Love takes many forms.

There are a lot of food-associated memories at my grandma’s house: eating fresh strawberries from her garden sprinkled with sugar, snapping beans in the living room while watching TV, “helping” with biscuits and getting covered in flour. And some of my favorite comfort foods: lima beans with butter, homemade beefaroni, her special chicken pie. Lately, though, Grandma has been hooking me up with dessert, and the one dessert I want from my grandma is her caramel cake, with its thick fudgy caramel icing. (It’s best with a glass of milk, in case you were wondering.)

I have two cousins who grew up in Albuquerque instead of here in North Carolina like the rest of us, and every now and then I realize how different our experiences – specifically our family experiences – are. The week that my dad died, I asked Grandma to make me a caramel cake because I knew she wanted to do something for me, and . . . well, I know we shouldn’t try to drown our pain in food, but . . . I wanted Grandma’s caramel cake. Surely I can be excused for that in this situation. One of my Albuquerque cousins said, “Have I ever had caramel cake before?” and I felt very sorry for him. (But not sorry enough to share. Again, surely I can be excused in this situation. Normally I am a much more generous person. But it was caramel cake made just for me. Grandma herself said I didn’t have to share.) Grandma’s caramel cake is well known by those of us who live here. I look forward to its presence at holiday gatherings and always think of it as a special treat. Other family members know how to make it, but it’s definitely Grandma’s recipe in my mind.

I ate most of the caramel cake (I did share it with my cousin who flew in from New York, but he understands the greatness of the caramel cake, and he flew in to see me even though he missed the service. Just because he wanted to be there for me . . . the least I could do was give him a piece of caramel cake) and I froze slices of it. When some family came over for Mom’s birthday, I offered it to people who didn’t want the coconut pie my brother made (which I hear was excellent, but I am not a big coconut eater, personally). And so, most of our cake was eaten and shared by those who love it. Last week, my mom told Grandma about that . . . and she promptly made me another cake. Which I have been enjoying this week. (Also, please note my generosity: I let Melissa have some of this new cake. But only because, you know, she just had a baby and she guilted me into it.)

Sometimes people joke about the food that appears out of the woodwork when someone passes away, but, maybe because of my grandma and my mom (and many other women in my life), the way they cooked, I do see food as a very loving kind of thing, and I felt very blessed and loved by the food that came to our house in the weeks after my dad died. Grandma always tries to fix our favorite things if we’re going to be over for dinner – for me, chicken pie. For one of my cousins, rice. And if she knew how much Mike loves (LOVES) her sweet potato casserole, she’d probably make it for him next week. (Instead, I’m going to try for the first time to make it. I don’t really care for sweet potato casserole, myself, so I hope that it turns out okay. And can I just say, remember that big fuss Mike made about sweet potatoes last year? He didn’t even eat sweet potatoes before he was with me! He didn’t grow up eating them! Tradition, my foot! hehe.) Or those green beans that are really bad for you with bacon in them – he loves those, too. I appreciate that she cares enough to remember what we like, that food can be a healthy way to show love. And I know I will never eat caramel cake again without picturing my grandma in her kitchen making one out of love for me.

Mike likes caramel cake, but not like I like it. When I had a piece earlier, he admitted that, and said, “To you it tastes like Grandma’s house.” Yes. To me it tastes like love.


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  1. By Tramadol on 3/20/2021 at


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