Home Is a Fleeting Thing
April 21, 2008
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It's nice to have a two-hour stretch where I can let go of everything and simply tune in. There's so much happening lately. Mr. Sundberg's calendar is packed for the next few weeks so he's been in and out, and Spring showed up and—BOOM—there's baseball and softball and the spring play and practices for the kids, then concerts and games and a woman needs to find a bit of peace. Just a stretch of calm. Some days I simply want to stay home and just be.
I've been thinking about home lately, and how I've heard it said that home is the imaginary place we spend our lives longing to return to. That may be, but I have to believe home is inside of me—the feeling that I belong here where I am, that I'm supposed to be here, and the people around me are my people. I feel it when I'm at the grocery store where Lori in the deli says "Hello!" and the yogurt display is something both Andy Warhol and Vincent Van Gogh would admire, and Derek the check-out guy is waiting to give me the latest update on The Adventures of Derek. I feel at home in my car, of course, because it's simply an extension of my house and it's clean and I could live in it for quite a stretch of days if I found myself in the middle of nowhere. I feel home when I'm with my parents and my brothers, and a bit of it at the café, and on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair.
Truth is, though, like childbirth or adolescence or escalator rides, feeling at home is a fleeting thing. You want to hold on to it when you have it, because it's dear life itself, and Dorothy was right on when she said there's no place like it. Let me tell you, it filled my kitchen on Saturday night when Mr. Keillor sang at the end of his monologue the song about Lake Wobegon, a song with longing for cows and meadows and the sweetness of a time and place. It filled my kitchen and it filled me, and I ended up calling people I love long into the night, with nothing much at all to say but "Hello", wanting to hear their voices talking, telling what's been going on and who's doing what and when. And while they talked, I heard in the background train whistles and crying children, dogs barking and cupboards shutting, and chickens. I slept well that night, and dreamed about blueberries and how we used to pick 'em, squatting among the flat bushes, filling empty ice cream pails long into hot afternoons. And when we finished, we loaded up the truck and drove home, stopping for vanilla ice cream on the way for the pie mom would make, we hoped, for dessert.
This recipe comes to me from a woman who meditates, a strong woman who knows there's a time for emptiness and a time for attachment, and a time for chocolate cake. It's a lovely cake—perfect for tea with silver and plates, and just as luscious wrapped in a napkin on the way to the bus.
Emergency Chocolate Cake
(Makes one 8-inch square cake)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar (optional)
Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350.
Lightly coat an 8-inch square cake pan with vegetable oil spray.
Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda together in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, water and vanilla.
Stir the mayonnaise mixture into the flour mixture and mix until combined.
Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a
wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few
crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes or so.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for an hour or so. Cut into
squares and serve straight from the pan or turn the cake out onto a
serving platter and dust with the confectioners' sugar.
To make ahead:
After the cake has cooled, it can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap
and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.