I go to flea markets now and fill a spare closet with things I don’t need. A blanket from the 1800’s, a cookie jar from Jerusalem. I get cash out of the ATM and buy a coffee to keep my hands idol while I’m walking around. I chat with my mom as she buys toys for her first grandchild, my unborn niece. She’ll be spoiled before she gets here, we joke.
They’re interesting places, flea markets. But, then again, everything has been interesting moving back, feeling like a stranger with a shared zip code. We mill through someone’s trash. I found a love letter to a woman named Ellen once. A lady wanted ten cents for it. Nothing is kept, most things are fingerprinted or cracked; and yet, still I come back. I bring others, I buy gifts.
It’s the promise that I can buy someone’s heritage, someone’s family history. That my own is easily supplemented with that of strangers. That, somehow by buying these jars and napkins and old, old butter knives, I can authenticate myself in this town of mine. At its heart, it’s imperialistic. At its heart, I am lonely here, a foreigner who moved back into his childhood home in February of this year.
But I’ll stay in this house until the baby is born. Until she can wear the sweater I got her. Until she plays with the blocks my mother found in a cardboard box marked a quarter by a vendor’s red truck. They’ll spell out her initials – LGW, Lana Grace Williams. And I’ll keep making cakes in the meantime, from old cookbooks I found on card tables next to a pile of tangled costume jewelry. And I’ll make my own memories while I’m home. They may not be much, but they’re ours to keep.
Peach Cornmeal Cake
This cake is inspired by one such recipe I found in an old spiral-bound community cookbook. It's probably the simplest cake I have ever posted. Makes one 6-inch cake.
- 1 ¼ cup AP flour
- ¾ cup fine-ground cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup crème fraiche
- 1 TB white vinegar
- 1 TB honey
- 1 TB pure vanilla extract
- 2 TB butter
- 2 TB shortening
- ½ cup sugar (I used the amazing Sweet Revenge Sugar for an aromatic and mellow flavor to the cake) for this recipe, but regular white would be fine
- 1 egg + 1 yolk
- 2 TB dark brown sugar
- 1 peach, sliced
- Preheat oven to 375*F
- Prepare a 6-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and butter
- Sift together AP flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside
- In a measuring cup, whisk together milk, crème fraiche, vinegar, honey and vanilla extract and set aside
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream your fats with your sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula
- Add egg and yolk, mixture will look a little curdled
- Alternate between the flour and your milk mixtures until a thick batter forms
- Scrape again with your rubber spatula
- At this point, sprinkle your brown sugar at the bottom of your prepared pan, right on top of the parchment
- Arrange your peach slices any way you’d like
- Gently pour batter over your peaches and smooth top. Tap the bottom of your cake pan gently on your counter a few times to settle any air in the batter
- Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until golden brown and slightly puffed
This cake was made through a partnership with Sweet Revenge Sugar Co. All opinions are my own.