Help! I Feel Trapped

Humor and creativity as coronavirus resources.

Posted Mar 26, 2020

I’m finding that humor, in addition to my meditation practice, is helping me cope these days. I was just reading an essay on families suffering from cabin fever. Yup. At this point in our collective sheltering in place, we are getting on each other’s nerves. It is especially hard for those in small apartments. We are even getting annoyed with our pets. And our kids especially seem to be driving us bonkers. All that energy and no place to go! One dad humorously posted on Instagram that his kids were “for sale, like new.”

So many of us are feeling this. As clinicians might joke, we need to “spread out the transference” but that is hard to do when we are bound together 24/7 for the foreseeable future. Even a meditation teacher (with a dark sense of humor) sent me a clip about partners having enough of each other. In this fictional exchange, an authority says to a young man, “Because of the coronavirus you will be quarantined. You have a choice. Do you choose A, which is to be quarantined with your wife and child…” The man cuts him off before he can say another word and replies, “B. I choose B.” Even loving and kind meditation teachers can relate. This is hard for everyone.

The other thing that is helping me is baking. Some call it procrastibaking, others call it anxiety baking. I like to think of it as a bit of sanity and creativity. As I was trying to find easy recipes to feed my family, I remembered the protagonist in the movie (and play) Waitress. She’s working in a restaurant and bakes and names pies that express her moods and her frustrations. A number of them are relevant now, such as “Bad Baby Pie” or “Kick in the Ass Pie,” or even “I Hate My Husband Pie.”

So, inspired by Waitress and the cooking muse Melissa Clark (who has helped me survive many a Thanksgiving and Christmas), I created a “Help Me I Feel Trapped Cake.” (I never mastered a pie crust. They look like something a 2-year-old made).

You can call the cake anything you like, such as “The Kids, Partner, Dog (fill in the blank) Are Driving Me Crazy.” Be creative. And feel to change or add your own ingredients. This cake is forgiving.

Help! I Feel Trapped Cake

(with apologies to Melissa Clark and gratitude for her Campari Olive Oil Cake)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup mild olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup Aperol or Cointreau
  • 1 tablespoon grated grapefruit zest
  • 1 tablespoon grated blood orange (or regular orange)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sour cream or whipped cream for serving

Preparation

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. You can use a regular 9-inch pan, but the cake is harder to unmold.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, milk, oil, eggs, Aperol, citrus zest, and citrus juices. Fold in the dry ingredients, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake until the top is golden and spring back when pressed in the center, about 45 minutes to an hour. (A toothpick might emerge with some crumbs).

4. Let the cake cool in the pan. Run a butter knife around the edges and release the sides. Serve with berries and cream if you like. Feel free to share with those who have been getting on your nerves. It will help.

And finally, while eating your cake, turn on your coronavirus playlist and dance. Invite your family to join. My favorites are "Don’t Stand So Close to Me" (the Police) and "Gimme Shelter" (Rolling Stones). If you really need space, or are living alone, try "Dancing with Myself" (Billy Idol). 

And remember what the wise sages have told us: “This, too, will pass.” Eventually.