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  • By Susan Welsh

On the eve of 55. . .

One lustrum and 5 decades ago, several new things were launched into the new world: The Sharpie pen, Lucky Charms, and Benihana’s Hibachi shrimp. That same year I arrived, with the assistance of vacuum extraction, at 12:43 pm at the "crown jewel of army posts"-- Fort Ord, located on the Monterey Bay Peninsula. My mother claims she was in the middle of baking a Ritz mock apple pie when she went into labor—quite possibly one of the sources for my unwavering love of pie.

Welsh's Wines-- watercolor by Irma Fuhr

In the Fibonacci sequence 55 is the 10th number, which is neither here nor there, but since I once taught math and find comfort in patterns, there you have it. I also once sold wine at Welsh’s Fine Wines, the business started by my grandfather soon after prohibition (and truth be told, before that, when it was called a “candy store”). So I always think of years in terms of vintages and 1964 was a very good year for champagne, but it was a brilliant year for Rioja; it is considered one of the best of the 20th century, in fact.

In my 55th year I intend to finish my first novel, plant an apricot tree, make more ice cream and lift weights more often—the endless balancing of my love of food, my caloric intake and the number of repetitions to keep it all in equilibrium. . .many of you have been there, right?

Antithetical to all that, what I’m really thinking about today is cake. What kind of cake do I want to put those 55 candles on top of this week? I’m leaning towards chocolate and although I’ll make mine from scratch, my thoughts are with Duncan Hines (of cake mix fame) who wrote his first food and hotel guides at the age of 55!

Once we both fully retire, I’m going to ask Steph to join me on the road (if you know me, you’ll know I’ll ask her to drive, too). Like Hines, we can travel across the country sampling the food at local restaurants and compiling lists for our friends and family. And you know we’ll let you in on the best chocolate cakes to be found in this universe. If you care to join me this week to celebrate, bring some champagne, and of course, some chocolate cake.

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