Soon after my husband and I were married, Mother and I went out for the day. While we were gone, my father and my husband decided to cook dinner. That, in itself, was unusual. My husband had a few dishes at which he was proficient. My father, not so much. He never cooked because he didn’t have to. His survival meal was usually soup.
But this day, for some reason, they had decided it would be a good idea to impress us with their skills. We had not been married long, so it may have been a moment of male one-upmanship or just plain ole male bonding. Whatever it was, it left an impression.
We women came through the door of the kitchen to be greeted with every pot and pan in the place dirty and in some form of disarray. Piled high in the sink and stacked on the counter. That is never a good sight. I had a bad feeling…
Yet The Men were jovial, laughing and joking as they worked and prepared their surprise. And a surprise, it was.
There, on the kitchen table, was laid out our dinner fare. Chili, my husband’s specialty, sat on a hot pad near his place, ready to be served up. All the fixings sat nearby. (Odd, I thought, that he had managed to dirty so many pots to make this simple dish!)
Fresh vegetable trays were brought out of the fridge. Crackers and a variety of cheeses and relishes were set about before us. It was a meal fit for a king and we ate with gusto. Hub’s chili was always a winner.
“Save room for dessert,” my father said and jumped up to clear away our chili dishes. More things stacked on the counter! Ugh!
“Dessert?” I asked, thinking cookies and ice cream would be a good ending to this meal.
“Dessert,” he said matter-of-factly. “We made a cake!”
And what a cake it was!
The two most important men in my life at that moment moved toward the table, one carrying the monstrosity, the other walking along with outstretched hands as if to catch anything that might fall off. They acted like contestants on one of those cooking shows that are so popular.
They could have easily opted for a sheet cake on their first attempt at baking. They could have made a Bundt cake. They could even have made cupcakes. But, no, they constructed a triple-layer cake! Something neither one had ever done before.
They set it as carefully as possible, like it was a rare jewel, in the middle of the table and stood back to admire their work.
Imagine, if you can, a large, triple-layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing, that looks like it might possibly have been dropped then put back together. There was a huge crack along the top layer that had been filled with icing. But the crack was too wide, and the icing just oozed out and down the side of the cake. Like a giant landslide over a treeless cliff.
The layers had begun to slide as well. The middle layer was slipping to the left while the top layer was going to the right.
“It’s a little wonky,” one of the chefs offered.
“Ummm,” was all I could say. Mother was staying quiet.
It was obvious what they had done. Or neglected to do. They had simply not trimmed off any irregularities on the tops of each layer so the next layer would sit flat. But I wasn’t about to offer up this tidbit of information at this particular moment. I’d save it for a more opportune time.
My father was pouring coffee from the old percolator as my husband began to attack the cake with a knife.
‘Is it going to fall apart when you cut it?” I asked cautiously.
“Oh, no!” Hubs answered good-naturedly.
I looked at him skeptically as I watched him cut into the chocolate mound. “How did you keep the layers from sliding off?”
“Oh,” my father answered with a little laugh, “we used toothpicks. Be careful and don’t eat one!”
I accepted the dish with a large piece of chocolate cake resting on it. It looked like a porcupine, lying there with toothpicks sticking out at every angle. They must have used the whole box!
These two men watched me expectantly. I was to be the guinea pig. I pulled out as many toothpicks as I could see and gingerly tasted the confection. It was amazingly good.
As we ate, we watched as small pieces come loose from the cake and fell off, landing on the cake plate with a plop. I glanced around at the mess on the stove, on the counter, and in the sink. It would have to be cleaned up. But that could wait for later. For this moment in time, I would sit with my family and enjoy the ambiance. Every morsel of food I had put in my mouth had been made with love today. Made with purpose. Not just put together out of rote necessity to fuel the body. But also to fuel the soul. Connect with the spirit.
I have eaten many, many meals since that one and I recall very few of them. But I will always remember this dinner and its lopsided chocolate cake. A delicious and beautiful cake by which all others are measured.
There are no pictures of the infamous cake but in my mind’s eye, this is always how it will look! Perfect! Love presents itself in many forms, my friends. Don’t fail to recognize it because it isn’t packaged in exactly the form you imagine it should be.
Happy Valentine’s Day!!