I want to make a Christmas present for my friend who is always doing nice things for me. If you don’t yet have a friend like this, I strongly recommend that you get one right away. Unless you are trying to lose weight.
When I spend time with this friend, we are always eating. And he is always doing the cooking. And no, he is not really my Italian Grandma.
On our last visit together, between shoving fistfuls of brown sugar-soaked bacon, crispy pan-fried potatoes, fried eggs and freshly-baked baguette with honey butter into my breakfast-for-lunch hole, I noticed a food magazine on my friend’s kitchen counter. On the cover was a beautifully photoshopped picture of cheesecake.
I was in a mood to share secrets. I took a deep breath and whispered – “You know what? I don’t really care for cheesecake.”
But then, he swung around, pointed to the clock and declared, “I got NO TIME for cheesecake!”
Relief. And then laughter. Minutes of tears-streaming laughter. What he meant was, with so many better desserts to choose from, why waste time with cheesecake?
As Vogue writer Harriet Von Horne wrote to housewives of 1956 (in an admirable attempt to steer them away from using processed, pre-packed ingredients), “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
Same goes with eating desserts. Life’s too short for cheesecake. Or for boring Christmas presents.
MAKE YOUR OWN “NO TIME FOR CHEESECAKE” CLOCK
STEP ONE – BUY AN EXISTING CLOCK: Go to the nearest thrift store and find the corner where they keep all the miscellaneous crap, like ice cube trays, coat hangers and half-used packs of adult diapers.
Dig around there for a while and eventually you will find some clocks. Don’t be too picky at this point, just grab whatever you see. But not this one:
PRO-TIP! Before you leave for the thrift store, slip at least one working AA battery in your pocket. You can’t tell if a clock works just by looking at it. Move your clocks into a discrete corner of the thrift store (like on this pile of old suitcases) and test them using your AA battery. All three worked!
STEP TWO – DISMEMBER YOUR CLOCK: Just for fun, I pulled apart three clocks and was relieved to discover they all basically work the same way. Find the tiny screws that hold the front and back covers together and unscrew them.
Next, GENTLY pry off the second hand, the minute hand and then the hour hand. They will always be in this order.
Pull off the paper face of the clock, unless it is glued down. In that case, just leave it. Scrub down the frame and polish the glass or plastic front cover. I didn’t care for my clock’s soul-crushing shade of 1980s beige, so I gave it a quick coat of shiny white spray paint. Remember — spray paint makes everything better!
STEP THREE: MAKE DESSERT!
It is important to decide in advance how many desserts you will create. For example, can you only think of four desserts that you love more than cheesecake? Then maybe you should place them at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. I planned for all 12 hours, but got stuck after ten. I tried to draw Flan, but it ended up looking too much like a runny hat on a plate. I dug a little deeper and found Pudding and Cannoli. Sure hope my friend likes them more than cheesecake!
Flip your clock face down and trace the outline of your clock face on a piece of acid-free archival quality art paper, or just steal some copy paper from your office (I can make that joke since I work from home). Anything thicker than construction paper might cause the hands to scrape bottom, slowing down time. Cut a little hole in the center for the clock hands arm thing (you know what I mean). Then use a small soup bowl to trace an “inner ring” in your clock face. This will give you about a square inch of space to draw your favorite desserts. Use a pencil to mark 12 (or 4) equidistant points on your blank paper to note the location of each dessert.
To create a “message” on your clock, count the number of letters, and roughly divide by two. For example, “NO TIME FOR CHEESECAKE” has 19 letters, and since “CHEESECAKE” has 10 of those letters, it will get its own line. Draw a baseline with your pencil and fill in your words.
Grab your list of desserts that are better than cheesecake. Draw a rough sketch of each dessert with a pencil, careful not to group similar-looking desserts too closely together (i.e, pie + cake, or donuts + cinnamon rolls).
Once you’ve finished inking, erase all the pencil marks completely. Fill in the rest with colored pencils. If you’re really bold, try colored pens or markers, but don’t come crying to me when you can’t find the Wite-Out.*
Once you’re happy with your drawings, cut out the new clock face and dot the backside with a glue stick, mainly around the outer edges and near the hole in the middle. Don’t use liquid glue – it will cause unsightly warping on your paper. Press the new clock face in and smooth out the edges.
Locate your hands, and pop the hour hand, then the minute hand, and finally the second hand onto the arm connecting to the movement. Finally, replace the glass and cover and screw it back in. Admire your work and go to bed, because, despite what the clock says, it’s really 11:30 pm (half-past cherry pie).
Before you present this gift to your hungry friend, be sure to insert a fresh AA battery in the back. It would be in bad taste to make him buy his own batteries. But not quite as bad as giving him cheesecake!
*Wite-Out is brand of what is known as “correction fluid,” originally developed in the last century for users of typewriters, which do not have a Backspace key. I spent much of my childhood painting my fingernails with (and occasionally sniffing) Wite-Out.