Monday, September 9, 2013

The world’s last Hootenanny Cake (as we know it)

Four generations, one delicious cake

Helping my parents move, my daughter was assigned to clean out the pantry.  Like most parents of that generation, I find, my mom has an ongoing love affair with out-of-dated food.  We have been visiting and discovered food that was outdated when we were first married, almost 14 years ago.  
“Pickles don’t go bad,” said my dad.
“But it’s cloudy.  And they’re white.”
It’s not always that bad, but it seems that there are plenty of packaged foods hanging around longer than the date on the side says it should.
My daughter thinks this is hilarious.  Every time we visit my parents, she plays this little game where she finds the most out of date item because she gets such a kick out it.  So when my mom told her to go through the entire pantry, she was giddy.  Laughing and tossing things out, there was barely enough to fill a box that was still technically edible.
But then she pulled out a box of pudding.
“Look at this one, mom.  It looks so old fashioned, I’m not even looking at the date.”  And with those words, she sent it careening across the room towards the trash receptacle, and just like in the movies my life switched into slow motion as I screamed “noooooo!” and I’m pretty sure I dove and caught it and landed in a perfect martial arts roll.
Because it wasn’t just pudding.  My daughter had found the last box of Royal Instant Toasted Coconut Pudding probably on Earth.
My dear grandmother who just celebrated her 90th birthday is famous for her Hootenanny Cake, which uses the above-mentioned type of pudding.  I realize there are plenty of other recipes for Hootenanny Cake out there, but my grandma’s recipe calls for THIS pudding.  The company sadly stopped making it a few years ago.
How do we know they don’t make it anymore?  We wrote.  We called.  We begged and pleaded with the Royal Pudding Company.  My grandparents even sent them a copy of her recipe.  Alas, it was all for naught because they just said they were sorry and sent us coupons for inferior pudding flavors.
Unbeknownst to her, for years my mother had had this box of prized pudding hiding in her pantry, back behind the old pickles and multiple cans of chicken broth, stashed under the boxes of Jello.  And after catching it, I held it up in the air and screamed for my mom until she came running.  From there we danced in circles and laughed and yelled for my father and called my grandparents on the phone and the two of us were giddy past all reason.
Naturally my daughter thought we had completely lost our minds.
But she doesn’t understand yet at her young age of 11 that something like a cake has magic powers, and this cake has powers beyond anything she has ever seen.
When cakes are served, special things happen.  People gather.  People celebrate.  My uncle will rise from a slumber well before he is ready for a piece of cake for breakfast, and everyone knows that skipping birthday cake is like bringing a boatload of bad luck upon yourself.  Cakes mean coffee, and coffee means conversation, and conversation brings people closer together in a way that magnifies the love that makes this world go round.
If that all doesn’t sound amazing enough, my Grandma’s Hootennany Cake can do all that.  And then some.  Before it’s even out of the oven.
My parents and grandparents live out of state, and so this year we traveled to celebrate her birthday.  Upon our arrival, she had waiting for us a delicious dinner and the very last Hootennany Cake that she made with her 90-year-old hands.
Never has it tasted sweeter.


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