I am half Mexican and half German. This would explain why I desperately love accordions. I am closer to the Mexican side of my family, because I grew up around them, and I have really only visited my dad's side a handful of times. I still feel very close to my German roots, and absolutely love all things Pennsylvania, where both sides of my dad's family have planted themselves ever since the first of them came to America in the 1700's.
For the most part, I relate to this side of my family through food. My dad introduced me to TastyKakes, Cheez Whiz and pretzels, and funnel cake, and I was pretty much sold. Excuse me, but you like to fry dough and eat tiny cakes? Yes, okay, please.
I remember my dad making something called AP Cake. My mom had the recipe from his mom in her recipe box, but it was never a regular thing in our house. I only specifically remember one night in particular when my dad made it for everyone. It's one of those memories you don't know you have, until it's triggered by something as random as a school assignment brought home by your kid twenty years later, but it's there, golden and warm, and as easy to recall as what you did this morning. It wasn't important, or eventful, and there's no reason it should be so easy to remember. But I do.
When Lennon and I were talking about all of her different cultures, I knew I wanted to share AP Cake with her, the way my dad shared it with us. So I asked my Aunt Jean if she had a recipe, and she sent me one she found online that had all the same ingredients. And in true Aunt Jean fashion, she didn't hesitate to offer some back story. My grandma, she added to the bottom of the recipe, used to make these cakes and sell them. She mixed the ingredients by hand, and she used Gold Medal flour. She could remember exactly how her mom looked in the kitchen, making these cakes. And she admitted to tearing up about it.
So this afternoon, Lennon, Harrison, and I gathered the ingredients and started making some cake. We talked about my dad, and where he grew up, and what little I knew about my grandma, having never met her. I told them about how my dad made this cake for me when I was a kid, and how I could remember the way it smelled more than anything else. Harrison loved cracking the eggs and mixing the dough by hand, and Lennon loved packing the brown sugar and measuring the Crisco.
At one point, just as we were adding the milk, the kitchen started to feel ... how can I describe this? Even more full. Not exactly crowded, but just on the verge of that. And then, my grandma, who I had never met, and who I know very little about, suddenly became very real to me.
It was a quick moment, lost to Harrison's desire to add twice as many eggs, but it was special, and I hoped that it would stay with me, until one day, it was recalled with the same golden, warm clarity as the memories that made it possible.