Sunday, February 06, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

I think I may have found my calling. I made a coconut cake today - yes, of course from scratch - and I wasn't even snowed in. It is as yummy as I hoped. I wish my high school Home Ec teacher could see me, not that she would know who I was as I nearly always cut her class except for the time I discovered a package of shredded coconut in her cupboard, and sat in the back scarfing it from the box while she demonstrated something in which I had no interest up front.

Flip was helpful, as always. He ate two large pieces, and when I mentioned my Home Ec teacher, he said, chewing, "She's dead." Oh. Thanks for reminding me that most of the generation that raised me is gone.

I was slow to develop any domestic abilities, so it was a great surprise to discover that I actually enjoyed cooking, and also eating. Growing up, I didn't even qualify as a picky eater as I hated everything. My parents considered mealtime an opportune captive audience, and often reviewed and reprimanded me for whatever crimes I had committed that day. It was impossible to eat on demand, especially since they told me often how ungrateful I was when other children were starving in Europe. I sincerely wished they would take all that liver and cauliflower and send it to them, but nobody asked what I thought.

My high school also attempted to instill the housewifely art of sewing, to which end we all made flannel nightgowns. I managed to sew mine closed across the bottom and had to smuggle it home so my mother could undo the stitches. My mother was a talented seamstress, which was not always an advantage. We would walk through high end department stores together, and whenever I admired something, she would say, "I could make it for less." Except she rarely did. It was just code for leading me out of temptation with her purse intact. She did, however, make me a wonderful prom gown in my senior year, an ice blue satin strapless number, tightly fitted in all the right places, and I was elected Christmas Prom Queen in that gown. I do not have her talent, although I bought a sewing machine several years ago, determined to unlock its mysteries. And if I didn't have an endless supply of books, or my computer, I surely would have done so by now.

Flip just strolled by with another huge hunk of cake. I won't have to worry about it getting stale. I remarked that "man cannot live by cake alone," but he may prove me wrong.


Maria said...

I wish that I liked coconut, it is so pretty...but I hate the taste of it.

And while I am not a good cook, I am a passable baker. This is only because I decided that I was going to bake with my daughter from the time that she was a toddler and I bought some really good cook books to help me understand terms like "brown the meat"...seriously, I had NO idea what that was.

Now, even Bing admits that I bake a lovely red velvet cake but I cannot make decent mac and cheese from scratch.

TaraDharma said...

that cake looks delicious indeed, though I am not a coconut fan.

I felt the same way about Home Ec, and usually ended up causing distractions with my riotous behavior (sometimes drug-induced). I made perhaps ONE dress and hated every minute of it. I was very much in the feminist 'fuck the domestic arts' mode.

Now, as a soon to be grandmother, I have taken up knitting. I suck at it, but I will continue to try. It will be a triumph if I can actually manage it.

Jo said...

Okay, please tell Flip to step away from the cake ... and save some for me. It looks magnificent!

My mother was a wonderful cook, baker and seamstress, and so is my daughter, but sadly the seamstress part skipped my generation. I can sew on a button, but that's the extent of it.

Do I detect the Blue Willow pattern peeking from underneath the cake? It's one of my favourites. :-)

mischief said...

Glad that Flip is enjoying your work so much! And thank you for the hope that I may still, one day, develop some domestic skills. It would be so useful. (And that cake looks delicious.)

secret agent woman said...

Looks fantastic (even though I'm in the hate-coconut camp). I had to take high school home ec, too. We had to sew skirts and model them for the school. What a nightmare.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


When I married First Husband, aka Crazy but Charmless, cooking was part of my job description and I didn't know how to boil water, so I bought Julia Child's first book and taught myself to cook. Although I would now tell any guy with such sexist expectations to shove it, I'm glad I learned. I even find it a creative outlet, but I do wish that someone would cook for me occasionally.


I like to knit and used to dye handspun yarns in natural dyes and knit them into many-colored sweaters, but I haven't made anything in years except for an alpaca muffler a few winters ago. I find tactile pleasure in yarns.

Congratulations on your expected grandchild!


Yes, that is Blue Willow.

I can also sew on a button, but when I was in college, I thought nothing of tacking up a dropped hem with scotch tape. I haven't progressed much since then, although I wouldn't use tape anymore. Maybe a stapler. :)


Domestic skills are great if one wants to have them, but vastly overrated compared to so many other qualities if one lacks interest.


I never tasted coconut until I was grown because my mother hated it and never served it. Ditto avocados and cranberries, which I thought grew in a can until I began to shop and cook.

We didn't have to model our creations. They certainly didn't want us displaying ourselves to adolescent boys in those sexy flannel granny gowns.

the walking man said...

Oh how the rebellious have settled down. Power to the coconut!

nick said...

We'll know feminism is getting somewhere when boys take domestic science lessons and learn how to sew and cook. I regret to say I'm useless at both, but fortunately Jenny loves cooking and is happy for me to do the washing-up and some of the shopping.

Momma Peach @ Yankee and Peach said...

I purchased a sewing machine a few years ago. So far, I'm fabulous at making pillow cases in fun patterns and what not. However, something with intricate shape (ie. clothing) is a skill I have not grasped. Good luck with your sewing - and please post tutorials if you find anything to help us amateurs!

Anonymous said...

