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What I Want to Do When I Grow Up and That Pear and Toffee Cake I Dropped

May 2, 2011 · 48 comments

in Autumn,Baking,Changes,Desserts,Winter

pear and toffee cake on sasasunakku

You know how people say “If you were going to die in a year, what would you do?” to gauge what it is you should be doing in life? It doesn’t work on me. At all. I get even more confused. I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that my horror of committing to one kind of work for the rest of my life was an embarrassing character flaw. On good days I put it down to being a Renaissance (wo)man and on the bad I despair (though this article on “scanners” made me feel a lot more normal) and feel envious of more focussed souls. It’s not that I’m disorganised or lazy – I work hard at whatever I happen to be doing – I just can’t imagine working in the same field, or country, forever and ever amen.

To wit: When I was seventeen, I was accepted into fashion design school and instead studied Sociology and Politics at university because I was scared of having to be a fashion designer for the rest of my life, after which I considered studying to become a curator and journalism school. To give myself time to think, I taught English in Japan and sang in an electro-pop band, then moved to Thailand where I rented a house with enough space for a small studio to dance in. When I realised none of that was what I wanted to do as a job, I went back to New Zealand where I worked in a delicatessen kitchen after which I moved to the U.K to work in catering, spent time in France as a private chef and taught again in Japan, following which I thought about setting up my own kitchen in Austria but got cold feet and instead went back to teaching with a little Japanese to English translation on the side, and started this blog. I’ve moved between countries eight times. I started to find it emotionally and financially draining at least a few years back but have found myself inexorably driven to pack up and move again and again.

spicy pear and toffee cake sasasunakkuWhen I look at my friends who have found their niche and have been honing their craft or skills for the last five or ten years it’s easy to see how far they have come. With me, not so much – I know what I’m good at and it’s not that I feel my experience isn’t worthwhile but I could never figure out a single job that I felt would allow me to use enough of my disparate skills to be satisfying and I was loath to commit to further education just for the sake of it. I realise these are pretty first world problems; I’m privileged to have so options available to me and that’s certainly not true for most of the people in the world. Nevertheless, sometimes icy fingers grip my heart and squeeze and I wonder why I am the way I am.

For the last while though, things have been coalescing in my head. I decided to imagine the kind of work life I want instead of what job I should do and what I want is this; to be able to dictate my own hours to a large degree, to combine food and working with people, to have variety, and the flexibility to work from a computer anywhere in the world.

close-up pear cake sasasunakku

So I’m packing up, again, in June. This time, to head home to New Zealand and study nutrition at Massey University. Sasasunakku the blog will go on as usual, but eventually, I’m going to offer nutritional counselling for clients through the website as well – for women who are or hope to become pregnant, for sportspeople, for older folks and allergy sufferers; anyone who needs dietary advice. I also hope to write articles on nutrition for various publications and teach cooking classes in person and on video. It will take me two years to become qualified so it’s a long-term plan but this blog – which I would have given up long ago without all of you – has helped me figure this out, so thank you and I hope when the time comes, you will trust me to help you or refer friends and family to me.

There are a few things I’m a bit apprehensive about. First, F. has studies of his own which will keep him here in Austria for another year and being apart from him is going to be hard. You’ll be hearing a little about that, no doubt, though I’ll try and keep the whining to a minimum. Another thing I’m concerned about is being in a different hemisphere from a lot of my readers – I’m working on a few ideas about how to deal with the opposite seasons thing. I hope you’ll stick around.

Are you a scanner or are you focussed?

Upside Down Pear, Gingerbread and Toffee Cake

I think this recipe is from Sweet Food by Murdoch Books – another one from my scrapbooks before I started writing down which book recipes came from. You can see what it looks like if you drop it, like I did, here and it’s sufficiently unctuous to make a lovely dessert if served with cream or ice cream too.

For the Topping

75 grams (1/3 cup or 7/10 stick) butter

125 grams (generous half cup) brown sugar

4 firm but ripe pears

For the Gingerbread

175 grams (scant 1 1/2 cups) plain flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch cloves

2 eggs, beaten

175 grams (scant 9/10 cup) brown sugar

125 grams (1/3 cup) golden syrup

150 ml (scant 3/4 cup) milk

120 grams (1/2 cup or 1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 180 celsius (350 fahrenheit) and put a baking tray in the bottom of the oven in case the toffee bubbles over.

