Cooking With Heart (ms)

I walked up the baking ingredients aisle at the neighborhood supermarket last week and for the first time in a long while looked at the array of boxed cake mixes. The display was stunning.

Several shelves held more kinds of cake mixes than I had time to count. The old standbys chocolate and white were there, marble, many others all classics. There were other creations, make that many others, the picture of each on the box looking good enough to eat right off its cardboard backing. “Take me home and bake me up,” it seemed to say, “and I’ll stick around for dinner, maybe even a midnight snack but not much more. I’m too good.” Made me want to buy several and cook them all at once. Sure I would have made enough cakes to feed three blocks full of neighbors but I would have lived the promise made by that lovely picture on the box.

For comparison I came home and opened the battered notebook that holds my mothers recipes. I don’t use it very often but I keep it as a memento and it is interesting to look through. The first thing to notice is that there are no pictures like those I saw on the boxes in the baking supply aisle. No, any pictures in these pages had to come from the bakers mind. Not to worry though for the directions are quite complete.

Complete only in that they were all there. Certain liberties could be taken by the more experienced baker but for the beginner everything needed to make a good cake was explained in black and white. There were some odd entries, however, when it came to measurements

I think what happened is that my mother made the recipes so often that she got to the point of not using a measuring spoon. So, you might need a pinch of this, a handful of that. She never bothered to convert pinches and handfuls to actual measurements, that is left to her son and daughter in law who occasionally try to make something from the book and spend a lot of time guessing at exactly what constitutes a pinch. Eventually all is worked out, the mix is made, poured in the pans and set in the oven. That’s where the magic begins.

A store bought mix is okay in a tight spot and most of us seem to find ourselves in one of those more often than not. But, when it comes to richness, texture and taste it is hard, no make that impossible, to beat a good homemade cake. Plus, there is the smell that goes with it.

It’s a bouquet, really, a mix of subtle scents and full-bodied aromas that begin to seep from the oven and glide into every nook and cranny of the house till the place is fairly bursting. It is a siren song of goodness, an invitation to enjoy a final bit of sweetness and light after a great meal. The topping, better than any icing, is the knowledge that it was created from scratch. It may be ordinary to most but to the baker its quite extraordinary indeed.

–Mike Stevens

~ by admin on March 30, 2011.

3 Responses to “Cooking With Heart (ms)”

  1. I was reading along…and as I was doing so, I am feeling the sensations of your words… putting them together in my head and heart… feeling that nostalgia … and then.. I came to your closing paragraph and you said it all..just like it felt…just like it was.. from home baked memories from my Grandmother’s, Mother’s and my baking days… the pinch here.. the dash there..
    Such things could never be bought in a box…
    My husband’s father will be 91 in June . He cherishes his wife’s old recipe box…keeps it “just so” …old butter stains on the recipe cards yellowing with age… Perhaps some from her own mother… Bob still knows where to make a beeline for the chocolate chip cookie can.. at 84 years old.. he knows where to go to THE chocolate chip cookie can.. but now… Now the cookies are being baked lovingly by his father .. his mother long gone.. his 91 to be year old father still bakes those cookies and carefully places them in THE can for his sons… Somehow the little boys in his sons are still there .. no matter how old they are…
    sending regards to you . Thank you for the lovely post tonight…again..

  2. I was reading along…and as I was doing so, I am feeling the sensations of your words… putting them together in my hgone.. his 91 to be year old father still bakes those cookies and carefully places them in THE can for his sons… Somehow the little boys in his sons are still there .. no matter how old they are…
    sending regards to you . Thank you for the lovely post tonight…again..

  3. ooops on two things.
    posted twice …but just part of it..and I am said my husband is 84 instead of 64!

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