Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Elusive Coconut Cake and the Truth of Moderation

Operation Gonna Get My Waste Back is moving along. That is until someone shows up with a homemade coconut cake - then the jury is out. 

My love for a good coconut cake brings back memories of my Grandmama and her kitchen - that magical place. I know most of us have fond memories of our grandmothers and the delight that came from their kitchens - especially that one thing everyone at the family union waited for with bated breath. In my case, that was her coconut cake.

Unfortunately that cake went to the grave with her. I have never been able to recreate that perfect culinary creation. Oh, I have a recipe  (on a 3 x 5 slightly stained note card) in her hand writing, no less. Try as I might this luscious splendid gâteau, eludes me.

Even using the exact ingredients - down to her traditional Red Band Flour, I cannot recreate that light fluffy cake. But, I think with 10 - 12 more attempts, I can probably produce the lighter than air yellow cake as I remembered. The icing, however, continues to challenge me. Even using a traditional double boiler and hand mixer, I have yet to get it right.

Not that I am bragging, but I pride myself on my cooking - baking included. I conquered the Lemon Doberge cake,  if I must say, on my first attempt. Even though at first glance, the recipe of 5 layers of a rich white cake, each layer separated with sweet, yet tart, lemon custard, all covered with a very fluffy butter cream icing having just enough zest to give it a wisp of heavenly lemon flavor, was initially daunting.

But not Grandmama's coconut cake. Perhaps it is not to be. My baking days have been put on hold for a while - a long while. After all, who can seriously bake without constantly tasting each step to ensure perfection. Well, not me. 

Grandmama's kitchen produced more than the most memorable coconut cake. Her fried chicken was to die for. Her macaroni and cheese, not to be confused with the "Blue Box" kind, was a thick deep, serious dish of lots of cheese, butter, macaroni noodles, and eggs, baked to perfection. She prepared fresh vegetables from her garden like no other. She was able to perfectly cook, bake, smother, or fry any of the wild game and fish my Granddaddy was always bringing home. My childhood in her kitchen gave me a love for fresh game - cooked right!

And, her crowning glory (just 2nd to the coconut cake) were her biscuits. Those small light fluffy pieces of delight, rich with Crisco and Red Band Flour, were loved by all of us. So much so, that the covered aluminum pan sitting on the dinner table at every meal, holding her biscuits, was the one item all 5 of her grandchildren fought for after she died. In our minds, this container alone was a secret ingredient. (No doubt, my loss in the scramble for the magical container is the one thing that keeps me short of perfect replication of her biscuits.)

Meanwhile, back to my bike.  Operation GGMWB continues.  And this does not include a coconut nor a Doberge cake, biscuits or gravy smothered doves. Oh, to what depths vanity will drive us! One desire (more like delusion) is that the success of my most recent project will be the ability to enjoy these delights once again. They say moderation is the secret to success. But seriously, does "moderation" mean the tease of a very small piece or just not going back for seconds?

Come to think of it, anything that is suggested to be consumed in moderation, must be worth more. After all, life is short, why moderate. One of my favorite quotes from the late Queen Mum was, "Wouldn’t it be terrible if you’d spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t eat things, took lots of exercise, and suddenly, one day, you were run over by a big red bus and, as the wheels were crunching into you, you’d say, 'Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night.' That’s the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you’ll be run over by a big red bus."

Given she had a full life, was adored by everyone, and lived to be 101, perhaps she had it right. The secret of getting the most from your life may not be moderation per se, but moderating what you moderate. 

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