I haven’t had a bite of my grandma’s coconut cake in over twenty-five years, but I can still taste it. It is remarkable how deeply connected our taste buds are to our hearts. Never does a bite of coconut cake pass my lips that I don’t think of her.
I think Grandma’s coconut cake was the best on this side of heaven. As the knife sliced through the three-layer cake, the smell of vanilla and coconut milk drifted into the air and made my mouth water. Once I removed my generous portion, a little puddle of coconut milk sat on the yellow cake plate, a reminder that we all leave a little bit of ourselves wherever we go.
Grandma’s cake was best served chilled in order to experience equal parts comfort and rejuvenation. The cake was beyond moist after marinating in coconut milk for a day or so. It couldn’t be prepared on a whim; it needed time to become the much anticipated southern culinary centerpiece of our family meals. The moist shimmer of the cake against the rough coconut-covered exterior promised to delight upon the first bite. It never disappointed.
There are but a few women since my grandma who have mastered the perfect balance of cake-to-milk ratio. As soon as my lips close around the sweet morsel, I remember the lovely woman who read to me while cuddled on the brown vinyl couch. I remember the times she cut purple and yellow irises from her garden for me to enjoy. I remember the way she always made me feel like I was her favorite grandchild.
I haven’t collected as many of those food-related memories lately. I am all about the thirty-minute meal, the Pinterest-perfect party food, or the convenience of a grocery store cake. It takes my family precisely ten minutes to eat the meals I prepare. Instead of savoring our time together, we clear the table after the last bite and return to our separate worlds. We don’t get together with extended family like we used to, and meals with close friends are even more infrequent. Gone are the days of building intimacy while breaking bread.
Precious memories like the ones surrounding my grandma’s cake take time to marinate. They don’t happen in the rush. Memories are made in the tender time around the table, the conversation over a casserole, the lingering while sipping a latte’, and the watermelon seed-spitting in the back yard.
This season of busy threatens to rob me of the memories created through flavor. The tang of smoked hot wings reminds me of a time when friends became family around shared scripture and shared meals. The essence of mint in my uncle’s fruit salad comforts me with the consistency of family. The richness of a chocolate pie takes me back to a little parsonage where the beauty of hospitality was modeled for me when I was a young bride. These are all reminders that I am deeply loved and I have loved deeply.
The disciples’ last meal with Jesus created a memory embedded in taste. Jesus broke the unleavened bread, a symbol of His broken body. He blessed it and shared it with His best friends, forever connecting the taste of bread with the price of sacrifice. He poured a glass of wine, red like his blood. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26, ESV). The disciples never ate the bread of fellowship or drank the wine of sacrament without remembering that holy moment. Even today, the taste of the bread and the richness of the wine remind us that we are deeply and sacrificially loved.
There is intentionality in the creation of memories, especially those surrounding our taste buds. Like the coconut milk infused in my grandma’s cake, lingering in a moment will help us hold a memory in our minds and carry them in our hearts. Take the time to connect with a taste, a smell, or a view. Allow it to help you remember what it was like to be loved, to know joy, to feel peace.
Linking up with Holley Gerth’s Coffee for the Heart.