The Chocolate Cake (A Second Helping)
July 6, 2016
I very much enjoy writing my monthly blogs, which are more or less on the subject of music. And I’m always gratified and encouraged to continue by the many reader comments.
An unexpected and delightful surprise—a fringe benefit, you might say—are the stories that come back to me in response. For example, when I wrote about the great violinist Jascha Heifetz, a reader told me about his 18-year-old mother who had played oboe in the Houston Symphony when Heifetz performed the Brahms Concerto with them. Another example: My story about singing duets with our musical dog, Tessa, brought many responses from people with their own musical dogs.
Last month’s blog, “The Chocolate Cake,” was no exception. The story concerned music, a young woman in love, her panicky phone call to master chef Scott Peacock, and an adventure with his magnificent chocolate cake recipe.
I did not know Scott Peacock and I had no expectation of ever knowing him. But thanks to the posting of “The Chocolate Cake” story, I know Scott Peacock now. My friend Marion Nestle, who knows Peacock well, read the blog and sent it on to him. He responded to her, she responded to me, and finally, Scott Peacock and I responded to each other. Not only that. The formerly panicky young woman was able to thank Scott Peacock directly for her success, romantic and otherwise, with the cake.
Is this a matter of unintended consequences, of six degrees of separation, or a combination of both? In any case, I loved the surprise of it all and the stirring connections that materialized out of the internet’s extremely thin air. Here is Scott Peacock’s letter to me:
Dear Mr. Steinhardt,
The marvelous Marion Nestle, with whom I am told you attended high school, sent me your also marvelous essay, “The Chocolate Cake.”
To hear from Marion is always a treat and she was emphatic that I stop everything and read the essay straight away, which I did, and could not have been more surprised, delighted, even happily stunned.
It was some time ago—I actually left Watershed more than six years ago now—but I do indeed remember the phone call with your friend that you detailed in your essay. It was meaningful to me, though I’ve not had reason to remember it in years until I received Marion’s email.
But as much more than anything, knowing that you have made and make the cake, exalted sir, is more thrill and honor than I can say.
I am a failed music major when unprepared for my trombone lessons in college (a frequent occurrence), would stay up all night, not practicing, but baking. It worked for a while, but eventually even warm baked goods weren’t enough and I had to figure out a path other than music. It was devastating at the time, but I’m pleased and grateful with the way things turned out.
Still, music has and always will be one of the greatest pleasures and sustaining forces in my life. So thank you, for your great artistry, the tremendous beauty you bring to the world, and for “The Chocolate Cake,” which has made my year so far!
Grateful and warm regards,
Reading Scott Peacock’s letter quite overwhelmed me. What power stories have in connecting friends, creating new ones, and even changing lives! Because of Barbara Queen’s story, I know Scott Peacock, I know some of his own remarkable story in return, and many more people now have the recipe for the world’s greatest chocolate cake. Imagine! I’ve performed a public service, and by the way, so has Peacock, unwittingly in return. His personal story is instructive for any young person learning a profession, music or otherwise. Practicing the trombone might lead to a job in the New York Philharmonic, but also to a brilliant career as chef in a great restaurant across the street from Lincoln Center.
I do not receive material recompense of any kind for my stories, but “The Chocolate Cake” will be an exception. Scott Peacock is sending me “The Gift of Southern Cooking,” the cookbook he wrote with his friend Edna Lewis.
I can’t wait.
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This story absolutely warmed my heart. Having not had a chance to read the first “Chocolate Cake” story, I scrambled back to read through what had transpired then, and the results of getting to meet Scott Peacock now. What a lovely confluence of events. We truly are all connected!
Thanks for continuing to ‘bake’ such lovely stories for us to read each month, Arnold, and for continuing to inspire. My father would have especially loved all of the international food references after each concert, from the cake story previously!
This made me smile. (…and want chocolate cake!)
I Love how this story has evolved! What fun!
It brings to mind one such unexpected event from my own life.
It happened after years of teaching the Conus concerto to literally scores of students. I more than did my duty with that piece… So, one evening I found myself defending it from its many critics on an online violin forum.
Imagine my surprise when months later my phone rang and upon answering heard: ” My name is Emil Conus, grandson of Jules Conus. I want to thank you fir the kind words you wrote about his violin concerto…” It made my year! ?
Wow! We are open letters to this world. What a wonderful encounter with Mr. Peacock. I know that food has to have a connection with music. I enjoy both for sure. I wonder how many famous composers titled theirs pieces with food names…I know the other way around food name like famous musicians, my favorite Paganini’s Ravioli…. I love your blog Mr. Steinhardt.
Here is the link
This devoted reader can’t get enough of your strawberries. This story made me wonder tho: are there more sequels ripe for the picking? Perhaps there is more to the story of the Coliseum soprano? I would have to review the entire flat of strawberries to be certain, but I think that’s my favorite so far. Don’t be shy about crossing over into fiction if need be to keep us fed. :)
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