Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Strawberry Sweatcake

I teach a cooking class at a nursing home. Actually, I don’t teach anything. I go in tell them a story or two, show them how I make something and then they eat. The activity director told me that is the only time some of these people laugh all week. I doubt if that is true but I do know they like to eat.

Monday, I was walking down the hall heading towards the activity room when I noticed how hot it was. I was hoping it was just the hallway but soon discovered it wasn’t. The activity room was like a furnace.

My helpers started rearranging the room. I usually have one helper but today I had two. Lindsey, the lady who had helped me for the past two months was leaving and the lady who was replacing her was there. I started arranging things on the table and one the residents said, “Ralph, were making strawberry shortcake, right?” Yes, today was strawberry shortcake day with homemade shortcake. I had talked to Marilyn and gotten her recipe for homemade shortcake. It’s quick, it’s easy, and most importantly it is really, really good.

We did an activity they had all been looking forward to. We made a cookbook with all the recipes we had prepared over the past two months. Pictures of the cooking class were on the front and back cover and many people got excited when they found themselves in the pictures. Then it was time to make the strawberry shortcake. I took out all the ingredients while explaining who Marilyn was, when I first had the shortcake, and why I thought it was so good. Then I asked Karen, my new helper, to come over and the following conversation took place:

Ralph: Could you get me a towel?

Karen: What kind?

Ralph: Either a hand towel or a bath towel it doesn’t matter as long as it is clean.

Karen: Did you spill something?

Ralph: No. Look around this room. Half these people are wearing either a sweater or a jacket. I have sweat running off my forearms, dripping off my face, and going down my neck. It’s hot in here.

She agreed to get me one. That’s when I said, “You might want to get three; one for me, one for you and one for Lindsey. We’re not making strawberry sweatcake here.” She giggled and soon reappeared with three hand towels. After sopping up the excess moisture on my face and arms we went through the process of how to make homemade shortcake. Then, like ever week, whatever we were making magically appeared.

We cut the shortcake, placed a piece on all the plates, and topped it with sweetened strawberries and a scoop of whip cream. I placed a plate in front of an 86 year old lady while telling the residents, “I know we all like strawberries and we all like whipped cream. But, tell me what you think of that shortcake.”

That’s when I heard the comment of the day. The eighty-six year old lady took a bite of the shortcake, smiled, and said, “That tastes just like the short cake my Momma use to make. I miss my Momma.”

Walking outside I noticed how cool it was. It was like a cold front had passed through. I went to the weather station and discovered it was eighty-one degrees with fifty-five percent humidity. Normally, that would be hot for this time of year but today it felt good. But, not as good as the memories stirred up by that shortcake.


Blogger bobbie said...

That was a really nice story. I needed a really nice story today. Thank you, Ralph. Sorry it was so hot in there for you. I empathize with the residents though. At my age I am chilly all the time.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Lanny said...

Wow, eighty-six and still missing momma. I thought I had it bad. What a good thing you are doing, a very good thing.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Ahh...that's so sweet Ralph. I'm sure they look forward to your visit with great anticipation!! You certainly never let them down either!

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So do you share the recipe?

6:50 PM  
Blogger Cliff said...

Ralph, thanks for sharing that. Marilyn was tickled that her recipe was a hit. I can truly say I've never had a shortcake that comes close to comparing with that one.
Annon, it Ralph won't share, I will.
BTW Ralph, we've been picking strawberries for about two weeks now and we've had a lot of that shortcake and 1/2 & 1/2.

10:06 PM  
Blogger nora said...

I had strawberry shortcake for breakfast this morning.

The women from a local church make 20,000 (from scratch) biscuits each year. They raise over $70,000 for local and over-seas charities. Last year Second Helpings received money for a van. The van and I were on the news this morning to promote the Strawberry Fest.

The strawberry shortcake tasted like sunshine and love. I bet yours tasted the same!

8:53 AM  
Blogger Mountain Mama said...

This is a beautiful story and well written. It's a beautiful thing you are doing. Keep it up!

9:36 PM  
Blogger Paul Nichols said...

You're a great man, Ralph.

(Sidebar: I met a Lenexa city worker named Lindsay the other day. She identifies and marks trees and other plants in the city's heavily wooded areas. I'm sure you'd like her. Anyway, I knew when you mentioned your Lindsay, youth was part of the mix.)

5:51 AM  
Blogger possum said...

Oh MY! My imagination just went back to my G-ma's shortcake...
now I am drooling.
Great story, can almost taste it!

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Aravis said...

I love the stories of your cooking class, so I can imagine how much your students enjoy them. :0)

11:32 AM  
Blogger Granny Annie said...

I do not see how the elderly stand those warm temperatures. It is commendable that you were able to continue the lesson despite the sweat. You are a trooper and the cake must have been a reward for everyone. I cannot function when it is to hot.

5:07 PM  

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