the springform pan.

Double sifting is just a suggestion. I’m sorry I asked, actually.

I just wanted your “Light Meyer Lemon Cake” to be the best, and I made the mistake of thinking that you did too.

I guess you’re not really a serious a home baker, though I’ve heard you many times at cocktail parties bragging about your “canapés.”

When you say there were no Meyer lemons at the green market and have substituted regular lemons, I say that your social anxiety got the better of you. Meyer lemons are available to those who have courage.

Eleanor Roosevelt would have come home with the right kind of lemons, I’m just saying. You have several magnets with quotes from her on your fridge; I incorrectly assumed she was some kind of hero to you.

Use the balloon whisk on them. BEAT THEM. What you’re doing looks more like coddling the eggs.

I’m sorry. You’re overworked as it is; with the kids…do what you want with the eggs. Don’t even bother separating them, if it’s too much work: you have congenitally thin, delicate wrists.

Since when were delicate wrists a medical condition? If you don’t separate the eggs, you bring shame to your grandmother’s apron and to Ruth Reichl. You called her “goddess” on your infrequently updated little food blog. It had a really cute little name, Sugar Buns? No. Baby Cakes? That wasn’t it? No?

I specifically called for parchment paper and you don’t have parchment paper, let me ask you something: is everything all right in your marriage?

Oh, my goodness, I’m sorry. I was way too personal. I got worked up about the parchment paper and it was thoughtless of me. You of all people don’t need the stress of specialty baking items: you’ve achieved this much without many of the most important ones.

There, there. Why don’t you just bag cooking from scratch? Go take a nice hot bath.


Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Like there isn’t much difference between fresh homemade cake and the frozen square of Pepperidge Farm, shipped in from North Jersey, with lots of preservatives that might give your kids tumors. What kind of mother are you? Get yourself together and get in the kitchen.

But when I say scant teaspoon of vanilla, what I mean is we’re friends, right? No hard feelings: you go ahead and decide how much vanilla, sweetie.

Serves: 1-18, depending on how you slice it.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, a bucolic safe house for those in full retreat from reality. This week please welcome Elizabeth Bastos, whose first piece for us shows that, while she may be somewhat behind the times, she is always up front.

Holiday News From The Bastos Household

By: Elizabeth Bastos

I meant to write this in time for it to get to you in December for the holidays, friends, but there has been so much going on since we turned urban homesteaders. We do a lot of our own canning now and it took us the whole month of December to lay down the late fall kale crop so, sorry. Also, it’s taken longer than expected for the kids to train our Golden Retriever to deliver the mail, so please don’t fear him or take a broom to him; he’s just waiting by your door for a tip. Simply say, “A Bientot, Emil,” and send him on his way, reattaching his little rucksack. You could put a rawhide in it, if you have one.

I’ll come right out and say it: at first our decision to homestead was about the economy. I was laid off from writing my novel. But there is opportunity at every crossroads, and I discovered what people are calling “the farm to table pipeline.” I followed the egg man from the Giant, all the way back to a warehouse in New Jersey after I picked up the kids from school like I usually do on my retrofitted cold-weather bike with panniers. The kids wondered what we were doing, but this is the other part of my journey: home schooling.

Like a hand in a glove; home schooling and homesteading go together, though the kids don’t see it yet, how important it is for them to learn to milk Madame Milch. Yes, of course we have a cow! And an apple orchard! Madame Milch lives in our bathroom that we converted to a stall. We go out back, where we’ve a rough-hewn outhouse, just like in olden times. The kids’ friends say that it’s only at our house that they follow a staked line of twine back to bed and they love it.

We’ve learned — as we could not have in a “traditional classroom” — that chickens come from eggs. My kids were like, wow. Can you strap us back into our panniers for the bike home now? Mom? We’re hungry. I produced from my rucksack home-smoked venison jerky, from the 10 point buck their daddy shot in Patterson Park before we knew what we know now about permits, public parks, and hunting seasons. This is the chaw of your forbears, I told them. Appreciate the taste and the calories because I don’t know if daddy shot any rabbits at the suburban office park for dinner.

There was silence and peace for twenty minutes. Do you all have these moments of peace? I doubt it. You all are still in the rat race, drinking from CapriSun pouches, your kids in the back seat of your car fighting for the attention that you don’t have to give. Not me, though. I bartered like, 200 pounds of kale for the lambs that gambol on my lawn. I have bundles of foraged, hand-tied lavender and other herbs hanging from the exposed beams in my kitchen. This is the life.

I get up early to feed the wild hogs that bed down in what was formerly my daughter’s bedroom. She sleeps with us now. So does my son. All of us in the same bed, the way it’s meant to be. The kids are so much better behaved and I believe co-sleeping is the reason. Why, anything but the family bed is unnatural and cold! And by huddling together under a handmade afghan made of celery stalks and watching no more television, we’re saving energy. What are you doing for Tierra Madre, friends? Think about at least composting your cashmere sweaters and gourmet food and shelter magazines.

All the best from our household to you and yours during this season of spring abundance and until after the hog slaughtering season!

The Bastoses

P.S. If you have a hatchet and some elbow grease to lend, come on over — don’t call first. Our hogs ate our phone and that’s just the way we like it.