Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Birthday Cake

On Saturday morning I followed Mabel Watson Payne from Grandma's garden into Grandma's kitchen to peek at the home-baked pineapple upside-down cake on its pink platter, destined (we knew) to be dessert for lunch (after gardening was done) as well as my Birthday Cake.

As too often on other occasions, I let Mabel examine with her finger what almost any other grown-up would have prevented her from examining with her finger. But I could not persuasively make the argument to myself that her eyes alone could tell her all she wished to know, much less that her dear, wee, reasonably-clean and quite careful finger could do the cake or its other eaters any harm.

Mabel (so far as either one of us knew) had never seen a pineapple upside-down cake before. We held a long discussion (in its presence) about the upside-down aspect of the upside-down cake. I described and pantomimed the acrobatic feat Grandma had accomplished before our arrival, flipping the cake (still burning hot from the oven) out of its baking pan onto the platter, and Mabel longed to have seen such a thing.

In olden days – when Mabel's mother was Mabel's age – we would use a glass baking dish for pineapple upside-down cake. Grandma had used a metal pan this year instead, I noticed, and surmised she had worried the glass pan would now be too heavy for her to flip. But I did not think Mabel would be interested in that (hypothetical) aspect of the situation. The bravery and ingenuity of the elderly in face of their own increasing feebleness is not a proper subject for the consideration of a two-year-old.     

A special piece of birthday good luck (though probably in its cause attributable to the overall bad luck of climate change) decreed that we could eat the birthday lunch outside. The sun was intermittent but the air was warmer than anybody would dare to count on in the middle of a Northern California winter.

When the cake came out of the kitchen everybody sang Happy Birthday in the traditional way. Mabel joined in. She helped me blow out my one symbolic candle. And then she gave me the best present I could possibly have received by singing Happy Birthday over again as a solo. Actually, she sang the solo version twice, since the applause after the first solo was so clamorous.

We agreed the pineapple upside-down cake tasted even better than it looked.