Ode to baking failures
PART 1: Zitronenkuchen (lemon cake) from Pia in Germany
The story of Oma Helene’s lemon cake unfolds like a sweet concertina, across four generations. Pia bakes the cake to think about her mother, who bakes it to remember her late father, because it was the favourite cake made for him by his mother.
The flavour has become a way for this family to connect, a key that lets them unlock doors to the past, and to one another, even beyond death.
I picture Pia baking this cake for herself and sitting down at the kitchen table to eat it. At the first bite, time folds like a tesseract, and she’s a child again, eating the cake alongside her mother. There’s a shudder, they tesser again, and the fabric of time compresses once again and Pia is watching her mother as a little girl, eating the cake with her own father, and grandmother.
This is the magic of taste and scent, the opportunity not only to remember times or loved-ones gone by, but also to re-experience the emotions of those lost moments, to be able to close our eyes and almost be there again.
But when I bake the lemon cake, following the recipe I found inside a beautiful yellow envelope from Pia, alongside a cornucopia of paper ephemera (scroll down to see it all), my mind is somewhere altogether different.
I’m thinking about France. And failures.