So I’m back to regularly bringing Saturday night dinners to Mrs. S. at the nursing home. While I long ago gave up on cooking for her from Fannie Farmer (Ms. Fannie’s recipes being a bit too unreliable for my taste), I do try to cook foods that are familiar to Mrs. S., who also enjoys occasional take out from Brick Oven Pizza (who around here doesn’t?) and random mid-week visits with coffee and donuts from Blue Duck Bakery (again, who wouldn’t?)
One of the reasons (I think) that the S’s marriage lasted truly ’til death did them part was that they both loved to please the other. And food was a big part of that love language. When Mr. S retired from working, he decided that they’d eat many of their dinners in restaurants so that Mrs. S could ‘retire,’ too–his way of thanking her for the decades of excellent meals which he spoke well of pretty much to his dying day.
But whereas Mr. S was usually forthcoming with what he liked and didn’t like, Mrs. S has always been much quieter. So much so, that a few weeks ago, I had to pry her dessert request out of her.
(I don’t always ask her what she wants. Just sometimes.)
Me: What do you want for dessert next week? Whatever you ask for, I’ll make it.
Edie: Brownies are the easiest.
Me: I don’t want to do what’s easiest! I want to do what you want.
Edie: I don’t know if I should say.
Me: Mousse? Pie? Any kind of pie? Rice pudding?
Edie: No, not rice pudding…they give us that a lot here, and it doesn’t taste homemade.
Me: Tell me what you want!
Edie: says nothing, looks away, ashamed.
Me: (thinking: what is she possibly thinking of? A cake out of which Chippendales pop?)
Edie: (uncomfortably) I’d like a chocolate layer cake. With chocolate frosting.
Me: (thinking: is that all? Finally!)
And so on Saturday morning, I pulled out my stand mixer, made a terrific mess:
and a classic chocolate layer cake from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook:
To tell the truth, I’m not altogether sure that Mrs. S even remembered asking for the chocolate layer cake. And her appetite was smaller than usual, so she ended up eating only half of it. But neither of those things matters.
What matters to me is that she was able, finally, to admit her secret desire, and that, by God’s grace, I was able to meet it.
I’m still trying to figure out why that feels important, right and good.
Maybe it’s because I read somewhere that American women are embarrassed to buy candy bars.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a tradition that taught that all (or at least most) desires are evil and not to be fulfilled.
Maybe it’s because admitting desires takes trust and facilitates closeness.
What do you think? Did you grow up in a tradition that taught you to be suspicious of desires? When have you experienced freedom and pleasure in admitting what you want?