My passion for cooking began when I was a little girl, living in our modest, yet homey cabin in the woods. Our cabin was built by my dad, completely by hand, and was a testament to his love of all things handmade and salvaged. Our home was filled with items found in old landfills or secondhand shops and treasures passed down within our family. I didn’t own toys, rather, my collections were the things that my grandmothers had used and cherished over the years. Their cookbooks, banded bowls, measuring cups, depression glass, and hand beaters. And what I loved most of all was to spend my days reading through their cookbooks spattered with the ingredients from their kitchens of long ago, deciding what I’d like to bake that day. And because I never got to meet either of them, it was my opportunity to be close to them in my own special way.
Our cabin in the woods was high in the mountains and had an old wood cookstove, but no refrigerator, electricity or running water. Teaching myself to cook at a high elevation with the fluctuating heat in the stove was a challenge, but not unlike the rest of my life, where improvising and making do was just the way it was.
When I was in sixth grade, our local newspaper, the Siskiyou Daily News, advertised a baking contest and I was overjoyed at the prospect of participating. I chose a complicated whipped cream and chocolate cake that required refrigeration. We made a special trip to town to buy huge ice blocks for the ice chest and the special ingredients for the cake. I spent all night working on the cake, which was so delicate and fluffy. I discovered a way to keep the whipped cream from separating and had all of the elements ready to assemble the next morning. When I awoke, my heart skipped a beat, thinking about the impending contest and I excitedly went to work, piecing everything together. And when I was finished, my fluffy little cake was a masterpiece I was so proud of. Time was of the essence. My cake had to get to town quickly, so the judges could see and taste if before it warmed up. So I wobbled my way to the front seat of our car and placed my masterpiece on my lap. And as we drove down our three mile long dirt road into town, I held onto that little cake with all my might. But as we rounded the bend in the road, our car hit a huge pothole which sent my cake straight onto the floor, where it landed, along with all of my hopes for the contest.
After I got over the initial disappointment of the cake crash, we were able so salvage much of the cake and enjoyed it as a breakfast treat at home that day. And my dad proclaimed it to be a real winner.
And it was delicious.
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You can read more about my childhood here.