“It happened for the first time on a Tuesday afternoon, a warm spring day in the flatlands near Hollywood, a light breeze moving east from the ocean and stirring the black-eyed pansy petals newly planted in our flower boxes.” This is how the book I’m obsessed with lately “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” by Aimee Bender begins.
It’s the story of Rose, who discoveres on her ninth birthday that she is able to sense the emotions and memories carried in foods.
“The room filled with the smell of warming butter and sugar and lemon and eggs, and at five, the timer buzzed and I pulled out the cake and placed it on the stovetop. The house was quiet. The bowl of icing was right there on the counter, ready to go, and cakes are best when just out of the oven, and I really couldn’t possibly wait, so I reached to the side of the cake pan, to the least obvious part, and pulled off a small warm spongy chunk of deep gold. Iced it all over with chocolate. Popped the whole thing into my mouth. . .”
Rose tastes her birthday cake baked especially for her by her mother and just can’t bear the strong feelings that come out of that cake. “None of it was a bad taste, so much, but there was a kind of lack of wholeness to the flavors that made it taste hollow, like the lemon and chocolate were just surrounding a hollowness. My mother’s able hands had made the cake, and her mind had known how to balance the ingredients, but she was not there, in it.”
“You’re so sad in there, I said and alone, and hungry, and sad” – she tells her mother what she felt in that cake, but no one really understands what she means. From that day on she becomes more and more observant, the poor girl walks around carrying this heavy information with no one to share.
Above is a drawing of an old kitchen towel her grandma sent her, “We still got regular packages of household items from Grandma, slowly mailing her life away in Washington State”. Grandma sends used items, as if she knows what I know, what Rose had just learned.
Objects and foods just like people carry true irreplaceable feelings and memories.