Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

September 16, 2013

Cathie Shaffer: Tastes of the past: 09/17/13

ASHLAND — Temptation, thy name is coffee cake. Over the weekend, I provided refreshments for an event at church and brought a whole coffee cake and part of another home with me. My hope was the grandgirls would invade my house, devour it all and I would be spared the allure of one of my favorite foods.

Alas, that didn’t happen. We celebrated my oldest grandgirl’s birthday with a family party, which meant tons of food and, of course, cake. And when the choice is one of her mama’s cakes or a store-bought coffee cake, I knew my hope was futile.

I was raised in an area that is heavily Pennsylvania Dutch and coffee cake is a staple there. It’s a breakfast food and a “oh, you’re company” treat. My favorite bakery back home is still in business and I’m able to get the yeast-bread, cinnamon-sugar-covered delight of my youth when I go back to visit. It’s sold as it always has been, in a throw-away pan that’s been stapled inside a wax paper bag to keep the goodie fresh.

The ones I bought came in plastic containers and were more like a strudel, with layers of yumminess between the bread-like coffee cake. And both were enough like my favorite to keep me constantly aware of what was on my kitchen counter.

One had thick layers of blueberry filling while the other had a cinnamon streusel in its insides. Trust me, both were delicious.

That taste of home was followed by my watching an episode of the TV show “Breaking Amish,” where young Amish adults who have been living in Los Angeles return to their communities.

Like I said, I grew up in an area with Amish and Mennonite roots. So I watch the show not so much for carrying-ons of the cast, but the background of those religious communities.

In this particular episode, a young man was sitting with his mother talking about his mistakes and his future. His mother said, “I think better with beef,” left the table and returned with a quart canning jar filled with cooked beef.

And there came my second deadly sin of the day; envy followed on the heels of my early gluttony. I wanted to jump in the car, head for Pennsylvania and beg her for a jar for myself.

Canned beef is a staple in most households where I come from, like pinto beans are in many parts of the South. As I watched them share that jar of beef, I thought how delighted my family members would be if I announced they should all come eat that familiar meal of their childhood: beef and noodles over mashed potatoes.

Yeah, I can make the main dish with a roast. But there’s something about the canned beef, the distilling of the flavor, that makes all the difference.

I’ve promised my 91-year-old aunt I’ll come to visit her again in October. I’m copying some family photos for her and plan to deliver them by hand, which is a great excuse for spending time with that very special lady.

She’s already said we’re going out for dinner when I come up. I think we’ll extend our outing to include a little shopping as well.

But first I need to figure out how much canned beef and coffee cake I can cram into the back of my little station wagon.

CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net.

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