Once in a great while, I laze about in bed on Saturday morning, only getting up when other people in the house start moaning about impending starvation. Last week I got up to discover that there really wasn't anything in the house ready-made to eat. To forestall any fainting spells on the part of my housemates, I sent Patrick to the store for some Entenmann's donuts. These were wolfed down in a heartbeat once they arrived home.
Next morning on the way to church, Christian confessed to wanting more of the donuts. I answered that we could make some homemade donuts in the afternoon; he replied that his craving was specific to the Entenmann's. I reminded him what happened when Edmund ate the White Witch's Turkish Delight, and quoted C.S. Lewis from memory: "Nothing spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not anti-sugar. I do believe, though, that homemade treats trump store-bought (i.e., 'bad magic') most days of the week for several reasons. First, they taste better to all but the most process-jaded palates. James asked me the other day why his friends at school like the cafeteria food and he doesn't. I told him it was probably because they didn't get to eat really good food very often. Poor things.
Second, my Puritan roots influence me to believe that we value more highly what we work to create. My children do stop to savor the food I make, probably because they witnessed (and helped) my labors.
Of course, they balk at some things they are served. Hope has taken a dislike to corn off the cob. James can't abide fried eggs. Tess only eats beets because they make the soup a pretty pink color (and because she's not allowed to leave the table until they are gone). With this many people in our household, at least one person per day is eating something that is not his or her favorite. But not eating it simply is not an option.
Third, I subscribe to the Eastern philosophy eloquently articulated by the Maha Chohan:
"If a woman could see the sparks of light going forth from her fingertips when she is cooking and the substance of light that goes into the food she handles, she would be amazed to see how much of herself she charges into the meals she prepares for her family and friends."
Food is more than macro- and micro-nutrients, more than sustenance. It is frequently a catalyst for bonding; a part of sacred ritual; a celebration of life.
Speaking of celebrations, and good magic food--a friend at church is getting married this Saturday. Her mother, who was going to make the cake, has unfortunately gotten sick, so I was asked to step in. I'm so excited! I haven't made a wedding cake since Roselyn's wedding in Manhattan almost ten years ago (photo above).
For cakes, nothing beats The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I've been using it for years with never-fail, mouthwatering results. I'll be making her three-tier Chocolate Butter Cake (this is the recipe I use for my Chocolate Lace Cake) and using her White Chocolate Mousseline Buttercream for the frosting. For the filling, I'll use the Magnolia Bakery's Caramel Coconut Pecan recipe. Linda wants just the minimum of piping on the cake, since her sister will be decorating it with flowers.
I was so glad to look at my calendar and see that I had nothing scheduled for Friday; the cake will take up the bulk of the day, and I will be able to proceed at a leisurely pace, unhurried by the stress of any other events. A wedding cake is and should be a labor of love, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it.