a simple slice
all it took, really, was a trip to the store, three eggs from the fridge, and a chance to play with my still-in-the-box old-fashioned hand mixer.
all i wanted, really, was to hold the real world at bay. buy one more day-pass before the return to non-fiction living.
a yellow cake, i figured, was enough of a ticket.
it was a two-layered salute to the end of so-called vacation, a sugar-tinged slide into the hard weeks ahead. and besides there’s little so dreary as a monday back home, when rain clouds and laundry are piled too high, not far enough in the offing.
thing is, though, given the fact that the mixer was many months old and had yet to see a speck of light from the kitchen, this, clearly, isn’t my forte. the two-step from batter bowl to oven isn’t one my feet know by heart.
i am not, sad to report, much of a baker.
oh, i dream of such things. wish sometimes that i had it in me, that gene that would make me long to be clouded in flour, my cheeks streaked with chocolatey smears, from yet another turn at the stove.
but, alas, i am merely pretender.
oh, if you opened my cupboards, you might see i’m amply equipped. why, i’ve got pans with bottoms that vanish and side-rails that spring. i’ve got cutters of cookies in so many shapes, from simple to odd to odder-than-odd, an architectural replica, among others, of the downtown tower where every tuesday i type. enough bent-metal skyscrapers, in fact, to cut out and bake a whole skyline.
i’ve got aprons, too. and a french wire basket filled to the brim with sugars in colors and all sorts of sizes of crystals, from silky like snowdrifts to chunky like hail. even a stash of those wee silver balls that look just like the beebee my brother once aimed and shot at a window, while my grandma stood back in stunned disbelief and i, truth be told, snickered.
sorry fact is: nearly every time i think about baking–be it a pie, or plain cookies, or surely a cake–well, i give up almost before i begin.
i get tired.
i get sweaty there in the palms.
i think of the mess.
i think of the cake going stale.
i think of the big old beater i used to have to haul off the shelf. how it pained my low back to lug it from pantry to counter. how i’d nearly once crushed the least of my toes–and that was only the bowl tumbling down.
yes, when it comes to the baking department, i am purely illusion. not much crumb to my cake.
and so, when, despite my deep disinclinations, i somehow manage to pull off two layers, with a blanket of fudge in between, well, i just can’t help but stand back and marvel.
can’t but think to myself, “i need to do this more often.”
who knew that cracking three shells, dumping oil and water, watching the twin set of whirly-bird blades whip round and round in two minutes of circles, who knew i could pour, slide, and crank on the timer, and then, poof, in a mere 35 minutes pull out two golden-topped coins that, at least for a moment there, made me appear the very model of domesticity?
why, the whole house let out a whoop, in the form of a cloud of sweet-scented, vanilla perfume.
by the time the little one bound in the door–shouted, he did, did you bake? (incredulously, i’m not too ashamed to admit)–i’d even gone mad with the chocolatey swirls.
as always, i like the frills as much as the substance so i practiced the TV-ready twirls of the knife that made for an ocean of waves all over the top, and right down the sides. then, leaving well enough not alone, i unwrapped a whole flock of kisses, hershey’s that is, and dotted them here and there on my mid-afternoon’s quick-rising escape.
ahh, the sweet holy triumph of a boy home from school staring in wonder at his mama’s hard-won confection.
it’s not every day that i witness such hero-like status. i mean, never before have i seen the boy–nor his big brother, as a matter of fact–stand in awe, drooling, at the way i pile a verb onto a whole string of nouns.
nope, never once has anyone marveled at the skill with which i ditch the drips on the toilet seat. nor the dust on the lampshades. nor how i clean and fluff and fold all the laundry.
not even how i stay up till late, late in the night some nights, sopping up tears, unknotting worries.
but the cake……oh, the cake. it’s two days later and still i am riding the wave of that yellow-crumbed glory.
sure, it’s all turned to hard-crusted bits there on the chocolate-smeared plate.
but i’ve not tossed it out, nor will i.
i’m thinking this kitchen alchemy is one i might want to return to. perhaps i’ll nudge myself a little more often. who knows, there might be a pie crust not far in my future.
it’s a simple truth that these days i ought to employ: in three easy steps, plus 350 degrees, i can bring joy to the table, slice into two-layered heart of the matter.
there is little in life that so simply begins, and so deliciously ends.
i am struck, frankly, by the tangible construction and completion of something utterly swallowable.
i wonder, perhaps, if in our quixotic attempts to bring calm to our homes, and peace to the planet, some of us–me, in particular–might have missed the undeniable dump-stir-’n’-pour virtue of such bliss in a box.
the chance to exercise whimsy, to deliver up double layers of plain ol’-fashioned goodness, i’m starting to realize, is as boundless as the stash of sweet morsels tucked on my shelf.
in these endless months of not knowing our place on the planet, on occasion doubting our worth, so often dreading the morning, it seems that to whip up a cake, perch it high on a pedestal, well, so sweet a triumph it is, maybe i shouldn’t let the ovens stay cold for so long a spell.
it’s rather quite simple, isn’t it then?
sometimes little more is required than the goo it takes to fill up two 8-inch round pans. and the pure honest knowing that what comes to your lips on a fork is, well, much more lasting than the pile of crumbs turned hard on the plate after merely two days.
never did read that on the back of a box of cake mix.
some things you take a while to gulp. but when you do, you grasp forever their infinite wisdom.
do you bake for the joy of it? do you find deep delight in the simple stirring and pouring, letting your imagination and your recipes run wild? what have you baked lately? or brought home from the bakery dept.?