Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lemon-Glazed Poppy Seed Cake

Clowning in my sister-in-laws kitchen.

When I was fourteen, I palled around with the Lutheran minister's daughter in our small town. The Lutheran church had a Wednesday night pot luck supper--I can't recall if it was weekly or monthly, but I used to go with Jurene, and the highlight, foodwise, was a poppy seed cake made by Mrs. Dahms. She never gave out the recipe. I wasn't into cooking at all, but once I asked my mom, and she said that the recipe was secret. Secrets are good. Secrets are tempting.

It was a white cake with poppyseeds, and there was somekind of curd, maybe lemonish on top, an frosting on top of that. Years later, when I ran across what looked to be that recipe, I passed on it. Too sweet and too gloppy, but when you're fourteen that's good stuff.

The great love of my fourteen year old life, Jerry D. , was at those church suppers, and I swooned over his father, too. The men would go outside to smoke and stand on the corner in their suits. Jerry's father was very handsome, and he smiled at me. Of course Jerry didn't smoke because he was a football player and a wrestler. We took piano lessons from the same teacher and he played "Dangerous Journey."

Jerry was one of the few kids in the school who was smarter than me. Hey, it was a small school and I was kind of a dweeb.

Those were the peak of my piano playing years, at least, the years when I still took lessons. The one piece I tried to master but couldn't was Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C Sharp Minor. God, it seemed to me then a beautiful, passionate piece of music, but playing it without strugges, missed notes and hesitations was beyond my talent, which is to say, I played it, but badly.

This all came together in my head yesterday, because I made a poppy seed cake, much simpler and maybe even better than Mrs. Dahms, and my friend is writing a book with Rachmaninoff in it, and we were talking about my piano abilities, now sadly gone.

I remember practicing the piece in the Manse, and the reverend being somewhat uncomplimentary about my efforts. I remember the Christian fellowship in the church basement and the cake and Jerry and his Dad and being fourteen years old. I remember where every church in town was.

How much I remember from those years and how little from others. Proust had much to say about memory, and he said it so well.

My cake was sort of a Proustian thing, although the taste was unique and did not transport me back to Northeastern Colorado and the high plains, just the idea of the cake and thinking of that piece of music brought back strong memories.

You can probably Google the recipe. It was in a May Gourmet, most likely a couple years back because I am cooking and baking my way through the clippings slowly, and either my arteries will clog or I will weight 300 pounds before I finish.

I found it for you:

Create your own Proustian moments.

Thoughts on a cool September eve when the Red Sox are travelling.


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