I sometimes can’t help but laugh at myself. Well, “sometimes” is a bit of an understatement. Usually, though, it’s due largely to some sort of public embarrassment or Noosh publicizing my frequent foot-in-mouth slip-ups in the form of Facebook statuses for all of our mutual friends to shake their heads in dismay over.
(I’m sure many of my readers can attest.)
But other times, I put my hands on my hips, take a glance around the absurdity of the knick-knacks lining the walls and littering the floor of our apartment, and I can’t help but grin. It’s a caricature, really, of all the things Noosh and I have been obsessed with over the course of our time living together. (We’ve known each other for 12 years, and we still find ways to surprise ourselves with incredulity. The testament of a true friend.) Scrolls of Hogwarts houses sitting above the sofa; a gloriously life-sized, 6’2 cardboard cut-out of Tenth Doctor; TV shelf piled high with video game cases and movies from the ‘guy section’ of our cabinet, topped with the occasional chick-flick for good measure.
And as we both sit at our garage-sale-found wooden table, Macs in hand, Mumford & Sons blaring merrily (seasonal enough for us both), and Jared-the-faux-taxidermy-moose-head lying contentedly next to the Cookie & Biscuit Bible, I, again, can’t help but grin. Everyone’s world seems to be falling apart underneath their feet, what with finals looming and a frantic mad-dash to finish up job and grad school applications, but for now I’m content with Noosh flashing me cookie recipes (a la Tastespotting) for a weekend of baking and a beautifully acoustic cover of The Boxer humming in the background. My life philosophy has always been not to worry about any one thing more time than it takes an entire song to play through. Live in the present, don’t take any moment for granted, spend more energy on the good times, and things will fall into place. It’s the last time we have to spend together before real life intrudes, so make the most of it, yeah?
So, naturally, when O celebrated her 21st birthday last week while we were all home for break, I wanted to make up for a bit of lost time. Live in the moment, but don’t let a good one go wasted. She’s the last of us to turn 21 after all, and anyone younger than even me deserves some recognition.
Brownie Bottom Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares
Yields 24 squares
Ingredients for the brownie crust:
- 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 sticks butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup AP flour
Ingredients for the cheesecake topping:
- 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp
- 1 14-oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 tsp grated ginger (or 1/2 tsp ginger powder)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- pinch of ground cloves
Method to prepare the brownie crust:
Preheat oven to 350F and line and grease a 9×13-inch pan. In a medium bowl, melt the butter and chocolate until smooth, either over the stove or in the microwave. While the chocolate mixture is cooling, beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla in an electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Lower the speed and slowly pour in the chocolate mixture. Once incorporated, fold in the flour. Spread the brownie batter evenly along the base of the pan, and set aside.
Method to prepare the cheesecake topping:
Beat cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 mins. Lower the speed and slowly pour in the heavy cream. Beat until incorporated. Add the sugar and vanilla, and mix until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Measure out half a cup of the cream cheese mixture and set aside.
In remaining cheesecake, add the pumpkin and the spices, and beat until thoroughly blended. Carefully pour the pumpkin filling evenly over the brownie crust, and even it out with a spatula. Dollop the non-pumpkin-y cream cheese filling over the pumpkin filling, and swirl gently with a butter knife. Bake the cheesecake for 70-75 mins, until fully set. Allow dessert to come to room temperature, and refrigerate at least 4 hours before removing from the pan. Slice into squares before serving.
I do want to tell you a little bit about O. O and I have been friends for a few years now – we met our first year and got along more or less immediately. A few coffee dates and brunches around grounds every couple of months over the course of our time at uni have been a real treat, though the time we get to spend together is limited by class schedules and strikingly different extracurriculars. So, you know, O and I aren’t best friends by any means. We hardly see each other enough well enough for that.
The thing about people, though, is that they change you. Whether you want them to are not. Friends, strangers, coworkers, they all do, I think. They bring out sides of you that you never knew existed, and see something beautiful in you that others don’t always see. Some more than others, of course, and some stay with you well after others have drifted out of your life. That’s what people do.
O and I don’t have a long history. We met three years ago, and see each other a handful of times per semester. Primarily in passing, when we share a hug and a story or two, always with a promise to catch up over lunch or drinks. Half-hearted promises, at that; not out of indifference, by any means, but out of knowledge that there’s simply not enough time to do it. But, above it all, we care about one another.
And what I’ve learned after three years of friendship – one that I desperately wish life would allow more time for – is that O has changed me in more ways than most. More than those I see on a regular basis. More than those I have known beyond the three-odd years we’ve been here. More in ways that I can’t enumerate with mere words, because my experience knowing her has been absolutely remarkable beyond description.
But I do want you to know that O is a beautiful person. From the bottom of my heart, I mean it. And I want you to know that beautiful people are sometimes the ones that pass you by every once in a while, those that you don’t spend every moment of your life with, and those that cherish the moments that are shared.
I said before how I’ve made it my philosophy to live in the moment. But, you know, sometimes that means reflecting on all the people that have brought you where you are.
And sometimes, that makes you appreciate everything and everyone in a way you couldn’t have before.