Butter and line a round 24 cm (9.5 inch) cake tin.

Melt the butter and sugar for the topping in a small pan until bubbly and pour evenly into the cake tin.

Peel, halve and core the pears and lay them, cut-side down, over the toffee with the bulbous end facing the edge of the cake tin.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves into a large bowl and make a well.

In another bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, syrup, milk and butter.

Pour the liquids into the well and stir until combined.

Pour the batter carefully and evenly over the pears so as not to move them and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and invert (without dropping!) onto a plate.

Print this recipe

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AML May 2, 2011 at 10:02 am

Dude. Wow. I like this. A lot. It really hits home for me. Some of things I have been going through lately, but haven’t really put into words I guess. It’s nice to see an even more personal side to you. Not that your blog isn’t already personal, but this was just a vulnerable side I haven’t seen too much of. I’m glad you shared your thoughts about uncertainty and change. Regardless of what you do or where you go-as long as you keep writing, I’ll keep reading. Keep it up, and good luck on the new journey. Not that you need luck. You’ll be just fine. :)

Maria @ Scandifoodie May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am

*PHEW* And here I thought my move from Finland to Australia was big – it’s nothing compared to what you’ve been up to! ;-) What a beautiful cake, I’m so glad you didn’t drop it!

Anna Johnston May 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

Double *PHEW*, I stressed & heart-wrenched when I gave up cheffing for Event Management, but like you have the blog to thank for the focus I do have. Good luck with your amazing plans Sass :) Worthy goals, big rewards methinks :)

diva May 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

Wow some of the things you mentioned resounded in me…the fashion school thing, but instead mine was slammed down by my parents. And the rockstar dream sorta never went anywhere either. Anyhow, I love that we’re all creative people. This cake is beautiful and anything that glistens, looks this rich and sticky is definitely YUMMY by my definition :D xx

Janae May 2, 2011 at 10:05 am

First off, congrats on your new endeavor, it sounds like a perfect blend of all the things you love; how exciting! Second, THANK YOU for writing this post, because I suffer from the exact same issues (I’m a scanner!) and for the longest time I thought I was crazy. I am constantly distracted, doing many things at once, etc. This has also impaired my career path because I simply can’t settle (or commit) to one thing. (The degree I got has thus been rendered useless.) Anyway, thanks again for such a relate-able post, and best of luck to you on this new adventure! You have a loyal reader in me, and I think it will be neat to read about life in NZ!

PS. That cake look beyond good, and as a new convert to pears, I’ll have to give it a spin sometime :)

hungryandfrozen May 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

Don’t feel bad about your indecision…heaps of people would be envious of the exciting and curly path you’ve taken through life on. And while you may not have honed any particular one skill, I’m sure wherever you end up, something you learned or absorbed while traveling round will help you in the process. This cake looks incredible – I can almost taste it while reading the recipe.

Three-Cookies May 2, 2011 at 10:10 am

Wow, lot of travelling. I’ve done the same but to a slightly lesser extent. Sure if affects career in one sense but it broadens the horizon and creates new opportunities which can benefit career… slightly contradictory I suppose! You are leaving when the weather is improving in Europe

shaz May 2, 2011 at 10:39 am

This post resonates with me a lot Sasa. I realise I must be a bit of a scanner too. Science, writing, childcare , graphic design, done them all. My mum used to get really frustrated at every new hobby I’d decided to take up, admonishing “jack of all trades, master of none “.

But I reckon we’re just brave yes ? :) Good luck in your newest adventure, looking forward to your tales from New Zealand.

And that cake, oh my, it looks sensational! No hint of being dropped at all.

