Forgiveness by the Pound

August 2, 2011

My father made pancakes.  Not the world’s best pancakes. Just plain, ole pancakes.  There was a limited amount of joy on Sunday mornings in our house.  As a child, there were times I sensed a lack of energy as we sat down with my parents to maple syrup and bacon.  The salty sweet aroma from the crispy bacon and the smell of butter and batter on the griddle were bittersweet rewards at a silent breakfast table.  Years later, after my parents divorced, I could imagine how difficult those family breakfasts might have been for my parents as they were walking through the motions.  Back then, I would dive into my maple drenched pancake to ignore the silence.  Every bite of bacon became a sensory pleasure that no one could ruin.  I didn’t need joy.  I had food.

For years, gluttony became my comfort.  When life presented difficulties, I headed for the refrigerator.   As a teen, it was not uncommon to cut 7th period and rush home to a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese.  Teenage life was hard. I was angry. Brownies were the antidote.

As time passed and the divorce settled, I grew apart from my father.  Memories of trips to the ice cream store were quickly replaced by very real experiences with boys and SAT tests but no father.  To fill the void of an absent father, I ate my way through my teens.  I could eat an entire pound of pasta if I was left alone for too long.

A life well lived has a way of teaching us lessons.  I have learned that food only heals when it is served with happiness.  Over the years as emotional wounds have healed, my eating habits have changed from addictive to nourishing. I still make the occasional macaroni and cheese but the box has long since been replaced with wholesome, fresh ingredients.  Fresh pasta with organic heavy cream, European butter, artisan cheddar and a hint of fresh herbs has saved me from bright orange versions of processed comfort food.

After a decade of on and off estrangement from my father, he now has a solid presence in my life.  Distance keeps us from churning up too much drama and my children adore him in his new found role as Grandpa.  It’s nice that even though he was not always there for me, he can be there for the kids.

It took him five years to meet my children. Five years before the angst of the past became distant enough to make a visit to meet his grandchildren possible.  It was difficult to embrace him back into my life.  It was hard to overcome the years of pain experienced by a girl missing her father.  On his first visit to meet my family, I made an effort to forgive and look to the future.  I wanted him to begin his grandpa journey without any father/daughter baggage.

I asked him to make his famous peach cobbler.  It was a light hearted gesture to make him feel welcome in my kitchen. We sat at the kitchen table and laughed while my boys told knock-knock jokes and the room was filled with the aroma of caramelized peaches and the warmth of the stove.  Some really good memories came rushing back.  I hadn’t visited them in a while.

Subsequent visits have yielded equally pleasing results.  We’ve exchanged recipes and cooked side by side in the kitchen. I showed him how I make fresh greens without using ham hocks and he impressed upon me the need for mastering short grain rice.

I hadn’t, however, truly seen the light of forgiveness until I made him pound cake.  Like the pancakes of many years ago, it was just good ole pound cake but when my father saw me remove it from the oven, I caught a glimpse of sheer pride. It was as if I was eight years old again and together, we were given a second chance for happiness. If a pound cake can be legendary for more than flavor, then my pound cake is heroic.  It gave a father and daughter the chance for a true friendship.

My experience with food has led me down many roads. I am grateful that I have cultivated a kitchen where pound cake is the path to forgiveness.

Pound cake can be simple and satisfying.  I don’t like to dress it up with too many ingredients. Good quality vanilla is all that really matters for this basic version.  Surprisingly, the whole wheat flour gives the cake a deep nutty flavor.

Forgiveness Pound Cake

Clear your mind of all upsets and frustrations as you prepare a single loaf by coating the inside with a brush of butter followed by a dusting of flour.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic butter, unsalted (butter should be softened to room temperature)

1 cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I find Madagascar variety to work very well)

4 large eggs

2 cups all purpose whole wheat flour, sifted

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

 

Method:

In a stand mixer, beat the butter on high for 2 minutes until smooth in texture and pale in color.  Add the sugar and blend on medium until well combined. Add in the vanilla extract.  Blend for about 3-4 minutes before adding in eggs, one at a time.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add flour to mixing bowl a half a cup at a time making sure to incorporate completely with each addition.

Pour into prepared loaf pan.  Tap pan to even out batter on all sides.

Bake for 60 minutes on the middle over rack.  To test for doneness, insert a toothpick in the middle. It should come out clean and free of any wet batter.  If necessary, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until ready.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving to someone you love.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Yoder August 5, 2011 at 8:06 AM

Thanks for sharing this. I can relate to your relationship with your father. Mine isn’t too dis-similar! Glad to hear that your kids are able to have a grandpa! (Thanks for the recipe, too!) Blessings!

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Melissa August 5, 2011 at 8:33 AM

Sarah, comforting to know that we all get a second chance. I think there are far too many women who have had our experience with fathers. I’m raising two boys and hope that they will thrive and contribute.

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Asia August 5, 2011 at 12:41 PM

Just found you via The Shine Project and couldn’t leave without commenting (I will be back). I was in tears reading about your journey back into your father’s life. I can also relate to your story and am so glad you shared and I found =) Absolutely wonderful writing.

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Melissa August 5, 2011 at 4:02 PM

I’m glad we found each other. Loving your “summer is missing” roundup.

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Michelle August 6, 2011 at 8:48 AM

Well done Melissa.

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Melissa August 6, 2011 at 8:53 AM

Michelle: You have been a consistent, positive voice for me in believing that I can do anything. I thank you. Can’t wait to hear all details about India.

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Lana August 6, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Beautiful story, Melissa! My parents stayed together, but I remember many really awkward meals spent in silence. I also reach for food to bridge the gaps and melt the ice in relationships that went in the wrong direction.
This new blog is a wonderful idea, and I am so glad you have started it!

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Melissa August 6, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Lana, I’m glad you are here for the adventure. Bring wine!

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Dorothy at Shockinglydelicious August 7, 2011 at 7:42 AM

Well done! Wonderful story.

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Melissa August 7, 2011 at 8:15 AM

Thank you, Dorothy.

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