Friday, October 16, 2009

The Morning Reading: Leslie Daniels

I heard Leslie Daniels read this stunning essay last summer at Squaw Valley and have been waiting for its publication in the New Ohio Review so I could read it again - and again.

Well, it's here.

"The Mixer" by Leslie Daniels


When I was a child of two and my mother was mixing my birthday cake, she let me pull my pants down and sit in a plate of cake flour. I remember the paper plate on the floor, and her pretty ankles going between the countertop and stove. She was a child psychologist and she understood that you needed to feel things to know them. The bottom test was my own invention. I remember the exquisite sensation, and the hum of the mixer.

Many years later I was the mother making the birthday cake, the oven preheating, mixing with an electric mixer. It was the morning of the party and I was making All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake from The Cake Bible. It's the only cookbook I own for which I have too much respect to mess around with the recipes. I don't care much about cakes, though they are a good meeting place of butter and sugar, but to other people in my life - my daughter who was turning three - cake is important.

I had doubled the recipes to provide for ten three-year-old girls, some older brothers and whichever moms would want a piece. My notations in the margin of the well-worn page of of The Cake Bible read "8 egg yolks + 1 egg to fit brown pan." The recipe is a simple one with few ingredients and good eggs are essential for the transparent flavor of the cake. From my friend Thea's chickens, I had a dozen beautiful eggs, no two alike.

As I used the hand mixer to mix the heavy batter, I was thinking about the real Bible. Raised by atheists, I had missed the Bible entirely except for a stray psalm or hymn from my grandmother. I was thinking that I should be reading the Bible to my children at the end of the day along with the Torah, the Koran, and something Zen, instead of whatever fiction caught our fancy. I was thinking that they need some sacred scriptures beside The Cake Bible for wisdom and as an inoculation against developing religious fanaticism in their later years.

For the rest, click here.

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Leslie Daniels is a writer, an agent and fiction editor of The Green Mountains Review.


Dawn said...

Another great read. Thanks for the link.

Rebel Girl said...

Glad you enjoyed it Dawn! I was so happy to read it again.

Anonymous said...

Be sure to pick up Leslie's new book Cleaning Nabokov's House. Excellent read.

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