My, that is a fine looking cake. May I have a slice if Flip has left any? By my age I believe that cake is about the only vice I have remaining. At least it's the only one I'm prepared to mention.

Jocelyn said...

Gorgeous cake--and I can't stand coconut, so that's testament to your abilities.

As someone who has struggled not to love food so much, I have to roll around in my head the kind of eater you were (or weren't) when you were young. Interesting.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Them's fightin' words, Sparky.


My father, a most accomplished male chauvinist, often stated that the best chefs were men, but I never saw him cook anything.

Momma Peach,

You are several pillow cases ahead of me, then. I think the problem may not be with sewing, but with the machine I bought, a Bernina "sewing computer." I am intimidated by it, and suspect that once I get past this, the rest will be fairly easy.

Thank you for your visit!


Methinks you do protest too much. And regretfully, Flip did not leave a single crumb standing. I'm sure he's only looking out for my health by ensuring that I won't gain weight.


Most people eat when stressed, while I have always been a compulsive starver, but not anorexic because I love to eat when all the signs are right. (And no one is yelling at me.)

TechnoBabe said...

The cake looks delicious and gads, so many layers. From Scratch??? I have never ever made a cake from scratch. I would love a piece of your cake, as I too like coconut. My hubby does not like coconut at all though. I can picture you in high school home ec with the package of coconut, able to be in the class room for the roll call but not there for much else. Ha. You and I have some childhood things in common, I too disliked most food but we did not have much of it and I learned to put aside the idea of food and was a skinny little thing. So many scenes from childhood are me butting heads with my mother who was always worried about me not gaining weight. If only that would be the case now. Do you still dislike liver and cauliflower?
The prom gown sounds lovely. Growing up with a mom who could sew sounds like a dream. Compared to my high school years your sounds great. I sewed simple clothes for my kids, most without patterns. It was easy to make clothes for three little kids and simple skirts for me. I still have the sewing machine I had when my kids were tiny and it still works great.

Anonymous said...

Delicious-looking cake! I like the taste of coconut, but have an aversion to anything shredded in my mouth. However, for that cake I would gladly make an exception!

I'm sorry your parents made mealtimes unpleasant. That is so unfair! I'm glad you were able to overcome that. I was such a picky non-eater as a child that I was malnourished and the doctor told my grandmother to let me eat all I wanted of whatever I was willing to eat. I got to eat all the french fries, Pringles, and ketchup sandwiches I wanted. But I loved vegetables and wouldn't eat sweets. Weird, huh.

Grandma's scrapbook said...

I love sweets ... mmmm, great

Blue Ridge Mountains said...

This is a message for Maria. If you want a delicious easy to fix mac and cheese Paula Deane's recipe is tops.
Coconut cake is my favorite. I have a friend who uses milk coconut and it is out of this world.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yes, I still detest liver, but I've been a vegetarian for so long it's not relevant. I like raw cauliflower in salads, but not cooked. I was a skinny child, too, and as an adolescent I ate several bananas before going to the beach so my stomach wouldn't be quite so concave in my bikini. Be careful what you wish for.


I didn't like sweets as a child either and snacked on apples and carrots. Now I love sweets and could probably eat myself into a diabetic cupcake coma.

Grandma's scrapbook,

I would offer you a piece of cake but my husband did away with it quickly.

Blue Ridge,

I used coconut milk in the cake, too. It was yummy. And I lived in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains for many years, and still miss them except in winter.

Barb said...

Hello from CO, I came to visit you from somewhere else, and I'm glad I did! Your writing is wonderful - you take me back to my own Home Ec experience of making an A-line skirt in a terrible swirl of turquoise and black. My best friend and I (neither of us destined for homemaking per se) used the same fabric. Of course, we never wore them! Also, coconut cake was my Mother's favorite, so now you've brought back some good memories of her, too.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Welcome, and I'm sorry I can't offer you any cake in your mother's honor as it is all gone.(You have to be quick around here.)

Your Home Ec A-line skirt sounds about as appealing as my flannel granny gown, also never worn. Thank you for coming by!

Anonymous said...

Ah, cake. I can do without the frosting but to eat the actual cake is like adult cotton candy -- light, fluffy amazing goodness that melts in your mouth.

Flannel nightgowns, oh man. I remember I made a denim bag with my first name stitched across it in red. In hindsight, I cannot a more basic assignment, which I guess was on purpose. I must admit that no one sews on a button like I do -- clean and simple and yet strong, never to fall off again.

Getting back to that cake -- I wish your blog were a "scratch and sniff" or better yet, I wish Chicago was located alongside SF, so I could just reach over for a bite.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm reminded of Jack Spratt and his wife as I especially love the icing.

A scratch and sniff blog makes me giggle. But oh, a man who can sew on a button is beyond wonderful.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

It looks divine!! Although, by now I'm sure it's long gone.

I think you could do a bakery by delivery thing... you know, for some pocket money and something to do around the house.
Make cookies & cupcakes & cakes and hire a local kid with a car to deliver for you. Mail the cookies.
I had a cake delivered once, it was one of the best birthday lifesavers I ever was blessed with.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It was divine, if one loves coconut as I do. I make a mean chocolate cake, too, with mocha buttercream icing.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

You know... a coupling of coconut and chocolate sounds fairly divine as well... ;D

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

seventh sister said...

That cake looks so good. I have yet to figure out how to bake at almost 8000 ft. elevation.