Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cake Ladies: Book signing with Jodi Rhoden

Today was yet another wonderful day at Square Books.  But, unlike the Paula day, this time I actually got to breathe in the store.

I went to a book signing for the cookbook Cake Ladies by Jodi Rhoden.  For those of you who aren't familiar with her, she's pretty wonderful.  Luckily for me, it was a small turn out so I actually got to speak with her for awhile.

Reasons why Jodi is cooler than Paula:
1. She didn't start sentences or conversations with comments about butter.
2. She had wine and cheese at her book signing. 
3. She blogs about gardening and spirituality and baking and anything else that is on her mind.  I kind of have the feeling that Paula doesn't actually have time to tour, write cookbooks, write articles for her magazine, and film a cooking show all on her own.
4. Her content is fascinating and unique.

Jodi described her book as a feminist ethnography study on cake ladies. For those of you who don't know, I am a sociology major and my favorite part of my major is doing ethnography.  I spent time in Rome doing a study on Roman identity (food is a big part of it) and loved every minute of it.   And, if you can't tell, my other passion is cake.   Jodi combined these two subjects beautifully in Cake Ladies. What is a cake lady you ask? This is how she describes it:

"Almost every town in the South, large or small, has its cake lady.  These are women who bake the cakes for their community's special occasions: weddings, birthdays, church barbeques, and even funerals."

If you think about it, you can probably name a woman in your community who is known as the cake lady.  You might even be the cake lady yourself.

I bought the book last week and had a lot of fun reading about the stories of cake ladies from all over the south. Every woman had a story to tell about how she got to be the cake lady and how that position had given her a certain strength.

So now I'm inspired.

I've been thinking about food a lot lately and I believe that it's an integral part of community.  On my quotes page, I posted a quote by Bunny Crumpacker on the importance of food in relationships.  He said, "when we stop loving, eating together is no joy, and when we no longer love to eat together, we no longer love so well either."

I completely agree with him.  Relationships revolve around food in so many ways.  The first intimate relationship we have is with our mother and that connection is primarily because of her role as a care taker and a food giver. When we grow up we go on dates to restaurants and we spent time with our families and friends around the dinner table.  Even in the Bible it speaks of the disciples and how "they broke bread together." Food is meant to be communal.

I  think that sitting down at a meal or even sharing a slice of cake with someone is a part of celebrating life.  It's how we build relationships and it helps us love more fully.

That's why I appreciate Jodi's book so much.  She discovered women who bring communities together through cakes and then she recorded their stories (and their recipes!!) to share with her readers.

Like I said, I'm really inspired.  I just don't know what to do with my inspiration. I kind of want to write--but about what? Je ne sais pas.

I'm trying out the Fresh Coconut Cake (I actually bought a coconut that I have to figure out how to crack) from one of her cake ladies, Mary Moon.  It's cooling now so be looking out for a cake review soon!


  1. I love this post. Can't wait to see what you're going to do with your inspiration!

  2. Hey, that's cool! What a way to blend ethnography and cake! Glad your Roman experience is still fresh in your mind. Take care - Dr. C.

  3. You are my favorite Cake Lady!!

  4. It was so great to meet you, Jane! I really appreciate this wonderful post- and your blog is excellent. Much love and good luck! I'll see you next time I'm in Oxford.