When I was younger, and came home from elementary school, my mom always had a snack waiting for me. Some days it consisted of something as simple as apples and peanut butter but other days I had homemade sugar cookies decorated for the season or a slice of chocolate bundt cake with powdered sugar sprinkled over it. My mom and I would sit together, share the snack, and talk about our day. Eventually I would start my homework but not until we were finished with our afternoon talk and our snack.
I have always been amazed with my mom’s talent for baking. She has this gift to bake anything – cakes, cookies, candy, cobblers – you name the dessert and she can bake it. My mom has had many people willing to pay for her baked goods, but she has always refused the money. She says, “Why should I get paid for something that I love to do so much?” My mom’s desserts are used, among other things, to celebrate birthdays and commemorate holidays. At these get-togethers, when people pick up one of her desserts, conversations start. These conversations could be about anything. I’ve heard my aunt talk about paying her water bill while she was eating a poke-cake and I’ve also heard my grandpa make the decision to have heart surgery over a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies.
As soon as I could stand and hold a wooden spoon, I was helping my mom bake. Yes, her cakes might have been a little lopsided or she might have had just as much flour on the countertop as she needed for the bowl, but I knew that I was helping her make her delectable desserts that everyone loves.
Over the years I have learned how to bake. I am now 21 and holding the wooden spoon all alone at college. Well, I always have my cell phone close to me so I can call her if I have a question, but for the most part I’m baking all by myself. I’m really not half bad. I make a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies, courtesy of my mom’s recipe of course, and I too, enjoy the conversation that occurs when people eat my baked goods.
It’s incredible to me what my mom’s homemade desserts can do for the soul. Her lemon pound cake with the lemon zest and powdered sugar dotting the golden brown crust is great for a rainy day in Michigan when you’re craving the sun. If you close your eyes as you’re eating it, you can feel the warm sun rays of the beautiful Michigan summers. The caramel candy she makes will melt away the chill of a cold winter. My mom’s peach cobbler will help mend a broken heart. Well, anything with two sticks of butter in it will help mend a broken heart, I can promise you that. It seems that all of her desserts serve a purpose other than tasting good.
But I wonder, is it the dessert that is good for the soul or is it the conversation that accompanies it? There has not been one time when I have been eating one of my mom’s desserts that there has not been a conversation occurring. All I know is that over a warm apple crisp topped with cinnamon streusel I have had some of the best conversations of my life.
What my experiences with desserts have led me to believe is that sharing good conversation over some good dessert is one of the keys to a happy and yes, healthy, soul. Just like my mom, I will continue to use my wooden spoon to bake the sweet desserts that spark the conversations that soothe the soul.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.