I am the mother of three boys. None of these three boys are interested in baking.
My sister and her daughter are always baking together, producing legendary strawberry cakes and cupcakes with thick chocolate icing and sprinkles and multilayered Italian Cream cakes.
I nibble at their moist, sugary concoctions and compliment them. They both beam at each other with pride and exchange congratulatory glances, high-fiving each other with their eyes.
I know nothing of this special camraderie that comes from the kitchen. I never taught a child how to level the flour in a tablespoon or separate an egg or melt bars of semi-sweet chocolate so they are the exact balance of almost-liquid but not scorched.
When I bake, I offer up mixing bowls of cake batter to be licked, and that is the extent of my boy’s involvement in the process.
I had a birthday last week. I have always had a delicious cake my husband bought somewhere. But this year I had a pie. It was a pie that days later, still brings tears to my eyes.
My youngest son baked it for me. All by himself. He asked my husband to get the recipe for Fudge Pie from my mother. It is written on a piece of yellow legal paper with notes in parenthesizes saying (real – not imitation) regarding vanilla (my mother knows my husband will save any penny he can) and (with cake mixes) regarding semi-sweet baking chocolate.
My son happened to have a day off from school just before my birthday, and chose to bake a pie for his mother instead of hanging out with his friends or watching ESPN or playing X-box.
Without ever being shown what a measuring cup was or the difference in a Tablespoon and a teaspoon, he melted butter and sifted flour and measured vanilla. He called my husband at one point during the process and told him the chocolate squares were not melted. Bewildered, my husband told him to call my mother, who wasn’t home. By the time she called my son back, the pie was already in the oven, a light caramel-colored batter with a few substantial solid chocolate chunks.
“It will be fine,” he reassured her. “I think they will melt in the oven.”
And it was fine. This son of mine who knows ever single player’s history on the UGA football team and calls the sports section of the newspaper the “dessert” did something as alien to him as memorizing random sports stats would be to me. He baked me a pie.
When he presented it to me, I was overwhelmed. I mumbled a compliment unworthy of the gift.
My son looked right at my husband, and they beamed at each other with a pride that lit up their faces like candles.