Taste and see

I didn't know what else to do, so I baked a cake.

The thunderstorm rolled in shortly after I hung up the phone. My parents, on the other end of the line, had shared the results of my father's recent bone scan. Cancer. Multiple spots. Time to do more tests and find the origin, and then come up with a treatment plan. Outside, wind and lightning and thunder. Tornado warnings in the next county.

My own fear of bad weather kept me from leaving Sam alone up in his crib, and so we waited out the worst of the storm in the living room, sitting on the couch with all the lights off, watching the weatherman on television. Being scared of storms makes me feel like a little kid who needs her parents to reassure her that she is safe and everything will be okay.

Except that right now, my parents can't guarantee that everything will be okay. They are just as scared as I am.

And Sam, oblivious to the storm outside, will someday be scared of the thunder, and will be looking to me to keep him safe. I want to be a good mom. I want to be a good daughter. I want to find the right balance of needing and being needed. I want to be less frightened by the storm.

I didn't know what else to do, so I baked a cake.

There were too many emotions. Too many things out of my control. And so when worst of the storm had quieted to a dull and distant thundering and I finally put Sam to bed, I pulled out the recipe that had caught my eye earlier that afternoon.

"Valerie's French Chocolate Cake."

A simple but fiddly recipe.

Melt butter, chop up squares of chocolate, stir together. Add just a little flour and some cocoa powder. Separate the eggs, whisking the yolks with sugar and beating the whites until stiff and structured. Combine the heavy chocolate and egg yolk mixture with the light, airy egg whites. Pour the thick and springy batter into a buttered and floured pan and put it in the oven. Set the kitchen timer and wait.

I didn't know what else to do, so I baked a cake.

I don't know why I baked a cake. It wasn't an act of theology. It wasn't a conscious symbol of faith. It wasn't an overt attempt at prayer. I simply needed something to do. Something to fill the space. Something just absurd enough to trick myself into believing that life was normal. A way of rebelling against the swirling of both grief and funnel clouds alike.

Was there restoration in the act of measuring out the right proportions of ingredients when I myself felt out of proportion? Was there resurrection to be found in watching the cake rise up the sides of the pan in the oven? Was the smell of chocolate actually the scent of prayers rising as incense? Was there healing to be found in a communion of chocolate and strawberries, elements similar to bread and wine, the grain and the fruit of the vine, a singular meal of something dense and rich and sweet and so very indulgent?

I didn't know what else to do, so I baked a cake.

Taste and see that the Lord is good, the Psalmist sings.

I do not quite know what the goodness of the Lord tastes like right now, I do not know where and how I expect to see the goodness of the Lord while I am grieving and fearing and grappling with what it will be to stare down the mortality of someone I love.

But I can see the outline of the cake plate stenciled in powered sugar on the countertop. I can taste the deep, bitter, dark chocolate crumb, sweetened with a pile of sliced strawberries. I can taste and see that cake is good. And I can hope that in the taste of bitter and sweet, in the sight of fear and love, I will come to know anew that the Lord is yet good.

I didn't know what else to do, so I baked a cake. And cut myself a slice. And covered it in strawberries. And ate.

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