Mississippi native Ben Mims begins an article about layer cakes in Saveur magazine by describing his relationship with his mother:
Prior to October 7, 2010, my mother and I were the best of friends. A consummate Southern lady, Judy Mims is a fantastic cook, gossiper, and mom—and in her relationship with me she had always drawn on all those talents. But on that October day, I flew from New York City to my childhood home in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to come out, at 25 years old, as a gay man to my parents. As anyone who grew up in the Bible Belt can imagine, the outcome was heartbreaking. My mother and I used to talk at least weekly; now months go by without a call. I miss her. And I can’t help feeling like I’ve lost touch with not only my mother, but also my lifeline to the world I grew up in. Thank goodness I still have the cakes.
It’s a really nice essay. One brief moment in the story went clang, slightly: “most Southern women have a subscription to Southern Living magazine…” Well, maybe among one substantial population in the South, most Southern women subscribed. He accurately describes that population, later in the same paragraph: “my mother’s ceramic-white skin contrasted by her lips, always burnished with brick-red lipstick.”
His effort to rise above his mother’s failure with whipped cream frosting almost achieves poignancy. And there’s one I do want a slice of:
It was the coconut cake recipe, though, that the sisters agreed was the one to save if ever the house caught on fire. The first time I tried the recipe, it exceeded all my expectations. The cake was filled with freshly grated coconut, the sweet water seeping into the yellow layers surrounded by fluffy Italian meringue. Left for a day to “mature” in the refrigerator, every inch of it was suffused with rich coconut flavor.
The pictures with this story really and seriously caught my attention. I hadn’t gone back to the text yet until Christen Hemmins noted on Facebook: “I would like to give this sweet man’s mother a talking to.”