Sunday, June 3, 2007

When Moving Forward, Think About the Past

Arlene's Mother's Blueberry Cake


Because we are moving back to New England after ten years living in the Deep South (5 years) and Mid-South (5 years) I keep thinking about what it means to go home, in my head and for real.

Because my mother hated to cook, I became a good one. I’m ornery that way.

Mom was a great seamstress. Therefore, I do not sew. Mom could knit Fair Isle patterned sweaters that would make another woman nuts with frustration. I can knit a scarf. A long straight scarf. Let me know if you need one.

Mom thought dessert meant Jell-O. Or something from the pastry shop around the corner.

I didn’t know Other Mothers baked.

When I was seven we moved two towns over, to a different factory town. There I met my new best friend and her mother Alice, The Baking Queen.

Officially, she was known as Arlene’s mother. Maybe not on the voting roster, or on her Filene’s charge card, but to me she was Arlene’s mother, the woman who bakes.

Going over to Arlene’s to play always meant we got to come in the house “so we wouldn’t get over heated, or dehydrated, or God Forbid, get sunstroke” whenever Arlene’s mother said so. She would pour us a glass of the Special Concoction Arlene’s father made (which I now suspect was a lemonade, grape juice, pineapple juice, ginger ale punch). Anyway, it was called The Concoction. And it was delicious.

On some days it would be our other favorite—diluted Lime Zarex sryup. We would have to make about two gallons of it at a time. Then, Arlene’s mother would offer us whatever she had baked that day. Zarex and other regional foods are hard to find but Home Town Favorites is a good place to look for the foods you remember that are not on store shelves now.

Back to the cake.

Arlene and I have a tendency toward chubby thighs. I maintain it was all worth it. Arlene says otherwise.

Arlene’s mother lives in Florida now, and bakes for her condo association. My loss. But before she packed up and moved to her place in the sun, I managed to wrest the recipes of all my favorites. The deal was, I would send her copies of my short stories when I wrote them, and I would name all her recipes after her when I made them.

In the spirit of generosity, I would like to present:

Arlene’s Mother’s Beautiful Blueberry Cake

*you can double this recipe for a larger pan or crowd. You can make two at a time and freeze one.

1/4 cup real butter (softened)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. real vanilla
1 cup FRESH blueberries

Blend butter, sugar, egg with electric mixer on slow speed.
Add dry ingredients in three alternating steps using the milk each time.
Add vanilla until batter is smooth and light.

Wash blueberries in a strainer and sprinkle with Wondra flour.*

*This way they won’t sink to the bottom.

Add to batter.

Bake in a greased/floured 8” square pan

Sprinkle top with sugar and cinnamon if desired.


350 degrees for 45-55 minutes (test until the toothpick comes out clean)

When serving, be sure to say, “It’s Arlene’s Mother’s Blueberry Cake.”

1 comment:

bevjackson said...

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