Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Daddy moved back home a few weeks ago after staying with us for 20 months. He had been trying to get me to agree to let him stay by himself for several weeks. With much trepidation, I finally gave in.

We got about 2" of snow on Christmas Day. The roads were in pretty good shape so I headed down to Daddy's to take his gifts and his medication refills to him. Daddy lives on a dirt road and as soon as you turn off the paved road, you go down a steep hill. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get back up the hill in my car so I parked it at the "head of the lane" and walked the last 1/2 mile to his house.

Of course, I had my camera in hand. Like I had told Keith, if I have a wreck, I'm gonna get some good pictures of it. I snapped photos as I walked along -- weeds in the snow, the old barn, the gate, turkey tracks -- and thought about all the times I walked or rode my bike down that road in my childhood. As I neared Daddy's house, the fog began to lift from Wallen's Ridge. After I took some shots of it and turned to continue down the road, I remembered there was once a path worn through the yard where we would take a shortcut when walking from the barn. Even though it was covered with snow, I could still find the path.

As I walked through the yard, I could almost see my Papaw sitting on the porch in a straight-back chair, wearing overalls, and chewing King B Twist tobacco. I could imagine my Grandma inside the house in her rocking chair with a kitten on her lap. Mom would be cooking a big dinner like she used to do, waiting for me to arrive so she could hug me and give me a loud kiss on my cheek. She would make me warm my hands and feet at the Warm Morning stove that once stood in the living room.

I walked slowly because I knew none of them were there. Daddy was the only one waiting for me inside the house. Oh, how lonely he must be with no one to keep him company except for memories.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Miracle Cake

I haven’t made an Orange Slice Candy cake since before my mother-in-law passed away. We made one together many years ago and I just hadn’t felt like trying it again. I decided Amanda and I would make one this year. I found a recipe in a church cookbook that belonged to Mrs. Nichols. I assumed it was the same recipe we had used. I read through it several times and realized the instructions were somewhat lacking. It included the ingredients and the order to add them, but that was about all. I told Amanda it would be a miracle if we could figure out how to make it, but we’d give it a try anyway.

We got out mixing bowls, mixer, measuring cups and spoons, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, candy, nuts, coconut, and dates. We lined up everything on the countertop and got to work. We creamed and combined until we got to the part where we were supposed to add the baking soda to the buttermilk. I can “make” buttermilk by adding vinegar to regular milk, but . . . baking soda? I only use baking soda to deodorize the fridge. Who uses plain flour anymore? I keep some on hand for pie crusts but I use self-rising for everything else. I contemplated opening the ceramic penguin and removing a teaspoon of baking soda that had been absorbing refrigerator odors for the past month but decided the onion and garlic aroma might overpower the orange candy. I talked Keith into going to the store. While he was gone, I made another batch of fudge.

When he returned, Amanda and I got back to work on the cake batter. It was when I was ready to add the buttermilk mixture alternately with the flour mixture to the creamed mixture that I realized I had the latter two in the wrong bowls. I dug out another bowl and made the swap. Finally the batter was complete. Now all I had to do was add the candy, nuts, and fruit. After I got about half of it incorporated into the batter, I realized I was running out of room. It would be a miracle if the mixing bowl would hold everything.

After carefully stirring the last of the coconut into the batter, I was ready to place it into the Bundt pan. I could barely lift the bowl! I hefted the bowl underneath my arm and held it like a bagpipe. I told Amanda to turn the cake pan as I raked out the dense mixture. I said it would be a miracle if it ever got done all the way through. The instructions said to bake for 35-40 minutes.

An hour and a half later, a skewer inserted in the center came out clean. I took the cake from the oven and set it on a rack to cool. I later made the orange sauce, poked holes in the cake crust, and poured the sauce over the top. Some of it puddled in the center next to the tube. I doubted that it would ever soak into the cake. I set it in the refrigerator to “rest” overnight as instructed. It would be a miracle if this thing ever came out of the pan.

The next morning, I removed the pan from the refrigerator and, oddly enough, all the sauce had been absorbed into the cake. I ran a knife along the outer and inner edges of the cake then turned it upside down onto the plate. Nothing happened. I turned it back upright again and repeated with the knife, this time gently lifting up until I could see the cake begin to move. I inverted it onto the plate once more and this time I felt the pan lighten as the cake was loosed from its Bundt prison. How much of it had stuck? I was almost afraid to lift the pan to see. Success! I was amazed that very few crumbs had stuck to the pan. I covered the cake plate and headed off to work. It would be a miracle if the cake were edible.

I arrived home after work and couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. I lifted the cover, cut a piece of cake, and noticed how moist the orange sauce had made it. I took a bite and, to my surprise, it was not only edible – it was delicious. Miracles do happen!