Friday, June 10, 2011

"Nothing says lovin' like somethin' from the oven"- pillsbury doughboy

This seems to be a very common issue in my life: I'm in the middle of baking, I've mixed my dry ingredients together, and then it's time to mix the liquid ones together. I pour some of the oil or extract or whatever it may be into a measure and alas, I'm short.  I mutter a few things under my breath and either hop in the car to run to the grocery store or get on google to see what I can do instead. Oh the joy of baking substitutions.

Now I have a similar problem, but on a different level. This might get cheesy so just bear with me, guys.  I can't bake. My broken oven stares me down every time I go in the kitchen. I'm taking lots of school right now so I stress out really easily and generally my solution to this stress is a beautiful cake.  So essentially I need a substitute for my baking (cheesy I know) until the darn thing gets fixed.

Solution: books. But not any kind of books-culinary literature!! I've already gone through a couple of them so far (The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz to name one) but now I've gone more from sociology of food to the psychology of food to the history of food and thus the history of cake.

I've made a few discoveries about cake that makes me appreciate them so much more.  I thought I'd share a few with you since, if you're keeping up with my blog, you obviously enjoy learning about cake as well. You might actually already know all this stuff but I'm just discovering it for the first time.

So first, a cake, or more specifically a wedding cake, has so much symbolism involved in it that I was not ever aware of.

Way back when, wheat was the dominant symbol for love and fertility.  Obviously that gives the cake a symbolic role in the wedding.  The Greeks would typically sacrifice a cake to the gods during a wedding while the Romans later shook things up a little and shared the cake with their guests.   My personal favorite- the Anglo-Saxon tradition- used to crumble the cake up and pour it on the bride's head in order to bless her with fertility! Imagine doing that at a wedding today!

Then an Englishman named Robert Herrick wrote this little poem called the bride-cake:

This day, my Julia, thou must make
For Mistress Bride the wedding-cake:
Knead but the dough, and it will be
To paste of almonds turn'd by thee;
Or kiss it thou but once or twice,
And for the bride-cake there'll be spice. 

And now, thanks to him, we have the term "wedding cake."

Then for some more symbolism: The cake itself is coated in thick white icing thus representing virginity, innocence, etc.  When the bride and groom come into their wedding reception, one of the first things that they do is join hands and together cut a slice of cake.  This is hugely symbolic of the consummation of the marriage as well as their "good, sweet, and fruitful future."  I've heard people marvel at how expensive wedding cakes are and how people spend way too much on them (and in some cases I totally agree).  But, I think if you take into account the symbolism of the wedding cake, it starts to make a lot more sense. 

And these, my dear friends, are some fun facts about cake. Hopefully there will be some lovin' in the oven sometime soon.

*Most of the information in this post comes from books by Bunny Crumpacker

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