Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sharing.... Sort Of


Sharing, Sort Of

A buttery golden pound cake always sat under a cut glass dome on the kitchen counter of my Great-Aunt Susie.  No visitor was too insignificant to be offered a slice of this delectable concoction and no visitor would ever dream of refusing such an offer, for Aunt Susie’s culinary skills were legend.  Her pièce de résistance was her Burnt Caramel Cake, a towering wonderment that was known to make grown men swoon as easily as it turned their wives positively green with the sort of domestic envy reserved for those shirt-waisted, pearl-draped housewives of a bygone era.  It was the icing.  Deep, rich, and tawny as the king’s honey, it was impossible for any woman in town to recreate, no matter how diligently they tried.

Now, Aunt Susie was a formidable woman, something even I, the little golden-haired grand-niece on whom she showered unabashed affection, could easily see.  She was not a woman to be crossed, pushed, or pressed.  Deservedly proud of her cooking, she preferred to be thought of as unique in those abilities and kept her recipes as secret as the spells of a sorceress.  The few women who had been so foolish as to request her recipe for that Burnt Caramel Cake only did so once.

So, frustrated by years of unsuccessful attempts to recreate that caramel cake, the women of Aunt Susie’s church hatched a plan. They decided to publish a cookbook.  My Aunt could not possibly resist the lure of publication, in hardback no less.  Her name placed forever in print as the creator of such a magnificent cake would surely appeal to her pride, her altruism (for the cookbook would raise needed funds for the church, after all), as well as her sense of legacy and veneration as it would be handed down in her family, generation after admiring generation.  To their surprise and immense delight, my Aunt agreed to include her much coveted Burnt Caramel Cake recipe in the book and the ladies of the church could hardly wait for the date of publication.

I have that cookbook in my kitchen now.  And yes, there on page 40 is my Aunt’s famed Burnt Caramel Cake.  She has provided a detailed recipe for the cake, which is a basic yellow cake the sort of which most amateur bakers would have easily mastered in grade school.  But at the close of the recipe, she has simply written :  Frost with Burnt Caramel Icing.  No instructions, no ingredient list, no special secrets revealed.

I would like to say that this tradition of culinary secrecy ended with my Aunt, but I laugh to myself now as I remember my Mother sneaking out of church down the back stairs one Sunday morning, determined to avoid a lady who’d requested the recipe for her Christmas Fudge.  I use that fudge recipe still, every festive season, a family privilege reserved for those of MacDonald blood, but I feel the ice cold stares of the matriarchal wing of my family whenever anyone asks for the recipe.  “I’ll just make you some”, I usually reply, unwilling to disturb those formidable women gone on before.  I have toyed with the idea of finally sharing these recipes by engraving them on my tombstone, thereby ending the secretiveness once and for all even as I ensure that my grave will be visited for years to come.

Above painting by P. J. Crook


***
I am once again honored to have been included in By Invitation Only, 
 the brainchild of Marsha Harris, creator of the beautiful blog, Splenderosa.  
You can find all the other essays on this month's topic of Sharing, HERE.


32 comments:

  1. I am dying with laughter! This is exactly the type of woman I would so admire, and actually I do have a friend who just turned 80, the Queen of the country club set, who would say those exact words "I'll just make some for you."
    Is it a Southern thing? Engraved on your tombstone? People would come from far & wide to photograph this, it could easily be in the Smithsonian. You are wonderful, your style & wit and beautiful writing captivates everyone.
    But, I still love Edward more !!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh what a wonderful story Pamela ….. thanks so much for sharing !!!! XXXX

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love it Pamela. I too have a similar family recipe from my late husband's grandmother. She had also given it to my mother-in-law but only to me did she tell the little secretin the method. It is a treasured family recipe that now one can find many versions of on th net but none that produces the perfection of her tomato/cheese soufflé!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That is very sweet and really very funny....clever aunt you had!! I love it....sounds like something a movie could be based on:) She has no doubt kept them guessing for generations! I love the Southern spunk.......and hilarious idea to engrave it on your tombstone. I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I LOVED reading this, your use of words is beautiful, you painted such a picture....and made me want to be Aunt Susie! I love the recipe story :)

    Great post Pamela :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your fabulous writing skills draw me in, every time. You bewitch me with your magic. Being a Minnesota girl now living in FL it amazes me the quirks of the southern women. My kin would gladly share each and every recipe, even having you over to visually teach you. I have found with my southern friends here so many family secrets, etc. Makes me think of Gone With the Wind:) I love them dearly and what great cooks and entertainers they are but the difference of a northern and a southern woman are at times strikingly apparent. Sunny smiles, Judi

