Literary recipe: Nectarine and berry upside-down cake inspired by “1Q84”
Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 is a love story. Sure, it's also a book about an assassin massage therapist, a writer with an Oedipus complex and a cult founded on multi-dimensional “Little People” who crawled out of a dead goat's mouth. However, as the character Aomame says, “At my core, there is love.”
Aomame finds herself in an alternate reality after climbing down the emergency exit ladder of a freeway overpass. Certain she's no longer in the 1984 she came from, she dubs this strange world “1Q84.” The novel flips back and forth between the points of view of Aomame and Tengo, a writer tasked with reworking a story written by a teenager. Aomame and Tengo had met as children and never forgot each other. Their search for each other becomes an obsession as the story progresses.
As the reader of 1Q84, I got the unsettling feeling that I was also integral to the story. The book makes constant reference to the act of reading. After reading Tengo's novel, Aomame becomes convinced that the 1Q84 she lives in is the world described in his book. Tengo also refers to himself existing in a German short story called “Town Of Cats.” Murakami even refers to Tengo and Aomame's lives as “two story lines at work, with different starting points but running parallel to each other.”
At one point, the characters themselves seem to be aware that they're part of Murakami's novel when they discuss Chekhov's rule that a gun in a story must be fired. Aomame makes the point, “But this is not a story. We're talking about the real world.” The reply she receives is, “Who knows?” Had this been a film, that's the moment they would break the fourth wall and stare directly into the camera.
In this way, 1Q84 seems to fold back onto itself like a literary möbius strip. Similarly, Tengo and Aomame's lives fold and collapse onto each other in strange ways. The forces connecting them include the reader, the daughter of a cult leader, a novel within the novel and the mysterious “Little People.” Crazy, unlikely and even supernatural events are set into motion strictly so Aomame and Tengo can find each other, and the novel had me rooting for them the whole way. In the words of Aomame:
“We came into this world so that we could meet. We didn't realize it ourselves, but that was the purpose of us coming here. We faced all kinds of complications – things that didn't make sense, things that defied explanation. Weird things, gory things, sad things. And sometimes, even beautiful things.”
If that's not a description of a quintessential love story, then I don't know what is.
Inspired by Aomame's climb down a ladder into a topsy-turvy world, here's a recipe for an upside-down cake that has to be flipped over before devouring.
For the topping:
- 2 nectarines, sliced
- 6 oz fresh blueberries
- 6 oz fresh blackberries
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp butter
- whipped cream
For the cake:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- ½ cup sugar
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 1/3 cup crème fraiche
Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan* with 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle brown sugar on the base. Add a single layer of nectarine slices, blueberries and blackberries. Set aside the remaining fruit. Place the springform pan on a large baking sheet in case of overflow during baking.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add one third of the dry ingredients to the wet, then half of the crème fraiche, then dry ingredients again, alternating until everything is mixed together. Carefully spread the batter over the fruit.
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. Insert a knife into the center to check for doneness.
Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife along the edges of the pan and release the sides. Carefully invert onto a plate for serving. Top with whipped cream and remaining fruit.
* Note: Ingredient amounts are for a 9-inch springform pan. If using a round 9-inch cake pan instead, only fill the pan with batter about ¾ of the way and discard the rest. Cooking time will be 35 to 45 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Food52