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the winding path

Savory Cake | Delightful Crumb I’ve not yet read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (though I assure you it’s on my list!), but I’ve heard secondhand one of the author’s suggestions: to visualize our careers as jungle gyms rather than ladders. A ladder is the old analogy, of course, with one way up and not much to look at save the back of the person ahead of you. But the present can be a jungle gym, with many ways to climb, varying lengths of the journey, plenty of room for creativity and people engaged with one another all the way.

It’s a good image, I think. And it’s affirming for me, as I am definitely not on a ladder right now.

I relayed all of this to a friend not long ago, and she quickly responded, “But there’s still a top.” It’s true, isn’t it? We still think there is a top, a place to reach, a moment when we have been successful, we have won, we have arrived. I believe it unconsciously, realizing this only when I’m being particularly introspective, or when someone is there to see it and call me out.

Because this, of course, is bunk. Over black coffee and delicious pastries this morning, another friend told me that after explaining her work at a coffee shop and as a personal trainer, she’s been met with confused faces and responses that suggest, subtly or not, That’s not a career path. “But I’m happy,” she says. “Isn’t that better?”

Yes. It is so, so much better.

Savory Cake | Delightful CrumbThe point of things is not the traditional definition of success; it’s not a career or a title or a lifestyle that indicates a hefty salary. That which is beautiful has little to do with any of this. The beautiful things come along the way—laughter on hard days, good wine shared with friends, a favorite restaurant, falling in love, a long embrace from a two-year-old, the way it feels to go back home, wedding vows on a hot summer afternoon, pie and ice cream, continuing on when you’d rather not.

I do want a career. And I want a really good journey. But more than anything else, I want a life filled with that sort of beauty.

To that end, I’m trying to dismiss the idea of a top while wholeheartedly embracing the haphazardness granted by the image of the jungle gym. I finally, actually believe that the winding path is a legitimate way! It was a long fight for me to get past the opposing viewpoint, firmly asserted by previous employers, and the fact that I grew up watching my professional models climb ladders. But I believe it. And it’s a good thing, since it appears this is my lot, at least for the present moment.

Now. Winding journeys, you may be aware, call for sustenance. For that, I offer you this savory cake, which is perfect for a picnic or a day trip or cocktail hour or, frankly, a pretty solid meal if you eat a couple slices. May it nourish you as you go—preferably the haphazard, unexpected way.

Savory Cake | Delightful Crumb

Feta & Olive Savory Cake

Adapted from Yvette Van Boven‘s Home Made Summer

Makes 1 loaf

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or use all-purpose)

2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for the pan

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100 ml) white wine

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup (100 grams) coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

150 grams feta cheese, diced

250 grams mixed olives, pitted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease a 9-by-5-inch (or similar) loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Add the oil, wine, eggs and Parmesan and whisk until smooth. Season with pepper and stir in the feta and olives.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cake can be kept for several days in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped.

Savory Cake | Delightful Crumb

8 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. Perfect & so true. There’s so much focus on reaching the next rung up that sometimes we forget to stop and look at the view from where we are. Here’s to a jungle gym of a career/life!

  2. Not too interested at this point in my life to have a career however I do work part-time at a library and it gives me a good opportunity to smile, greet people and give an encouraging word when prompted. I love to take walks to see and hear nature and to see those in my village. It is the simple life for me :) Love it!!

    The recipe sounds delish. I might try making it with gluten free flours. Thanks!

    Have a beautiful day!!

  3. beautiful. So true and I hope that even in the moments you don’t believe the jungle gym is right, that you come back to it. I argue the same within myself, wondering what on earth I’m doing, where my “top” is. The only sense I can make of it is that in retrospect, the path I’ve led so far, hasn’t been particularly linear and it’s worked out. I hope the winding path continues to do so or at least when it doesn’t feel like it, that I can look back and see the jungle gym route that made sense in some way. Always love reading your writing, pretty lady

  4. I can’t explain how perfect this looks! Absoloutely amazing – I definitely need to make this ASAP!
    If you have a moment, do you mind checking out my blog? Thank you :)

  5. Thank you for this. (The bread looks delicious, too.) This may sound odd, but some days I feel like I’m on the ladder, and wishing for the jungle gym!

  6. YES. From someone who hasn’t been on the path, ladder or otherwise, that most people say is normal for a long time (maybe ever?), I just want to say that I am increasingly convinced all the talk about “What’s your career?” and “How successful are you?” are just cloaks and disguises to make unhappy people feel better about their lives. My dad told me when I was younger that the people who love their jobs don’t have to make you feel bad about yours; they’re secure about theirs and don’t need to talk about it to prove it. I’ve seen that to be true over and over again. We think everybody’s approval and high five will finally give us the affirmation we’re looking for; but it was always our own joy in what we’re doing that we were after. What a gift to see that now, before you waste your life doing something you’ll regret.

  7. Lean In is a great book – whether or not you like Sandberg. I did the audiobook at the beginning of the summer and just whizzed through it. As an ambitious young woman, these were the message I was waiting to hear. She captured dynamics I was watching but not understanding: friends leaving their careers before they were even pregnant, bullshit women’s mentoring programs, husbands and partners not pulling their weight on the homefront.

    But I agree with you that life is much more than career. It’s also about accepting yourself, making time for family and friends, and learning to be present for every moment. Spending time on cooking — cooking anything really! — is a big part of that. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Looking forward to hearing what you think once you’ve read the book!

  8. I just made this, thank you for the recipe! While my loaf is certainly not as pretty as yours, it is delicious and I will definitely put this savory cake into rotation!