It’s no secret

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A Sunday was the perfect day to make one – my first pound cake.

Sugar. Butter. Self rising flour. All purpose flour. Milk. Eggs. Vanilla, lemon, almond extracts. And Crisco. You can’t forget the Crisco. Or the fact that unsealing a new can of it is enough to give you a heart attack.

It’s no secret recipe. She would share it with whoever wanted it.

She could have given it out to every single person in the world to make, but nobody could top the way hers turned out.

If you knew Reba Bruton, you knew she loved to cook. And that she was beyond good at it.

She was especially known for her pound cakes. And she was always baking cakes for Cedar Grove Baptist Church’s youth fundraisers.

She passed on Jan. 31, 2017 – two weeks before Valentine’s Day.

My mother found her handwritten recipe lying on the dining room counter a week later.

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Grandma had promised to make a pound cake for the Valentine’s dinner at church – a quaint, southern church outside of Conway, SC.

So, my mother baked the cake.

Her, my father and Papa watched it auction off for $280, the highest price of the evening.

My mother sent me a picture of the recipe the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.

I read my grandma’s handwritten recipe. And remembered her homemade grape jelly I still had. I remembered pouring hot water over tomatoes before canning them with her one summer.

I pulled out her old mixer – one she gave me when I moved into my own house. A tan Oster mixer that also turns into a blender. I’m sure it’s from the late 1970s. It’s mixed hundreds of pound cakes.

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I know my grandma had a good laugh up in heaven watching me fight her old mixer, trying to get the top part to lift up. Nobody told me there was a secret button underneath.

I could hear her saying, “Don’t tear it up!”

As the ingredients mixed together, I gave the bowl a few extra pushes to keep it turning. And looked at how pretty the batter was – just like hers.

I greased up one of her old pound cake pans, the kind with the hole in the middle. And poured the mixture in.

Nearly an hour and a half later, I pulled out a nice, golden pound cake.

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With batter still on my arms, I waited for it to cool. Put a plate on top. Flipped it. Cut it.

Fluffy on the inside and a brown crust on the outside.

Just like hers, but not quite as good.

Follow reporter Hannah Strong on Twitter and Instagram @HannahLStrong

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Two hugs for grandma

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When my grandmother passed away last week, I was writing in my head over the exhaustingly long days. Unable to fully get it all on paper, I wrote small notes on a page full of Hardee’s coupons. Little notes to remember the memories…

…like when she told us not to tell Papa a man “held her hands” when she got a manicure.

…or the time she taught me how to shoot the bird.

…or how a girl goes tinkle outside.

…or that I’d always give her two hugs before I left.

…and the time she cussed when we saw a snake in the river.

She hated snakes. And she was classy but rough around the edges.

As a full-time writer I’m constantly thinking about my life on paper. What I can write to save for later. What I can write to cherish moments forever.

I’m finally decompressing by writing. Surprise, surprise.

Life goes on – which is the hardest part after a death. Or is it your ex calling you sadistic after you get upset he didn’t reach out after the loss? I don’t know. But I do know what a death teaches you – who your real friends are and their true colors.

It’s who sends the long texts. Who follows up to make sure you’re okay. Who brings you chicken pot pie. Who says they are thinking about you. Who drives the distance to give you a hug and share tears. Who sends the flowers, cards, Shari’s Berries.

What’s also therapeutic during the grieving process is comic relief. A cousin getting left at the church after the funeral because our family is so big we can barely keep up with everyone. Or when your uncle’s and cousin’s suits accidentally get swapped – one coming out in a huge suit with a coat to his knees and the other in the back bedroom trying with everything he has to get the pants buttoned.

I also learned what funeral food is in the south. It’s boat loads of macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and about 10 different cakes.

But the best lesson I learned from the week was from my Papa.

“To have good friends you have to be a good friend,” he said.