I have a particular love for memoirs and Cakewalk is no exception. It’s funny that I’ve read two books in a row pertaining, in large part, literally and metaphorically to food. Having struggled with food issues since I was 13 years old, it’s actually therapuetic for me to read about food in both a more positive and meaningful light. Every delectable dessert, every lop of creamy, satisfying mergangue, every rich fleck of dark chocolate is celebrated here. Isn’t there a constant — good or bad — to each one’s childhood? Kate’s Dad always had pink and white frosted animal cookies for she and her brothers. He had them even when they reconciled when Kate was in college. There is always something that will bring the ache and nostalgia of our child selves back.
For me, my Grandma’s three kinds of Christmas cookies encapsulate our chilly afternoons at her house. They are crystal sparkled pink and green pinwheels, toffee chocolate cookie bars and powdered sugar dusted Mexican wedding cakes. Every Christmas they arrive – and every Christmas I remember what a great idea it is to melt semi-sweet chocolate chips and smear them across a cookie pan like rich frosting. When I was younger, it was my Great Grandma Boltinghouse’s chocolate and peanut butter fudge — always carefully stacked in a Christmas tin — filled endlessly on my Grandmother’s end table.
But back to the book. Cakewalk tells the story of Kate and her brothers — their life growing up with a slightly crazy mother and removed, almost cruel father. How the three kids turned out successful and well-adjusted I’m not sure. Was it luck? Was it the good bouts of parenting injected in between the negative, sporadic ones? The book is about what we are drawn to when our needs aren’t immediately met. For Kate, it was baking and the act of taking care of others when no one was taking care of her. I’m doing little justice to the gorgeous writing and depth of Kate’s writing here, though. I’m intrigued by others who find joy in words, appreciate the thoughts, lives, emotions, dreams, behaviors and personalities of the great ones. The great ones, who, when you meet them are not mythical figures but human beings who dared to let fate lead them to something better.
Memoirs remind that each of us has our private tragedies and victories. In Cakewalk, one of Kate’s mentors reminds her to “tread lightly” because you don’t know where someone else has been. Each of us has a unique journey, fraught with a past — good or bad, relationships come and gone, experiences imprinted on our hearts forever, perspectives hardened by people and years, emotion-laden opinions, and things we dare to hope for — even if it’s tough to say them out loud.