Lately I’ve been feeling a little unsure… not like “What’s the meaning of all this?” unsure, like “Would you like fries with that?” unsure. I think I might be experiencing some sort of option allergy.
Normally I relish choices. Choices make me feel empowered. Choices make me feel special. Choices make me feel like someone cares enough to ask which way I’d like to go.
But we can all agree that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, right? Right.
So I decided to conduct a little field test. Just a random sample experiment, supervised and conducted by this girl. I wanted to know if I was overreacting or if my choice fatigue was legit.
I picked the day. I went about my business. I recorded every question I received. And now, my friends, the results of one Super Scientific Study on Question Asking In These United States…
The morning started with a quick grocery run so, of course, I was confronted with the seminal question of a suburban existence:
QUESTION 1: Paper or plastic?
OK, fine. I saw this one coming and was prepared. But apparently markets have juiced up the choice machine, because I was then assaulted with:
QUESTION 2: Would you like carryout service? (I had purchased 1 item weighing approximately 6 ounces.)
QUESTION 3: Would you like game pieces for our ongoing Scrabble promotion that you have approximately 1 in 1,845,391,046,775,475,201 chances of winning?
QUESTION 4: How would you like your change? (I paid with a five dollar bill.)
Again, I can accept the aforementioned. Establishments are trying to step up their service game and I certainly can’t hate on them for that. So I quickly and quietly completed the inquisition, took my one item and change, and departed.
Back to the kitchen for some recipe testing and only a few questions here:
QUESTION 5: (From a telephone solicitor) Would you like to take a brief survey about your television viewing habits? It will only take about 4.8 hours of your time.
QUESTION 6: (From a certain little dog) Why can’t I have any more of those bacon treats that you gave me last week? (OK, we won’t count this one.)
And then it’s off to the local post office.
At the post it’s a questionpalooza of stamp choices, decorative mailer options, extra service selections and the now ubiquitous change format inquiry (again, I paid with a five dollar bill). I refuse to torment you, my friends, with the ugly details. Suffice it to say that the slots for QUESTION 7-13 have been filled.
I’ll admit that I was weakened by question fatigue at this point, but I opted to stay strong and push ahead. It must have been during this moment of weakness, though, that I made the fatal flaw of deciding that the next stop would be our local movie rental shop.
It all started innocently enough… movie selections in hand I hit up the checkout counter. And in an effort to be fair I won’t count the questions for membership card, picture ID, credit card, second credit card and phone number. The fun began after that:
QUESTION 14: Would you like to join our new Ultra Special Members Club? Lots of deals! Lots of promotions! Lots of saaaaaallllllleeeeeesssssssss! (I answered no, despite the emphasis on sales.)
QUESTION 15: Are you sure? (Here, a yes.)
QUESTION 16: Did you know that if you rent one more movie today, you can get half off the rental of an Xbox game? (I went past the ‘No. I had no idea.’ and moved on to simply ‘Thanks, but I’m not interested.’
QUESTION 17: Are you sure? (Another yes.)
QUESTION 18: Would you like any Skittles with your movies today?
QUESTION 19: Would you like any popcorn with your movies today?
QUESTION 20: How about some soft drinks?
QUESTION 21: (After 3 straight ‘no’s) Are you sure?
It was at this point, dear friends, that I respectfully bailed on our little experiment.
I took my movies and my change that had been again been parsed out per my request and I drove home as fast as legally possible.
I stood, shaking, just behind the closed front door to my house, sure I was going to collapse from a question overdose, trying to still my heart rate. Luckily, my loving husband A. was home to help me achieve calm:
A.: Hi, honey. What are you making for dinner?
22 questions. 1 girl’s sanity. Infinite hopes for a better, questionless world. All poured into one Ranch Cake.
I hope you enjoy this cake. I really do. At a minimum, be reassured that I won’t ask you if you did.
Chef’s Note: This recipe is based on a heritage recipe that literally fell out of my grandmother’s old copy of The Joy of Cooking the other day. The recipe is printed on an old, tattered magazine clipping with no attribution. It calls for the cake to be made with Swan’s Down Instant White Cake Mix. I rewrote the recipe to include a scratch cake and a similar praline-like topping.
For the cake:
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tsp. canela, ground (ground cinnamon may be substituted)
1/2 c. heavy cream
For the topping:
1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 c. coconut, shredded, sweetened
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 375°.
Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Gradually add the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, finally beating in the heavy cream. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Do not over bake. The finished cake will be dark golden brown across the top with the edges pulling away from the pan.
Meanwhile, place the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl and stir together until well mixed. Once the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and carefully spread the topping evenly over its top. Position a rack at the bottom of the oven and turn your broiler on low. Place the cake on the bottom rack and broil, watching closely. You’re looking for the topping to begin bubbling slightly, which should only take about 3 minutes. Take care not to burn the cake or topping – just keep a close eye on things throughout the broiling process.
Remove the finished cake from the oven and set aside to cool. Serve immediately.
YIELD: approximately 12-15 servings