    ReplyDelete
  7. You are a beautiful writer...so enjoyed this post.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Such a lovely story, Pamela...you're a fabulous storyteller ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Pamela what a treasured story!! Your Aunt was quite the canny and creative woman!!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

    ReplyDelete
  10. Lovely story Pamela - sounds like my mother-in-law, who was also a formidable woman and a wonderful baker, who won prizes for baking and also for pork pies, brawn and sausage. She was once indignant when someone wrote and asked her for her brawn recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  11. You are such a beautiful writer! I loved this story and how you brought it to life!
    xoJennifer

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wonderfully wrought, Pamela, and this brings to my my own formidable Aunt Babe, who guarded her recipes and was known to leave out and ingredient or alter an amount so her delectable delights would not be duplicated. In the end, though, she did share a few with me, and I guard them as well. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is delightful, Pamela. I can almost taste that burnt caramel cake and am longing for a bite of that fudge. I've been on a quest to recreate my mom's recipes - she is suffering from dementia that came on rather suddenly, before I got the chance to ask her to write them down. I wish I had done so sooner. How lucky you are to have this legacy and piece of your family heritage.

    Hope you have a lovely day! XO

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is classic! Thank you for sharing your great-aunt with us, and her story. (Clearly she remains formidable indeed.) And you've managed to make me extremely hungry, as I finish a sandwich before resuming work (and ponder what baking ingredients may await me in the cupboard).

    ReplyDelete
  15. I adore this Pamela... of course I am bursting to know the recipe...
    I'm rather amused that she outwitted her fellow church women with the making of the cookbook...
    What a fabulous woman...
    xv

    ReplyDelete
  16. My first comment vanished!I shall try again...........Loved the typed recipe card which reminds me of my MOTHERS recipes!Thank You for sharing it!Beautiful story too..............I like your line I'll just make it for you!Thats a good one I might borrow one day!I have started BIG BLANK BOOKS for my SONS.........all hand written by me!They get them when I am gone.Kinda like your tombstone idea!Give that ADORABLE ball of fur a HUG from me!

    ReplyDelete
  17. My Grandmother used to make a chocolate cake with Burnt Caramel Icing. Sure wish I had the recipe. My mother in law used to give me recipes and forget to include key ingredients. :(

    ReplyDelete
  18. OMG does this hit home!! I made a good friend very angry last Christmas when I declined to share my BFF's secret recipe for a very special dip. I had been sworn to secrecy, and as one Sotherner to another, I could not betray the most vital of secrets. "We shall not be moved!"

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am so very delighted that you are now in the BIO group because each time I look forward to finding your take on the theme! You are such an amazing story teller, Pamela. I feel these are your "recipes" that will be handed down and yet generously shared with all of us...

    ReplyDelete
  20. Pamela,
    I recently saw a recipe for a cake that sounds very similar to what you describe. I clipped the recipe but have yet to try it since we're struggling with oppressive heat here in Southern California right now. Cake and cookie baking is reserved for cooler days. I'll let you know if it's delicious.
    This was a fun story. I've never kept a recipe from a friend if they wanted it but have known a few ladies that have.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  21. I suppose asking for a recipe is akin to asking a magician how he did his trick. Part of the pleasure is in the not knowing. I share all my recipes because, believe me, there is nothing magical to them.

    I will be chuckling all evening about the gravestone recipe...gives another perspective to the term "to die for".

    Good storytelling, Pamela.

    ReplyDelete
  22. What a fabulous story, and so beautifully told. Of course, anything which involves cake always gets my attention…but something which sounds as delicious as burnt caramel cake…why, it's no wonder she tried to hide the recipe!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a wonderful and charming story! Love the image! An image which illustrates perfectly well-shared company/friendship!
    Thank you to share this with all of us.
    Greetings from the Périgord,
    karin

    ReplyDelete
  24. What a smart woman she was. Published the cake,
    the line at the end had to frost a few people.
    yvonne

    ReplyDelete
  25. A bit too much pride for my taste. After all, sharing is caring.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Funny story! The cake does sound yummy. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Wonderful story… boy I wish I had that recipe! We always want what we can't have.
    I once asked my best friend for one of her cake recipes, she shared it with me, but it just wasn't quite the same.
    I know something was left out!!
    xxx Coty

    ReplyDelete
  28. Safe journey. You'll need to bring some cake and fudge with you to calm some savage breasts !

    ReplyDelete
  29. Ditto to all the above! My Aunt hand wrote me the recipe to her Christmas spice cake that I so loved when I was growing up. She is gone now and I have never tried baking the cake. I am not a baker!!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Nicely done. Family recipes are a treasure trove.

    ReplyDelete

I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!