Baking Cakes: A Female Memoirist’s Question-esto

You are a female memoirist.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.50.58 PMYou sometimes feel like an unreliable narrator of your own story. You are part of a vast machine of culinary production, and you feel strangely removed from the formulaic confection you have helped make.

The problem is the series of cake pans you have been given, the containers into which you are told you should pour your story. There’s a whole bakery: cupcake tins, Bundt cake pans with ridges, double-cylindrical Angel food cake pans, round pans for a birthday layer cake.

You are assured that if you make a cake—instead of, say, a roasted goat on a skewer—your readers will understand and appreciate the reliable predictable substance, the airy regular texture, the sweetness on the palate.

You undertake this challenge of subtlety. You diligently mix your recipe, sneaking in the hint of saffron, mint, grated lemon zest—the notes you believe that the light cake might bear without collapsing.

You are told to add kisses, and so you do. You are told to add wishes, and so you do. And shopping and love, and moments of weakness, and so you do. And it all sounds like you, after a fashion. And you are told to make the story make sense, and make it evenly shaped and smooth. And you do.

Others get to ice and decorate the cake, to package and deliver it, to shelve it. You hope for the best. You hope someone will take the time to taste the flecks of individuality in your cake.

Commentators who are not inclined to eat cake, who pride themselves on their serious diets, receive it and dismiss it as just another cake. But, you say to yourself, I was told to make a cake.

The terrible problem, you realize, is that you have begun to think of your life as a series of cakes. You personally love cake and buy cake, and you enjoy the cakes that others make, and you know that many bakers were born to make cake. But is your story a cake? You do not know. You do not actually know how long you have thought of your story as a cake, but you suspect it goes all the way back to the first stories. You are not sure you know how to think yourself outside of a cake-shaped container.

Does this make you unreliable? Do you even like cake? You imagine a cake-less universe, and you wonder what else might be consumed.

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