Sasa May 2, 2011 at 12:14 pm

This isn’t the one I dropped! I made a new one ^_^

shaz May 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Ohhhhh, I didn’t follow the link that time. Ahh, now I see :)

flo May 2, 2011 at 10:41 am

I wanna stick around too. Nice CV! :) x

amber May 2, 2011 at 10:50 am

Hello, Sasa. I am feeling some of these things at the moment as my birthday and 10-year high-school reunion loom. I feel as though I should have accomplished more by now; however, when I read your story, I feel that you HAVE accomplished so much. Your life has been colourful and so wonderfully LIVED. You can’t trade that for anything.

I think that I am a scanner in some ways, but perhaps a very grounded one. I have always uhmm-ed and ahh-ed about career choices, and in the end have decided this: I want to work for myself and I want to bring assistance or joy to others’ lives.

I have daydreamed about all sort of creative jobs, like artist, dancer, and actor. At university I considered translation from German, but kicked the Deutsch studies after seven years to pursue Latin instead (and the point of that was…?). Like many Linguistics majors, I thought about pursuing a PhD and research career in language, or postgrad studies in either Speech Pathology or Audiology. I also considered Dietetics, Law, or Occupational Therapy. Somehow, through all of this, writing has continued to rise to the surface like globules of fat on a pot of stock (nice analogy, huh?). Writing always sneaks back and says, “Hey, this is what you love.”

I’m still at uni. I’m only beginning to build a career. I’m not married. Sometimes I feel like everybody has finished the marathon and I’m still shuffling through the first 100 metres.

But “slow and steady wins the race” is my new motto. I’ve realised that I’m not one of those teeth-gritting rabidly determined people who rampages through life to grab mercilessly at what they want. I have goals in mind, but I’m happy to edge closer to them while looking after my health and happiness first.

I firmly believe that making concrete plans is often not very useful. The very best things and the very worst things that happen to us in life are entirely unpredictable.

So, don’t despair! You are wonderful, and no matter what you do, your kindness, creativity, and vibrant personality will carry you forward!

Is Massey in Wellington? Should you move to NZ next year, I’ll come visit you fo’ shizzle!

PS I HAVE to make that cake.

Sasa May 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Massey’s in Auckland, come and visit!

Plum Kitchen May 2, 2011 at 11:09 am

Hello from another scanner:) I figure I wont know if I like something until I give try, so give it a try:) But I hear you on the commitment front, if I am an Anthropologist Cook Journalist Accountant will I also have time to write novels & lecture History? Is that Massey In Palmerston North or Albany???

Sasa May 2, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Albany! Not sure I could hack Palmy ;P

Sasa May 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I knew I liked you guys! Thanks so much for all your sweet and thoughtful comments x

My Little Expat Kitchen May 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I have always been interested in too many things for my own good. I am like you in a way, I have changed direction career-wise many many times (even sang in a electro/trip-hop band), studied psychology and music but was never fully satisfied, moved countries, always thinking that there is something else out there more appropriate for me. Blogging came suddenly in my life but it has ben one of the few constants in my life in a really long time.
Change is good. So, good for you Sasa for moving countries and deciding to go to school again! I’m sure it will be hard leaving loved ones behind but not so much when you have Skype huh? :)

Mary May 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Your past and your future both sound exciting. This is my first visit to your site and I’ve spent some time exploring what you offer here. I really like the food and recipes you feature and I’ll definitely be back. You’ve created a lovely spot for your readers and I really enjoyed my visit here. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

Nic@diningwithastud May 3, 2011 at 12:46 am

I’m totally a scanner lol! It amazes me how people know from very young what their path is. I think its great for them but it makes me a little jealous to be honest. In saying that, I love trying new things all the time and the freedom that brings me.
Your cake looks so fab :)

Alessandra May 3, 2011 at 2:56 am

I think that I still want to be a Renaissance woman, juggling lots of different arts and craft, books and facts, science and singing…. I can assure you that you will get there when you will become a Mum! hahaha!

Good on you for coming back to NZ to settle on one subject (for now). The fact is that when you are traveling and living overseas you often end up doing a million different things. For me NZ is still overseas though… in a way. This is a place where you need to ‘invent’ yourself a little, but the great thing is that you can :-).


