Thursday night, Felix and I made some cakes. Having him measure ingredients, I had such a fond feeling for when I was 11 and loved being in the kitchen.
By then I had assigned myself the job of being the family baker. I would survey my sisters and see what they wanted for snacks or lunches. I pretended to be taking care of them and their needs, but really I had a glue for the alchemy of baking. I loved to make oatmeal cookies especially, and kept playing with recipes. I have some index cards that say The Best, Amy’s Best, or The Best Best.
Felix doesn’t have the same affinity for the kitchen, but he likes learning how ingredients come together. Baking a tractor shaped cake was kind of the frosting on a project for school. He turned his love for Bruder farm toys into a research project, and wrote about the history of toys, and the history of farming toys in Germany and America.
I had fun reading to help him. I read the biography of the man who invented the erector set, and learned about his getting members of a congressional committee on their knees playing with toys. The committee was considering rationing toys, but A.C. Gilbert gave an impassioned speech asking that American boys who might be fighting soon be allowed to have Christmas and build childhood memories. This was during World War I, and a barge full of German-made toys sat in the ocean, barred from coming on shore.
The book reminded me of my erector set, and the bridge that I built. Playing with flour was more routine. I built myself in the kitchen, and that’s why it is so fun to watch my boys play with food. Francis is 17 and he has always loved cooking and eating. He has quite a taste compass, and I’m happy he’s home from boarding school to help guide our meals.
“Boy, making a cake is a lot of work! I thought it would be snip snap,” Felix said as he divided the frosting for his tractor cake into bowls and tried to get the colors right to match a particular tractor.
He got up early in the morning before the last day of school to decorate the cake. The result was pretty great for a first effort!
We brought it to a party at his friend’s house, and as thunder rumbled the kids came indoors from volleyball and soccer and finally cut into the tractor.
Who knows how much interest Felix will ever have in baking. But I am grateful that we had some time together with sugar and flour and each other.