24 (Sun) January 2021
Jailbreak Cake for the Father
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (33) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)
While reading the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book. Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, literally give us this day our daily bread. The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.
Sounder (1970) by William H Armstrong. Set in the American South, sometime in the early to mid-20th century, the book is about a young black boy from a family of poor sharecroppers, whose father is sent away for stealing a ham to feed the family. As the boy sets off in search of the father, with pet dog Sounder to accompany him (the book isn’t much about the dog), the boy discovers his desire to learn how to read and considers the path that he will take in his own life.
It’s a good book. In fact, I have vivid memories of reading it when I was in elementary school. At just 116 pages, with illustration and wide margins, the book provides a short but intense snapshot of the harsh racial injustices faced by blacks in that time and place – though the issues are just as raw today.
[paraphrased in part]
Now it was Christmas, and his mother made a cake. The woman told the boy to walk to town, to the jail behind the courthouse, and take the cake to his father. “Carry it flat if your hands don’t get too cold. Then it’ll look mighty pretty when you fetch it to him.”
Church bells were ringing in the town. He could read some of the town signs and the store signs. He wanted to stop and stand and look straight at the windows, but he was afraid. A policeman would come after him.
The front of the courthouse was red brick with great white marble steps going up to a wide door. He clutched the box close to him. A large red-faced man opened the door and let several people in. Inside, the man lined everybody up and felt their clothes and pockets. He jerked the cardboard box from the boy and tore off the top. The man with the red face squeezed the cake in his hands and broke it into four pieces. “This could have a steel file or hacksaw blade in it,” he said. Then he swore and threw the pieces back in the box. The boy had been very hungry. Now he was not hungry. He was afraid. The man shoved the box into the boy’s hands and swore again. Part of the cake fell to the floor; it was only a box of crumbs now. The man swore again and made the boy pick up the crumbs from the floor.
The boy hated the man with the red face with the same and total but helpless hatred he had felt when he saw his father chained.
With zero baking skills, I was content to use a boxed cake kit. It came with powder mix and oil, requiring only the addition of an egg and some water. The batter was placed in a paper frame thingo – also zero knowledge of baking terminology – and zapped in the microwave on high for just 4 minutes. Done. Seriously.
When it had cooled, I removed the thingo and broke apart the cake with my hands, glazed it with condensed milk syrup and topped it with lingonberry jam. I had chosen to make a chocolate cake because – well, sorry if this seems racist, but – the family is black. The broken cake represents the cake in the story literally but also symbolizes their broken family. The condensed milk, applied in a crisscross matrix to resemble prison bars, represents white oppression. The red jam, I dunno, maybe a metaphor for blood, pain, suffering, sacrifice.
High-minded symbolism aside, the cake was good. To my pleasant surprise, the microwaved cake was soft and moist in texture, virtually indistinguishable from an oven-baked cake. Bittersweet chocolate, creamy sweet condensed milk, sweet and sour jam – what an amazing trinity of counterbalancing sweetnesses. Generally not a fan of desserts, but this I could get used to.
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)