Sasa May 4, 2011 at 9:50 am

It’s not that I don’t want to be a Renaissance woman anymore, I don’t think that’s something one can change anyway! It’s more that I wanted to find something I felt comfortable committing to studying that would fit in with the kind of flexible lifestyle I want and I’m glad I found it ^_^

Kocinera May 3, 2011 at 6:32 am

Dood. We are so kindred spirits. I am so excited to hear that there are fellow “scanners” in the world! I constantly vacillate between different career ideas and, at the moment, college majors (nutrition being one of them). Even though I know culinary school is in the cards, I honestly have no idea what I want to do with it afterwards. However, as evidenced by all of your cool travel experience, not nailing down a single, ultimate life’s work leads to some pretty fantastic adventures. I know I could become a pharmacist in a snap, but I also know that it’s not what I want. And that has been a great help for me personally as a scanner type. Instead of waffling between different things that I might want, I stop and eliminate all of the things that I don’t want, and that usually helps make things much more manageable. Can’t wait to hear about all of your new nutrition adventures!!

Carla May 3, 2011 at 8:23 am

Oh, yay for me not being the only “scanner” out there!
Mind, I was sure I wasn’t the only one, but I somehow felt that most people know what they want to be, where they want to be it and when.

I kind of do and I don’t and at the moment I’m evaluating where I could move to next from London.

Good luck with the move, the going back to studying and I look forward to reading all about it!

sakura May 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I’m just like you and called myself a Rennaisance Woman until I realised I was actually just scared of committing most of the time. I used to feel that I was the only one amongst my friends who was going nowhere and often had that feeling of icy fingers squeezing my heart. But you know, there’s nothing wrong with it. I recall a conversation with my dad many years back when I confessed that I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life (even though I was on course for an academic career) and he said that he still didn’t know whether what he was doing was really the thing he wanted. And this was from someone with a solid career in the UN. Made me realised that we aren’t alone:)

But congratulations for starting something new. It’s scary but exciting, isn’t it? And I wouldn’t worry about your blog. It’s fabulous and your readers aren’t going anywhere!

Dennis May 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hi Sasa, I always thought finding and doing what you’re passionate about was what’s important, the expertly honed skills will eventually come in time… :) Great post.

Mel May 3, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Awesome post to read. Do what you love…… it will always be the right thing. :) Excited for you!

Carolyn Jung May 4, 2011 at 12:35 am

I think it’s the lucky few who know from Day One what they want to do with their life. The rest of us find it by luck or happenstance or dipping our toe into various waters first. I think the best thing to do is to go with your gut instinct. Only you really know what you love doing. And work takes up so much of a person’s life that your job really ought to be something you love — if you can help it. ;)

Linno May 4, 2011 at 1:55 am

Great post, I feel a real affinity with your words, I’ve never known what I wanted to do as a career. Still don’t. But I’m happy with making the most of whatever situation (or city) I’m in. However I do kinda envy people who have clear goals. So congrats on your decisions and good luck for your move! Nutritional counselling sounds like a great choice. I have Ulcerative Colitis (type of bowel disease) and I always wonder if certain foods or type of diet would be beneficial. So yeah,I may be making use of your services one day. :P

Sasa May 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

Oh yay! Maybe a first client ^_^

Charmian @Christie's Corner May 4, 2011 at 3:07 am

If it makes you feel better, I dropped a peach and blueberry upside-down can as I was heading out the door to do a TV segment. No time to remake it.

I’m a scanner who’s learning to focus. Out of curiosity, are you an ENFP (Myers- Briggs test)? I suspect you are. I am. According to the data, it’s in our nature to career hop, so you’re normal — for an ENFP.

Sasa May 4, 2011 at 9:54 am

Never taken a personality test! Would be curious to do it though.
How awful about dropping it, what did you do?

Jess May 4, 2011 at 4:28 am

Hey, Sasa. You’ve written about all of this so beautifully. I’m excited for you. This next move of yours sounds great, and I’m so happy that writing in this space will continue to be a part of what you do.

The Grubworm May 4, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I would never regard what you’ve found out about yourself in a negative light. I think you have thus far led an enviably interesting and varied life – keep it up. I recognise the feelings though, I’m on career number four, although always in the same country, am gearing up to move out of London, and constantly have itchy feet, metaphorically that is ;).

