From the time my husband and I were blissfully happy and abysmally broke at the beginning of our marriage, we took the words from Fiddler on the Roof to heart – “God would like us to be joyful, even when our hearts lie panting on the floor!”
And sometimes our hearts did lie panting on the floor – when our only job paid so little we lived in an apartment with a shared bathroom ($70 a month when the town slums went for $75); when the car we saved for, for two years, broke down; when the first pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage.
Not knowing what else to do, we celebrated. The chorus, L’chaim! To Life!
We had picnics in the snow; we bought one impractical yet intriguing food purchase from the grocery store each week (I don’t recommend canned squid!); we rode our bikes as far as we could into the Gatineau Hills and coasted back for miles. We had fun!
There was nary a cent left over for bakery goods and so I learned to create amazing confections. The best, by far, was my mom’s recipe for Devils Food cake. The popular “chocolate” now is red velvet – that cake doesn’t know chocolate! I think mom’s recipe originally came from an old church cook book, and I promise you, the devil in it went godly – it is the best chocolate cake ever made!
So, when the world fell apart, as it seemed to do rather regularly, I would make a huge chocolate cake. And we would eat it until we felt better, or it was gone – and the two sometimes coincided. As often as not, we would eat the requisite morning toast and peanut butter and then finish the meal off with a slab of cake. The breakfast of champions!
One of my favorite memories is sitting in the kitchen with my three daughters and secretly eating chocolate cake for breakfast while their grandparents slept upstairs. “Don’t tell Mama and Papa,” I whispered. They all solemnly nodded and dug in. My parents never knew how I led their grandchildren astray.
So…I’ve got more years on me. Mama and Papa and several others have traveled on from this life. And just like then, some of my days are beset with problems (I think I may have a leak in my roof – bah!). But now, after years of tucking my passion into corners I have time to write; my daughters often phone me to go out for brunch; my grandchildren call me on their ipads to show me their latest Lego creations.
And right now there is chocolate cake in the kitchen – and I haven’t yet had breakfast.
Mrs. Simpson’s Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake (one layer – double for two huge layers!):
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
¼ c butter
1 c sugar
5 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
Add dry alternately with milk, then mix:
1 ¼ c flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c sour milk
Beat until smooth. Bake 35 to 40 minutes.