Sunday, July 15, 2018

cake and life

For his first birthday without her, I made him a cake like his mama would've made it.

Sjokolade-oilie-koek. In Afrikaans it rolls off the tongue, in any language it slips happily into your belly.
The recipe is written in pencil, on an old discoloured page, in her distinctive hand.
The sugar came from a massive vat of it we discovered in her cupboard when we were packing up her flat. 'How long do you think this has been here?' I asked him, and when we got home we found slip of paper buried in the white crystals 04.01.2018. Why would she have dated it we wondered?
The vanilla also from her tiny pantry, a mere fraction of the kind of supply cupboard she would've kept for most of her life.
The cake tins, well-scrubbed, a bit battered, tins which must've baked 1000 cakes. No, really.


I messaged him while baking it.
Cherries? Caramel filling? Instant coffee in the icing?
I wanted to make it just right. After all these years there are still things I don't know about him.

His response: No chuckles, no sprinkles, no dips, no cherries, no candles. No coffee, no caramel. Just icing. Maybe the thinnest smear of apricot jam. Maybe some choc shavings.


I hope when he bit into it he thought of her. I hope I made it right but not so right that he wouldn't feel nostalgic for hers. I hope that I did it justice, but I'm sure he felt that missing ingredient.

Life isn't great right now. We are feeling our losses and struggling along with our burdens of stress and general boring adulthood.
But we are struggling along together, which is the important thing, we are being gentle and kind and helping each other out where we can.

And today we ate cake, and climbed a mountain, and celebrated life. Because we have it, and it's beautiful, even when it's hard.
And there's also gin!

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