Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Friday, January 25, 2013
I am reading a very intriguing book by Aimee Bender called "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake." This quirky piece of fiction tells the story of a young girl Rose who has a gift or maybe a curse of being able to feel the emotions of the person who bakes or cooks a food. She first discovers this on the eve of her ninth birthday when she bites into her mother's home made chocolate lemon cake but can taste the loneliness and despair of the baker. Wherever she goes she tastes the emotion of those that cooked the food. At a bakery a cookie may feel rushed because the person ran in late to work and then slapped the recipe together. A soup may taste bitter because the employee who cooked it hates their job.
Most of us have examined the emotional connection food has to the eater. We eat when we are sad, happy, anxious, sick - you name the emotion, there is a food connection. But this book got me thinking of emotional/food connection from the other side, from the perspective of the maker.
When I was growing up food had a lot of meaning besides nourishment for my mother. I remember being thin as a young child and my mother being so afraid I was starving that she absolutely stuffed me with food. Later, she was horrified that I was plump, so started dieting me and withholding so called "bad foods". It was so confusingly inconsistent there was the yin and the yang - feed her, her favourites and make her happy, or just give her healthy foods like cottage cheese because she is so heavy. I remember every Sunday our family would go for a drive and a visit to the ice-cream parlour was mandatory. I also remember coming home after being bullied and opening up this large bag of rich chocolates my mom kept in a cupboard.
I now love to cook so I found the book intriguing. For me, stirring a pot of soup is therapeutic. I can literally drift off into a very tranquil world. I vascillate as a mom from feeding my family really healthy good for them things to giving them lovely, luscious not so good for them treats. I enjoy that they enjoy eating some of the bad stuff and well they all seem to be slim. I have to admit sometimes I eat vacariously through them. It is almost like I am having dessert. And if I am brutally honest with myself, I am proud that my family loves my cooking and praises me to the roof. Actually, they tell everyone that I am the best cook on the planet which get everyone else's hackles raised, "Oh she is, is she? You haven't tasted my pie, etc. etc."
Just though I would share some of these thoughts. The emotional path of food from cook, baker to taster. What an intriguing world. A bowl of chicken soup can immediately transport me back to my childhood and being with the family at Friday night dinners which were very special and featured my favourite dish, chicken. How evocative food can be!