One of my dearest friends has a funny story about cake. When she shared this story with me, she did not offer many details. I have added some from my own imagination, and I hope she will forgive me that. I love this story because it is a tale of expectation, of love language, of newlyweds, and, of course, of cake.
My friend and her husband have now been married almost 25 years, comfortable with each other in a way you can’t really appreciate in your hormone-addled 20s. When they arrived home from their honeymoon in mid-September, I suspect they were both giddy and exhausted. Waking on a crisp Saturday morning to an apartment full of wedding gifts to be unwrapped, acknowledged, and put away, I can only guess that the groom began to brew a pot of coffee, while his bride began to stack like-sized boxes of china and crystal. Surely they must have sat down together on their sofa or perhaps at their small table to sip their coffee and open some thick and promising envelopes.
It was in this moment, that the groom, a young man but not an innocent, asked brightly, “What kind of cake are you going to make today?”
My friend, somewhat bewildered by this question, no doubt gestured at the chaos around them, and answered, “I’m not baking a cake today.”
To which her husband, now equally puzzled, replied, “Well, it’s Saturday.”
“My mom bakes a cake every Saturday. She always has.”
“Ohh." I think it might have taken a moment for this to sink in, sharing this memory with her beloved of twenty-five years’ of Saturday cakes. Butter and eggs coming to room temperature on the kitchen counter. The fragrance of vanilla wafting. Beaters and spoons to lick. She said simply, “I’m not baking a cake today.” And that was that.
The Mister and I shared a birthday dinner with this couple a few weeks ago when they were in town visiting the groom’s parents, now close to 80. I couldn’t resist. “So, does your mom still bake a cake every Saturday?” And the reply was, “Absolutely. Today it was lemon.”
“Really. Even though it’s just the two of them?”
“Yes, indeed. She makes the cake, and then they give most of it away to neighbors. They save enough so that my dad can have a small slice for breakfast each morning until the next Saturday.”
I’m not sure why I love this story so much. I suppose it reminds me of my paternal grandmother, who also baked every Saturday, although she was more of a pie-making gal. I also love that my friend knew that although she would make many delicious cakes, she would not make one every Saturday. And, I love that she didn’t question either the veracity of his story or the sanity of her mother-in-law. And, finally, the groom, who must have surely loved those Saturday made from scratch treats, just let. it. go. —and that kind of freedom and release is truly sweet. You might say that it's the icing on the cake.
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love
is better than steak with someone you hate.
What’s your favorite cake?
Within the past year or so, one of my favorite publications, Southern Living, began a new feature in its hallowed foods section. I believe it’s called “Mama’s Way/Your Way,” and the general idea is to take an iconic Southern dish and share the old-school recipe and then offer an updated version. Usually, the modern adaptation offers considerable savings in either prep time or in artery-clogging ingredients.
Here’s my version of “Mama’s Way/Your Way” featuring the beloved tomato sandwich.
The traditional tomato sandwich is both simple and perfect, relying on key ingredients that must not be changed.A locally grown vine-ripened tomato is, of course, the most important ingredient. Please, no substitutions. If the tomato grew in your garden, so much the better; if not, the farmer’s market or a roadside stand tomato will work fine. A grocery store tomato will not suffice. Next up, Duke’s mayonnaise. This brand is not available everywhere, so you may have to make do on this one. Hellman’s will work. I like Jane’s Krazy Mixed-up Salt, but regular salt and pepper will be just as good. Now for the bread, personally, I use whole wheat bread these days, but, remember this is “Mama’s Way,” so white bread is the authentic choice.So slice the tomato, and let the slices drain for a minute or two on paper towels. Then, salt and pepper them well. Slather the bread with mayonnaise, add the tomato slices, and give the whole thing a gentle press. If possible, eat this on a back porch while drinking sweet tea. For dessert, have a fresh peach.
I say tomahto . . .
The updated tomato sandwich offers a lot of great flavor, too. And the ingredients are no less important, although there is more room for creativity.
A vine-ripened tomato is key. Again, no grocery store ‘maters will do. Fresh basil is a must; as is fresh mozzarella. I like ciabatta bread as the base for this sandwich, but any hearty country bread will do. If you like, drizzle the bread with a flavorful olive oil, and then add the tomatoes, basil and cheese. Top with Jane’s Krazy Salt or another favorite seasoning. These are great sandwiches to take to an outdoor concert or to enjoy for a light supper with a glass of wine. Again, a fresh peach makes the perfect dessert.
Coming soon, a recipe for the best tomato pie ever! Do you have a favorite tomato recipe?