I was honored to have a memoir piece and recipe published in the newest issue of Driftless Magazine, an independent magazine about "food, art, and adventure in the Midwest." This is my first piece I've ever had published in print and as I cut the mail open to hold the copy in my hands, I thought, "This is it!" And as I read the piece to my mother while she did the dishes and, later, to my father when he got home from a business trip, I thought, "This is just the beginning."
I want to share with you the narrative, as I always do on the blog. The stories behind why I bake. The inspiration behind the flour-dusted countertops and sticky testing spoons. But, to find the recipe for the cornbread trifle and more, you should pick up the magazine or find it online here.
And here is part of my piece...
A Town I Could Never Forget: for issue 5 of Driftless Magazine
It’s always dusk when I look back at my town of Indiana. Versailles, it’s called. Forty-five minutes west of Cincinnati and pronounced “Ver-sales”. It’s always dusk and the light blue water tower that stands like Atlas above the town casts long shadows on the Dairy Queen down the road. A sundial for the bargain shoppers, mothers with chipped nail polish, and husbands that drink beer in the garage that I still call family.
Some work at factories, some are bartenders. They pay their bills and find it hard to dream bigger than the first exit on the highway. Cornfields line the back roads to church and sometimes it all feels so expansive and sometimes it’s suffocating.
I haven’t been back there for a few years; haven’t lived there a few years longer than that. I know what’s changed and what hasn’t. A few more great-aunts lay buried in the family plot and an uncle won $10,000 at a poker tournament. My grandfather lost one of his fingers in a saw and spends his time drinking.
I know there’s one less house on Main Street that was torn down and the roots of an old tree cracked the sidewalk. That was big news in my small town. It traveled to me when I lived in California. My mom repeated it again at Thanksgiving.
“A girl could have tripped and really hurt herself!”
“ I hope they do something about it soon,” I said, mirroring my mother’s concern.
My mother left that world when she was sixteen but revisits it in conversation often. She smoked cigarettes while waiting for her nails to dry and spend years trying to find the self-confidence that always seemed to escape between her open fingertips, held out for clemency for all the mistakes she thinks she made as a mother.
She hasn’t changed much since she married my father and moved away from their hometown in Indiana. The salt of the earth is the grit in her teeth when she’s scowling; it’s the dust that gets in my eyes when I think of that town changing before I visit again soon.
But not much will. It hasn’t for years and years. A grandmother still rests at the foot of a hill. The weeds that grow on a farm my dad used to own still houses garter snakes and mice that hide in shadows. The bramble of the blackberry bushes my uncle owned wrapped themselves around his truck tires when he died. Earth is more alive in this part of the Midwest. It only gives what it can eventually take back.
I thought about that town and its land when I made this trifle. I made this dessert as a eulogy to the cracked veneer of a world that I may never get back. A myth, a dream world I see when I look at the rose-patterned china that sits in a cardboard box in my parents’ basement. How the blackberry bramble would twist itself around that box. How the mice would hide in the shadows, too.
I think of this dessert as a love letter to the town I was born in, with its mispronounced name and its cracked sidewalks. Cornmeal, berries, and two cups of sugar.
Simple, timeless, an artifact from a world I’m afraid to lose. My ode to Indiana: a cornbread trifle.
Thank you to everyone for your support and support your local and independent magazines!