Keep Moving

A Christmas gift from our grandson at Cal

Let’s begin today’s BigLittleMeals with a quiz:

Give me the name of the author who…

  1. Was born in Sacramento, California
  2. Descended from members of the original Donner Party
  3. Used a line from a Yeats’ poem as the title for one of her books
  4. Received her degree in English from Cal (otherwise known as Berkeley for those of us who didn’t grow up in Northern California)
  5. Was a Barry Goldwater supporter
  6. With her husband, wrote the screenplay for 1976’s A Star is Born, starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson (I LOVE Kris Kristofferson!)
  7. Wrote “You were meant, if you were a Californian, to know how to lash together a corral with bark, you were meant to show spirit, kill the rattlesnake, keep moving.”
  8. Confessed to having a coke every morning before she started writing

Did you get it? If not, keep reading and I’ll divulge the name at the end of this blog :). If you didn’t get it, you’ve missed out on knowing about and enjoying the works of a really fascinating and complex writer.

Yeats’ poem is also worth highlighting, especially given the fact that he wrote it in 1919 – in the midst of the Spanish flu pandemic. Probably the most disturbing lines for us living through the last few years are these:

Yeats and Falcon

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

My mystery author refers to this Yeats poem as she begins her famous essay:

The center was not holding. It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements and commonplace reports of casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misspelled even the four-letter words they scrawled.

It was not a country in open revolution. It was not a country under enemy siege. It was the United States of America in the year 1967, and the market was steady and the GNP high, and a great many articulate people seemed to have a sense of high social purpose, and it might have been a year of brave hopes and national promise, but it was not, and more and more people had the uneasy apprehension that it was not. All that seemed clear was that at some point we had aborted ourselves and butchered the job, and because nothing else seemed so relevant I decided to go to San Francisco. 

Upon re-reading those lines, I actually found them to be comforting. It’s easy to forget that we’ve had really hard times in the world before this Covid pandemic laid siege. And it’s an eye-opener that the author is describing the year Andy and I married – 1967 (not incidentally, that’s also the year Andy got drafted, as the Vietnam War got going). And just so you know – in today’s Andy’s Corner, we learn of Andy’s “connections” to the two main characters in one of this author’s most famous essays.

San Francisco – 1967

But on to less disturbing thoughts and more about California and rattlesnakes. We hadn’t lived in Glen Ellen, California very long before one of my new clients from my days as a gardener (remember MiniBlooms?) told me how years ago she had shot and killed a rattlesnake that had bitten her young son. I guess we native-born Coloradans aren’t nearly as tough as the best of these Californianos. The first and only time I confronted a rattlesnake, I screamed for Andy to come do something (Andy, of course, is a native-born Californian, so that explains his killer instincts when confronted with a snake).

And leaving rattlesnakes behind (thankfully), we can next consider the author’s suggestion that real Californians know they must keep moving. Hopefully, that won’t entail moving out of California (which is a headline practically every other day), but will entail moving forward, not stagnating, not letting pandemic morose overwhelm us.

My soon-to-be-named author used Coca Cola to get moving in the morning, so we’ve got a Coke recipe for you to try. Andy and I gave up drinking Coke years ago – and only buy it now when a certain family member arrives for a visit and requests it – though we adamantly and self-righteously refuse to buy Diet Coke or cans of Coke – and will only consider a bottle of Mexican Coke. But that doesn’t keep us from LOVING this cake. Crazy what a little Coke can do! (note: I said A LITTLE. I just read that Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) routinely drinks 10-12 bottles of Diet Coke…a day – and she’s in the news not only for her junk food addiction and her overuse of Ibuprofen but because she just had emergency surgery for ulcers).

So here’s a final hint for my mystery author quiz: she made a big deal about NOT drinking Diet Coke – yet she was incredibly – almost abnormally – thin.

And (I’m sure y’all already know) – The quote is from the essay “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” and my mystery author is Joan Didion. RIP

Coca-Cola Chocolate Snacking Cake

Coca-cola Chocolate Snacking Cake

Recipe is easily doubled – and then baked in a 9″x13″ pan. Pepsi can be substituted for the Coke. Recipe adapted from

  • 1 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 oz Coca Cola
  • 1/2 c butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c  buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8″x8″ baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In a small saucepan, stir together the cola, butter and cocoa powder over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until moistened.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla until blended. Add to the flour mixture, whisking constantly.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

The cake will keep well for 3-4 days, either at room temperature or refrigerated. It freezes beautifully.

We prefer the cake with just powdered sugar on top, but if you want a frosting – and want to use up the rest of the bottle of coke – here’s the one recommended

  • 6 oz Coca Cola
  • 1/4 c butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c powdered sugar, sifted

In a small saucepan, bring the coke to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 c.  Stir in the butter and cocoa powder until the butter is melted, then remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth. Pour immediately over the hot cake in an even layer. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.


  1. David Ewing says:

    I finally got around to making this today–even made a special trip to the Mexican grocery to get Mexican Coke. To my surprise, the recipe doesn’t include directions for making the cake! I looked for “Coca-cola Chocolate Snacking Cake” online and found a recipe, but this one added marshmallows and chopped pecans. I suppose the pecans might be a nice touch, but I live with Frankie Keller, who begins to gag and retch if one even pronounces the word ‘marshmallow.’ Now on reading the posting again, I see you mention, but I couldn’t find it on that website. I fell back on standard practices, starting by creaming the butter and sugar together, then mixing in the egg, then alternating dry ingredients and wet ones, and it came out real nice.


  2. Rebecca SHIEBER says:

    Austinites feel the same way. People say, “but you loved Austin!” And yes, we did, but all the things we loved about it no longer exist. Of course, the main problem is all the Californians moving here. 😉


    • theRaggedys says:

      I so agree, Terry! Didion’s essay has such a great title – Slouching Towards Bethlehem – which she paraphrased from Yeats’ poem: “what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
      Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.” Also, I think this line from Yeats’ poem is worth contemplating, given today’s world: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.”


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