I’ve mentioned before that I do a lot of baking. That’s probably the result of growing up in a home where fresh home baking was the standard. None of your “shop bought rubbish” for us my mother said. Shop cakes were almost always a pale white colour. Not a good sign according to the Mammy. Her cakes were made with fresh free range eggs which came from our own hens. Those eggs, with their strong bright yellow yolks, gave the cakes a hint of natural yellow colouring.
With a child’s reasoning, we figured that the shop bought cakes had to taste better than what we got at home. We were sure our mother was trying to deprive us of the pleasure of mass manufactured cakes by making us eat her own baking. How could hers taste better, made as they were with ingredients we got on our own farm? We never considered the fact that she was actually saving money – and producing better cakes – by baking her own.
So one day when two of my sisters and a friend came into some money, they decided to do something very daring. They would buy a cake in the local shop and share it between them. With money carefully counted out, the group of schoolgirls – ranging in age from 8 to 11 years – walked into the local shop and took a long time debating on the best looking cake they could afford. They eventually made their selection. It was a pale sponge cake, covered in chocolate, with a thin layer of strawberry filling. The cake came in a cardboard box with a clear cellophane top, so you got a preview of the delights inside.
After paying the shopkeeper, the gang walked part of the way home and stopped at the local graveyard. (Don’t ask - it was our halfway point and we didn’t think about what a graveyard actually was unless it was dark!). There the girls sat down on the grass behind a wall, broke the cake up between them, and finished the lot. They all agreed that it was delicious. Though looking back now, they say that the only flavour the cake had was from the sweet strawberry filling. The novelty was in the fact that they had got their hands on something they would never have got otherwise.
Nobody told our mother, she would have been disgusted at the waste of money on a small pale cake.
The story of the girls big purchase was only broken to my mother on the occasion of her 60th birthday when we were reminiscing about all the things we got up to as kids. She thought it very funny that they went to such lengths to buy a “shop cake”. But that’s the risk you take as a mammy forcing your fresh baking on your kids, you drive them to extreme measures!!
It still makes me smile to think of the girls sitting behind the wall, eating cake, breaking it up with their hands, delighted with themselves.
Innocent times, weren’t they?