yesterday, i went shopping. it’s something i do now only out of necessity. when mom (a.k.a. little bird) was alive, we went frequently. persistently. at times, ad nauseum. i had to force myself to remember that, to mom (who spent more than 25 years in upscale sales), retail felt like going home.
no matter where we shopped, she proactively sought out sales people in every store—as if they were family. most newbie retail associates tried to avoid her enthusiastic advances (and eye contact). but seasoned comrades, much to mom’s delight, engaged respectfully in conversations. and she took their parting words to come back again soon like invitations from dear friends.
my solo retail outing (mission: to replace ratty old sweaters with new, unratty counterparts) took a surprising turn. i found myself drawn—clearly by some mysterious, magnetic force—to a retail outlet and to a sweater nearly identical to one little bird used to wear religiously. yeah, ok, hers didn’t have a hoodie. and she didn’t wear mens’ sweaters, except for dad’s when she felt a little blue. and i have no intention of wearing a brooch on my sweater. but other than that, we could have been twins. i grabbed the sweater, hugged it tightly to my chest and grinned a big toothy one. even the newbie sales guy at the register seemed to feel the excitement of my discovery and pride in being part of a shiny, new-store family. i think mom would have liked him.
dominant genes: skinny legs, big feet
as the years go by, i catch myself sounding—and looking—just a little bit more like mom. a lilt in my voice (with only a hint of New England accent). a facial expression. a wicked-lame joke. an affinity for a handsome, black and white sweater. and i think (with some modicum of panic), i am becoming my mother. well, dear, the apples don’t fall far from the tree.
if you’re in the mood, crank up Glenn Miller’s rendition of People Like You and Me, get out the flour, and whip up a nicely moist apple cake (recipe just below).
mom would have liked it with a double-dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream. or maybe some vanilla ice cream. or both. from our gene pool: when it comes to dessert, always shoot the moon.
endnote: sincere thanks to those who’ve continued to stop by during this quiet time. losing our beloved Winnie on 17 February left my creative spirit squashed. appreciate your patience as i get my juju back.
Family Tree Apple Cake
based on a recipe from pinch of yum
for the cake
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup oil (i use sunflower)
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chopped apples (i used a mix of Queen Cox and Bramley; if you don’t have access to these, try a nice, tart Granny Smith)
for the topping
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons butter
- preheat oven to 325°F.
- butter a 10-inch square pan. (if you don’t have this more unusual size [mine is a Emile Henry Urban Colors square baking dish], you could use a 9 x13-inch pan, but the cake wouldn’t be as lofty.)
- to make the topping, in a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, flour, cinnamon and cloves.
- using a pastry blender, cut in the butter (leaving some larger lumps) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
- to make the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt.
- in the bowl of a stand mixer, with beater attachment, beat brown sugar and oil until combined.
- add egg, buttermilk and vanilla, and mix until throughly incorporated.
- add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- fold in the apples.
- scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading out evenly.
- sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.
- bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 45 minutes.
- let cake cool in pan on rack, but it’s great served warm.
dominant genes: goofy w/beak