I am about to make a cheesecake. I retrieve the tomb that hides within it, the recipe I desire. And I gasp. There is a page missing. Page 695, from my "New York Times Cook Book" held, with grace and form, the recipe for the most perfectly balanced, impressive looking cheesecake ever. And it's gone; ripped brutally, undoubtedly by some villain under cover of night, or at least poor lighting. He couldn't have settled for page 697. He missed that gem. It has a recipe for "Christmas Cheesecake" on it. It's a horrible recipe. 'Candied fruit in it. It might as well have a half cup of velour track suit in it. I don't understand candied fruit. I am always surprised when someone uses it in anything. I always assume that they do so only at gunpoint; a gun held by the same bastard that took my page.
I have promised to make a cheesecake so I endure. I look to another cookbook and fine a similar recipe. Similar, but not the same:
20 graham crackers, broken and ashamed. I found these hanging around a bus station.
1/2 cup chilled, unsalted, unloved butter. Whatever.
1/2 cup tedious brown sugar.
If I remember correctly, my page 695 recipe demanded, something like:
50 butterfly wings, used only slightly.
1 galaxy of constellation nectar.
1/2 an ocean of the tears from the gods, shed after laughing so hard at Zeus when he accidently tucks his skirt into his underwear.
Mix, whichever recipe you choose, in a food processor using the pulse setting. Spread evenly over the bottom and two inches up the sides of a big spring-form pan. Bake at 350 degrees for eight minutes. Throw under a bus. Or, cool on the hint of evening.
For the filling:
4 packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese...warmed in a boot.
1 3/4 cups sugar stolen in packets from diners.
3 tblspns fresh lemon juice, ...I got nuthin'.
1 tblspn real vanilla extract or the fake stuff which is, I'm sure rubber sweat scrapped from somebody's tires on a hot day.
1/8 tsp salt taken from the steering wheel of the 5:05 from Union Station.
3 tblspns all purpose flour. Remember, it's "all purpose." 'Handy to know if you need something to, uhm, soothe a dolphin or calm 25 butterflies that have had their wings stolen.
5 large eggs, from intense, over-achieving chickens.
Or, if I remember correctly, page 695 listed:
The creamy froth from the waves of joy that pound, all day on the beaches of calm that you hear in yoga tapes.
A sweet selection of hummingbird jokes...told by hummingbirds.
The sour from the "Sweet Tarts" that you ate as a kid. Include the pucker effect. (You're salivating just thinking of that aren't you!)
Use vanilla, but don't extract it. Get the volunteer stuff...let it come to you.
Not flour, but the sound of the wind as it moves through wheat standing in the field under the prairie sun. Wind kissed by butterflies.
Salt from butterfly sweat; the same ones in the field, not the ones without wings.
Use several great gobs of inspiration, funneled through imagination and desire.
Mix whichever ingredients you choose, pour into the crust, and bake in the oven until the surface starts to brown. Or, as on page 695, you are moved to compose a symphony.
Let this cool slowly. Depending on your choice, refrigerate in a cooler full of old beer cans. OR, a glade visited by elves and centaurs, of an evening.
And tomorrow, adorn your cheesecake with, oh, maybe "Dunkaroos." Or, as I remember from page 695, use the procedure for luring the best chocolate in the world directly to the cheesecake using the static electricity generated by playing any Stevie Wonder record. Melt it with the heat from Daniel Craig in that bathing suit in the "Bond" film, or something like Liz Taylor in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and cool it with the cool that came from watching the world premiere of "Thriller" on TV.
So take your pick. One of these recipes is really great. The other is totally ridiculous. Page thief be damned.