What's with the name of Mrs. Linklater's memoir? The cake part. James Frey's non fiction piece of fiction, A Million Little Pieces, is about drug addiction. Compared to his life, Mrs. L's life has been nothing but cake. Literally and figuratively.
I haven't bought his book or even felt like reading it yet. Mainly because I have no desire to feel the pain of people going through drug withdrawal, even though i'm related to people who have been down that road.
I have my own addictions, but they are not drug or alcohol related. Not that I didn't have my chances. I was on something with five grains of codeine in each pill every month for seven years because I had such terrible cramps in high school and college. Until they finally invented Ponstel, a miracle drug for me.
Before that, I was on an industrial strength high for at least two days a month -- legally. How ironic that I hated every minute of it. The codeine dreams were hallucinatory. I felt like I never slept. The only upside for me was that I was sooooooo mellow. The razor sharp edge that separates me from normal people was gone. In college an ex-boyfriend called my sorority house to talk to someone else. I answered and I sounded so laid back that he ended up talking to me instead. He even asked me out. Unfortunately I wasn't doped up anymore by the time we got together a few days later.
I did gain what little empathy I have for addicts and their pain, when I was a divorced mother raising kids and hurt my back. The spasms were killing me, but it was a holiday and I couldn't reach my doctor for a prescription, or call a chiropractor for an adjustment, or hire a massage therapist for some relief.
Scouring through the medicine chest I found some Darvocet leftover from foot surgery. I took a couple. They didn't do much for the pain in my back, but they sure numbed the "white noise" of stress that had been buzzing -- unbeknownst to me -- in my head. Hmmmm. I'd always heard about the ability of drugs to silence the noise scrambling around in your mind, but I didn't know I even had any. Or how much. Still, I didn't take more pills when those wore off -- I realized there was something going on and talked to someone to figure out what it was. After medicating myself with a box of chocolates.
Which brings me to the cake part of the memoir. I love cake, especially chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream frosting. Why can't it be one of the food groups?
My favorite childhood cake was store-bought -- chocolate layers with creamy white icing and the top and sides covered in chocolate sprinkles. For some reason it was called a Ranch Cake. Thinking about it reminds me of summer suppers of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans after which my mother would bring out a Ranch Cake for dessert. It also reminds me that we had a glass-topped table and my brother used to come to dinner with bare feet, which were visible through the glass in a most unappetizing way.
I graduated to yellow cake with chocolate frosting, angel food cake with strawberry frosting, carrot cake, banana cake, German chocolate cake, Black Forest cake, you name it, but I never learned to bake any from scratch.
Then I got married. My mother-in-law had a family recipe for chocolate cake that my husband loved. He mentioned it so much that I took the hint and asked my MIL for the recipe. The first time I baked it was a disaster. The layers were only about 1/2 inch high, instead of at least an inch.
To save face, I called it a torte. A two-layer torte. I think the definition of torte is at least five to seven layers of really really thin cake layers. So mine was pretty pathetic.
I think the real issue was that my MIL wasn't ready to relinquish her exalted position as the chief and only cakemaker.
That may have been why she neglected to tell me to use cake flour instead of regular flour. Her recipe only called for flour. She just assumed I knew it was supposed to be cake flour. It was a cake, wasn't it? Every knows that. Except for me.
Then I had children who began to have birthday parties which required a cake. Usually there were so many kids I would use that as an excuse to buy a cake, so there could be leftovers. For me.
I found a family bakery close by that made two layer sheet cakes with wonderful, moist and light chocolate cake, covered with extraordinary chocolate butter cream frosting. With your choice of filling between the layers -- I always chose raspberry. When my metabolisim was in high gear I could finish off the leftover cake in a day or two, but those days are long gone. It just goes stale now.
When my younger daughter was in high school I met a woman on a freight elevator in myoffice building who was carrying a beautiful designer cake to a big party. She was the cakemaker, so I took her card and later had her create a cake for my daughter's sixteenth birthday. It looked like a Laura Ashley hatbox. It was beautfiul. My daughter loved it. I tried to find a picture of it, but no luck.
For a friend's 36th birthday party I found a cake sculptor who created a voluptuous female torso in a bikini for him. I had "A PERFECT 36" written across the middle of some body part.
By the way, this wasn't two breastlike mounds on top of a sheet cake -- the cakemaker had actually carved a very shapely and realistic body. My friend loved it. He said it tasted good too.
These days I have no use for any frou frou flourless cake, or those obscene Death by Chocolate extravaganzas. Just gimme good old fashioned layer cake with real butter in the frosting. A scoop of ice cream couldn't hurt. Lately, bakeries under pressure have come up with smaller layer cakes -- only five inches across, instead of ten. So it won't go stale before those of us who live alone and just pretend we're having company can finish it.
There's also a new place in Chicago called Cupcakes -- which specializes in nothing but -- go figure -- cupcakes. Apparently they go through 1200 a day on the weekends. It might be time for a road trip this afternoon. Sometimes these trips down memory lane are full of calories.
So many pieces of cake. So little time.
End of Chapter Four