It seems like I’ve seen a lot of pictures of strawberry cake lately.
It was probably only two until I googled strawberry cake images this morning. Now I’ve really seen a lot of pictures of strawberry cake, but none quite as compelling as the two that inspired this post.
It’s not my favorite cake, but when I was pregnant, I craved it, and would send random texts to my best friend from the grocery store exclaiming, “Did you know they sell individual servings of cake? I need cake by the piece. Portion control, right? I’m going to buy this cake, go home and eat it off my giant tummy table and watch America’s Next Top Model. Why am I so fat? Shit, now I’m crying again. About cake. What is happening?”
I was standing in line at the grocery store this week, and one of the magazines had strawberry cake as their cover picture. I couldn’t look away.
I typed a quick note to myself on my phone, “I wish I was strawberry cake.”
The picture reminded me of church potlucks. Church potlucks reminded me of macaroni salad, banana pudding, and weird jell-o molds, which reminded me that I’m old enough now that I should really have a signature recipe for something to bring to parties when food is requested.
I think what you bring to parties has an evolution cycle that improves as you grow up, turn your focus outward, and start to realize the effort that can go into hosting a party. Bringing food becomes one of the ways that you can help and contribute. Having an adult income and being female helps too.
In my 20′s, I brought beer and my boobs to parties, and I figured that was enough (okay the beer was enough). I always offered to bring pasta and jarred sauce, the only thing I could make at the time, but no one ever wanted my kick-ass ‘scetti.
In my 30′s, I’ve started bringing fruit and vegetable trays. I usually swing by a local deli that has a great yogurt dipping sauce, and Chuy’s which has great jalapeno ranch dip, because I’m not afraid to drive the extra mile for implied effort, to avoid cooking, and to avoid losing Pyrex.
But, I really need to perfect an appetizer or dessert that makes people ask for the recipe, and that they request when I’m invited to things. I always feel a little left out of those conversations.
Maybe I’ll get there in my 40′s and maybe my recipe will be strawberry cake with perfect, fluffy frosting that wasn’t scraped from a paper container.
It’s good to have dreams.
I’m giving this cake a lot of thought, and I think I can trace the inspiration back to a book I read about a year ago called, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. It’s about a young girl who can taste the emotions and feelings of anyone who has prepared her food. This ability begins on her 9th birthday when her mother bakes her a lemon cake filled with particular sadness.
An aptly named book.
I really enjoyed the premise of this book, the vivid descriptions, and the connections many of us hold between emotions and food. It went off track a little for me at the end, and I thought it got a little weird. It was like she came up on deadline, couldn’t figure out how to end it, and said, screw it, what if people could meditate themselves into a state where they disappear into furniture (spoiler, sorry).
Strong beginning, fizzled ending, but I probably just didn’t get it.
But, have you ever found yourself associating people with the food they bring to gatherings? Like Rudy, he’s banana pudding with real whipped cream and Nilla Wafers. Or J is spinach/artichoke dip, or basil, cheese torta (a freaking work of art) and cherry crisp. Wein is sausage biscuit/meatball thingys, and that’s cool because she’s a vegetarian but she thinks about what other people like first. M and I equally divide being the queso, and veggie/fruit trays (she has 2.75 kids, I’m just not a great cook or planner). Another friend is black bean and corn salsa.
But that’s what I meant, when I hastily typed, I want to be strawberry cake.
It’s upbeat, it’s visually appealing, and it tastes great. If a potluck dish does say anything about the person who prepared it, I think strawberry cake says, “happy person who shares delicious desserts.”
It also reminds me of a Strawberry Shortcake doll I had and loved as a child (and found in my garage in about 30 seconds–memory hoarder). The doll has pink, curly hair, and still smells of artificial strawberries and plastic. A surprisingly pleasant combination.
The problem is, I’m not really strawberry cake.
I’m more like canned bean dip and Fritos that could eventually evolve into some sort of home-made cream cheese and bacon dip (this is turning into a weird life metaphor and it is making me hungry).
Being a bacon dip is probably fine too, but I wish I was strawberry cake.
Does this make any sense at all?
Do you think that the dish you bring to parties represents your attitude or personality in any way?
If so, what dish are you?
Did anyone else have this same Strawberry Shortcake doll?