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Mother Love

Around our house we called it Tosca's cake. Not that you'd ever find the recipe under that name in any cookbook as I discovered years ago while leafing through a McCall's magazine. No, this particular cake  mostly goes by the name of "Texas Sheet Cake" or "Mexican Chocolate Cake." While preparing to celebrate Carol's birthday Monday night, the memory of this cake resurfaced, and I decided to make one. Did I tell you that this cake is delicious? That description does it no justice. Think of the word you use to talk about food so wonderful that it is hard to imagine, and that's how good this cake is.

So, being the modern middle aged woman that I am, I did a quick Google search using not the family name of course, but one of the above listed titles. Plenty of search results. Gourmet, All Recipes, Paula Deen, Southern Living, they all have their own version. Sometimes I'm amazed at the modifications people make to recipes. In this case, readers of the Gourmet version added coffee and cayenne, although for the life of me I can't imagine why. Did they even try the original? What is it that makes them want to mess with an already superior recipe?

At any rate, I soon realized that I had our Mom's recipe box and quite possibly it was included. Well, really, I thought it MUST be included. Dragging a little stool from the garage, I fetched the box from the cupboard over the refrigerator. Because it is stored there, I've rarely delved into it's treasures, however, I've left it on the counter so there may be more recipes forthcoming. Let's see--Bacardi Rum Cake, Italian Cream Cake, Peanut Butter Cake, Buttermilk Pound Cake, Praline Cheese Cake, Fresh Apple Cake, Ginger Cake--all good I'm sure, but, oh yes, there it is.....Tosca's Cake...even handwritten, not typed like the majority of them! And I was off.......not just cooking, but heading down my sadly worn memory lane.

Before we travel that worn path, I'll post the recipe. The only changes I made were to use butter in place of the oleo (margarine), and toasting the nuts prior to adding them to the frosting. I just don't keep margarine around these days..

Ta Da....

Tosca's Cake

Sift 2c sugar and 2c flour in bowl
In sauce pan mix and bring to boil
1 stick oleo
1/2c Crisco
4T cocoa
1c water
After boiling pour over f. & s. (our Mom's abbr.)
Add
1/2 c sour cream
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 t soda
1 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon
Mix well--pour into 16X11 pan
Bake 20 min. 400 degrees

Frosting
Melt together & bring to boil
1 stick marg.
4 T cocoa
6 T milk
Remove from heat & add
1 box conf. sugar
1 t vanilla
1 c chopped nuts
Beat well & spread on cake while still warm

So while preparing the cake, the potato salad, and the bar-b-que sauce, all recipes from our Mom,  I felt like I was, in some ways, bringing her to the party. We were only missing one of the Price kids, Nancy. Of course, our Moms are always with us, whether in person, or in our persona. Remember how I told you the other day about Pat and Maureen's recall of all things related to our young years? When asked who Tosca was, they both instantly recalled her as a petite Indian woman whose husband worked for our dad.

In our case, childhood was far from idyllic. Our father was volatile, our mother, the same. While our father beat us with a wooden paddle, our mother used her hands to not only pinch us, slap us, but scratch us as well. We were expected to toe the line, and woe to those of us who didn't.

Through the ensuing years, I've tried to imagine what life was like for our parents. Not only did they have the big family secret of both having been married before, but they brought issues from their own childhoods to the marriage. My father, an only child, was socially awkward, to say the least. Our mother lived with Catholic guilt forever. As well, neither were suited to raising six children. Really, who is?
Imagine if you will, no air conditioning, a tight budget, not enough love between the parents, six wildly divergent children, and no shared faith. Our mother was, undoubtedly suffering from depression which today would be easily treated. How do you manage with those stumbling blocks. In our parent's case, not very well.

So, instead of focusing on the negatives, I've chosen to focus on the positives. While raising the boys, I did my utmost not to repeat my parent's mistakes, and on occasion, I succeeded. As my siblings love to repeat, I had a fierce temper when young, which, with Bruce's help, I managed to tame. There's no telling how our boys might have suffered if not for the love of a good man. Although our parents were socially deficient, their intelligence was fierce. Our children take their smarts (and looks!) for granted, however, without the inherited genes, learning might have come much harder. And that's another gift from our parents, a lifelong passion for learning. Which, by the way, I'm learning a new blogging editor, so please bear with me as we go forward.

Ironically, Michele sent me an email on Monday afternoon, asking something about the cemetery. As you've realized, Sunday will be her first Mother's Day without her mom. She stated that she is just now feeling the orphan thing, which I'd mentioned during her stay in Florida. In response, I told her I was making the cake, the one way I knew how to keep our Mom in our everyday lives. Just like this Christmas I'll be making Mom Peck's gingerbread cookies.

And speaking of cooking, although when I was 13 years old, making dinner for six, and hating every minute of it, I now realize what a gift that was. Don't get me wrong, I sure didn't see it that way when I was young! But now, on reflection, I see how much that helped me while raising the boys. I feel sorry for people who don't know how to cook; the joy of taking separate ingredients, and making something wonderful to eat with your own hands is a skill I cherish.

Would I have rather have had a Mother who got up in the morning to send me off to school, not one who you had to peek your head in a darkened room and beg for lunch money? Back then, you bet! Now I just see it as learning through adversity, which truth be told, life is full of troubles. Lots of platitudes I could quote regarding that subject, which I won't, because you already know what I mean. The statute of limitations for our parent's crimes ran out long, long ago. Our Mom's love was far from conventional, but I like to think that she did the best she could.

This Mother's day, when I am in misery from the expected heat at the show, I'll use the skills I learned as a child, getting through difficulty, maybe not without complaint, but I can do it.

And with that, I think I'll go have a piece of that cake, along with some ice cream for breakfast.
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