I had a board meeting last night and I brought a cake. It was a celebratory cake, in honor of the award this organization is receiving, and it was planned as a welcome cake for our two new board members. It’s also my birthday week, and so it seems a fitting week to consume more cake. On the way to the meeting I was thinking about cake. I was thinking about our upcoming house project and the dismantling and rebuilding of our kitchen. I was thinking that I’d love to be the kind of person who always has a cake on the counter – stopping in to pick up your kid or to drop off some materials for a meeting? Come in, have a cup coffee, would you like a slice of cake?

This could be that cake. It’s the Gateau Breton from last month’s Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I’ve made it twice now, the second time greatly benefitted from not having an oven temperature snafu in the middle of baking. It’s a sturdy cake, and an elegant one. It’s not overly sweet, and I increased the filling by a tablespoon or two and it’s nearly perfection. I have a large bottle of expensive dark rum, so at two tablespoons per cake, it seems like I could be set for awhile. It fits perfectly on my small marble cake stand, and it slices and plates easily. I served it at the start of the meeting, and that simple act spawned an energetic conversation on the act of making, and serving, a cake.

I do this a lot. I make things in my kitchen, I bring them places to share. I run the sort of committees that serve receptions and organize menus and feed people. I think in terms of serving sizes, fresh flowers, punch ingredients. I have a lot of practice at this, it’s fairly second nature at this point. I love to eat, but even more than that, I love to feed others.

The conversation that developed eventually centered around the idea of forethought. I believe it became a hashtag moment at some point. It was used to describe the differences between those who love the idea of cake, and the person (me) who plans the cake a week in advance, shops for the ingredients, makes the cake, packages the cake, remembers the serving silver and the napkins. #forethought was thrown out several more times, as the conversation moved into menu planning and dinner recipes, shopping lists, project planning and note-taking. It was my instinct to pull away from this and retreat – I just do what I do, and I don’t find it exceptional or unique or particularly praiseworthy. I do find this particular group of women exceptional, unique and praiseworthy, so why wouldn’t I make them a cake, and serve it with the silver?

On the way home from the meeting I thought a lot about the idea of forethought, and getting past my initial instinct to deflect attention away from me, I decided to claim it. It’s a good descriptor for me, and it’s how I operate best. It doesn’t mean that I never do things at the last minute – I often do – but my wheels are always spinning on the tasks that I have ahead of me. There are so many people and organizations that inspire and motivate me, and sharing something that brings me joy to them is my best way of honoring them.

Maybe I’m already that person with the cake on the counter. Have a seat for a moment in your busy day and have a slice. Let me tell you how much I love you in the currency of butter and sliced fruit. Let me reconnect to you again while the vegetables roast, let the scent of fresh flowers remind you that you are home.

10 Responses to forethought

  1. This was such a lovely essay, and those seemingly-simple (yet very intentional!) gestures feel needed now more than ever, it seems. What a gift you are to your community, and to the people in your daily circle. Compassion, servitude, and encouragement take many forms– but a well-made cake sure seems like a perfect embodiment! 🙂

  2. I love this way of thinking about it, too. It’s a lovely characteristic to have and implement and something I’d like to practice more of. But it’s also not a condemnation of more spontaneous personalities or people who are less organized. 🙂 I’m happier when I allow myself the time to plan ahead for small treats as well as big things. Cake on the counter included. cake on the counter included.
    Brooke recently posted…Thoughts on this and thatMy Profile

  3. So lovely. I don’t cook well, so I’m not good at having food ready, but I’m always thinking about the other stuff. I’m a good planner for friend things and I was really good before I had children. However, I do love to eat cake. Happy early birthday!

  4. As always, a lovely post. And confession: I am not a fan of cake (our grands think this is hysterical) or kitchening in general. This is a dna thing, for the most part. How lovely that you speak to the “currency of butter and sliced fruit.” That is nourishment.

  5. Your penchant for forethought seems to have spawned a great career and many lovely hobbies. Thank you for sharing with us here. It is so nice that your committee recognized your gift and that you too have accepted that praise – it is apt and well earned. I don’t think I could always have a cake at ready but I do try to stock mini-splits of champagne in the fridge so we can celebrate anything life throws at us. Most days it’s the little things that get us through.

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