Your description of what you want from life sounds familiar. My struggle has been finding a job which lets me explore what I want to (within the parameters of that job), which I have now found, and also that gives me the time and flexibility to do what else I want to, mainly around writing and food (working on that one).

Your move sounds very exciting indeed, although I’m sorry that visits to the dear old UK may be somewhat restricted. As for opposite hemispheres, well, that’s what blogs are made for, right?

Shelley May 5, 2011 at 2:11 am

You’re cake looks terrific! And much luck on the upcoming move. Thanks for stopping by my blog so that I could discover yours.

Kimberley May 7, 2011 at 2:29 am

Okay, so, the other night before going to bed, I wanted a little more internet. And I thought, what type of internet would be a suitable end-of-day read? And came here. And read this. It makes me like you even more. I have such a similarly broad, rather unfocused path. And have even considered pursuing nutrition! I can’t wait to hear about your continued adventures.

Arfi May 7, 2011 at 2:35 am

Oh, I made that pear upside-down cake. It was so delicious! Love your writing.

Mairi @ Toast May 7, 2011 at 10:25 am

Cannot believe how many times you have moved! Look forward to catching up in June.

emm May 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

You are not a Gemini by any chance ;-)
I am not, but I know plenty who are. I’m very similar, always wanting change. You always want what you don’t have, seriously. All I craved when I was travelling and living overseas was stability and a regular income. Now that I have that, I wish I had traveled more before having kids and settling down!?! It’s human nature I guess. Those of my friends who studied straight after leaving school, never traveled etc would envy your life! Even if they are now sitting in their mansions with the hefty pay packet to boot. I think everyone feels uncertain about their life to some degree. Thanks for sharing, and all the best for your journey back home to NZ, I have no doubt that your readers will still follow you, opposite seasons or not. xxx

Couscous & Consciousness May 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Think I’m definitely a bit of a scanner – I’ve chopped and changed a lot on my career path – I think some of us are just not meant to do the same thing forever!

Looking forward to you coming back to Auckland and to catching up some time in July after I get back from 5 weeks in Greece (won’t that be hard)!!

Thanks for dropping by my blog today – it’s good to be blogging again, and starting to catch up with all my wonderful bloggie friends.

Sue xo

Emma May 12, 2011 at 4:04 am

Gah, yes, I completely identify as a Scanner! Nice to know that someone coined a term for all of us. Finding “one thing” and sticking with it forever has never been my cup of tea, but I certainly respect those who can do it (i.e.: my parents!)

Best of luck with your new path! Looking forward to reports from the front lines of nutrition education, and of course more Japanese food onomatopoeia. ^_^

Emily May 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I’m sure your readers will follow you wherever you go because of your wonderful writing and recipes, I know for sure that I will. Thanks for the mention, you put into words exactly how I often feel and it’s so good to know you’re not alone. I think it’s good that you’ve decided on a new direction, just swallow hard, take a deep breath and keep going.

Suzy May 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Scanner. I used to feel bad about it, then I got over it. It’s true, I don’t do one thing very very well but I do a lot of things.
It’s the same when I eat at a restaurant. Rather than committing to one heavy main course, I would much rather try 5 small plates.

Mel May 19, 2011 at 12:52 pm

LOVE the look of this cake, cant wait to make it!
It sounds like you’ve done so much in your life, and I love how you’re now bringing that down to food an helping people. I’ve just moved from NZ to Melbourne to do a Masters in Dietetics.. believe me, you’ve made the right choice. There are so many things you can do with dietetics and nutrition, its exciting to know I wont be restricted to just one area. Good on you and good luck!

Quay Po Cooks May 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Most young people are scanners nowadays because they have the privilege to be. There is no good or bad here. You are young and you have the time to scan some more:D I think it is better to keep on scanning till you find what you really want than to focus on the wrong thing too early, got stuck and regret for the rest of your life.

Renee May 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I came across this recipe on foodgawker. OMG I think I acutally said ‘eek’ when I saw it. I love all these foods and bringing ‘em together sounds delish. Not to mention our grocery story had asian pears on sale right now which could also be substitued for the pears (only b/c they are on sale though, I LOVE LOVE LOVE fresh pears). Thanks

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