39: A Blast from the Past

39: A Blast from the Past

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love

A Blast from the Past

Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.

~Jean de Boufflers

Recently I went to lunch at a small neighborhood deli that serves a variety of sandwiches on healthy breads. On the counter at the cash register there was an assortment of not-so-healthy homemade cakes sectioned into thick squares, displayed in clear plastic containers with handwritten labels. My mouth watered at the sight of a chunk of carrot cake. I flirted with a chocolate-frosted wedge, but then my heart skipped a beat as I recognized a long-lost love. Memories flooded back from more than thirty years ago and I gave in to that scrumptious chunk of apple walnut cake. I devoured every tasty morsel, even the crumbs sticking to the plastic container.

I sat at a retro wooden table, similar to the one in my friend’s old kitchen, to eat my lunch. Every forkful of that apple walnut cake resurrected happy memories of my late friend and our dearly departed mothers. Rose and I were best friends and next-door neighbors for ten years. We had the same warped sense of humor. We shared coffee and sweets, gossip and good news. We cried on one another’s shoulders, complained about our spouses and shared child-rearing tips. We parented our parents too — like most women of that generation, we took care of everybody else’s needs first.

When we had a little time to ourselves, we would sit in Rose’s kitchen as she baked desserts that rivaled those sold at the neighborhood bakery. Her banana cream cake was spectacular and her brownies decadent. But the apple walnut cake, with its cinnamon goodness, had just the right combination of smooth, moist, coffee cake texture, crunchy nuts and fresh fruit. We decided it was a healthy dessert and nibbled on it for days, sliver by sliver, trying to make it last. It was one of our simple indulgences.

Rose and I chauffeured our moms to grocery stores and bingo halls, and we also took them on leisurely Sunday drives. One fall day, they invited us to accompany them on a day trip with the senior citizen group. An old-fashioned picnic with apple picking sounded like something we would enjoy, so we boarded the chartered bus along with our mothers and forty other senior citizens. Rose and I seated our moms up front and then sat across the aisle from one another further back. Bits and pieces of conversations floated our way. We overheard one word repeatedly — nurses. When several ladies stopped to ask what malady our moms suffered from, since obviously they needed their nurses along, we chuckled and explained our relationships.

At the picnic grounds, the seniors lined up to receive their boxed lunches. Rose and I darted to the restroom. As we were heading back, we both gasped at the sight of our moms. We realized that we were too far away to prevent the inevitable from occurring. We sprinted towards them but could only watch as they lifted one leg and then the other over the old-fashioned, wooden picnic bench and placed their open boxes on the table. Simultaneously they sat down. On the same side of the bench! One end of the small picnic table see-sawed up in the air as our moms flopped backwards onto the grassy ground. Their milk splashed them, their apples rolled down the hill and their ham sandwiches ended up in the dirt. By the time we reached our wide-eyed moms, lying flat on their backs with their feet in the air, flustered from the tumble, all we could do was laugh. We regained our composure and helped them up. We apologized for laughing and gave them our boxed lunches.

On the bus ride home, Rose and I couldn’t look at each other without giggling. As a diversion, we counted the apples in our bags and we stared out the windows until one of us caught a glimpse of the other in the reflection. We tried to stifle chuckles and snorts, guffaws and snickers. We were a mess. We took our moms home, thanked them for a memorable day and made sure they were okay. Then we laughed all the way to Rose’s kitchen. We peeled and chopped our newly picked apples and made another delicious apple walnut cake.

Over the years, there were many times Rose and I sat in her kitchen and shared tidbits of our lives as we devoured delicious home-baked goods. None was ever sweeter than that particular apple walnut coffee cake.

Apple Walnut Coffee Cake

Beat together:

11/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

Sift together:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon (more to taste)

2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix all ingredients

Peel and dice 3 heaping cups apples

Fold in apples

Add 1 cup chopped walnuts

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour in greased and floured 9x13 pan.

Cool and dust with powdered sugar.

~Linda O’Connell

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