Time for another Odd Trio prompt: write a post about any topic you want, in whatever form or genre, but make sure it features a slice of cake, a pair of flip-flops, and someone old and wise.
Mabel was the type of grandma who wasn’t taking anybody else’s shit; she had raised 6 kids, survived a war, and the great depression of the 1930’s. She had no reservations about being blunt, and that’s what made her ‘Mabel’.
She was 96 and still going strong. She spent the colder half of the year up north living with family in a warmer climate, and then in the warmer months she would head back south, and was always travelling up and down the east coast staying with various members of her family for a couple of weeks at a time – she was 96, she didn’t really have anything to do.
She would spend her days napping, or pottering around the house looking through books or magazine. Every now and the. She would get the energy to bake her infamous Apple Crumble Cake – a recipe which nobody was ever able to replicate, because Mabel did everything by hand and by touch. Then she would enjoy nothing more than seeing everybody come together for a slice of cake, topped with whipped cream, and served with a bit pot of tea. It was one of the very rare occasions when a household would all come together and actually talk to each other – Mabel was the only one who had actually realised this, and it was a revelation that she gladly kept to herself. She may have been old, but she was sharp as a tack and knew exactly what she was doing.
On a sunny Spring day, Mabel woke with a particular spring in her step. She was up before anybody else in the house and was heard clanging away in the kitchen. When I got up to see what all the noise was, I saw her standing there at the kitchen bench, in her dressing gown, wearing rollers in her hair, and a small mug of chamomile tea next to a small saucer with a half eaten piece of dry toast. The radio was playing in the background and she was softly singing to herself. Well, maybe not singing, as she didn’t seem to know any of the music that was playing, But moreso a soft humming – la de daah de doo doo de de hmm hmm hmm hmm de doo de dum dum la la laaah – which we often found her doing when she was by herself. I guess it was just something to occupy her mind. Maybe she was humming some Tchaikovsky or some Bach, like she was back in pre-war Germany or something, listening to classical radio on the wireless. I guess we’ll never know.
When she turned around to grab her mug, she let out a small gasp, perhaps surprised to see me standing there watching her, or perhaps out of embarrassment for her ‘singing’. I said good morning, and apologised for startling her, then walked over to her and gave her a great big hug. She had a scent to her – not like some kind of unpleasant smell, but it was more like a constant perfume that permeated from within her; it was that ‘nanna’ smell that I had known ever since I was a child. She stepped back and grabbed my shoulders, and said something loudly in German, and then gave me a big kiss on each cheek, then turned back to the bench and continued her ‘singing’. Whilst she had her back to me, I quickly sniffed her tea, just to make sure she hadn’t snuck some brandy into it – not that she was like that, but just be doubly sure.
I walked over to the bench and stood next to her, and saw the mess she had made – there was a sink full of apple peel, flour all over the bench, several bowls, opened packets of butter, spilt sugar – it all meant one thing: Apple crumble. A giant smile washed over my face, just as she turned to ask me if I wanted a hot drink. Acknowledging her idea, I politely told her that I would make it, so as not to disrupt her any more. I flicked the switch on the kettle and prepared my tea, and as I waited for the kettle to boil, I sat there contently, watching nan do her thing.
She looked over her shoulder to ask what I was doing and told her that I was just watching her create. She smiled and said she would teach me one day – I agreed, suggesting that she show me next time she decides to make it. The kettle began to whistle and I flicked it off, pouring my tea. As I sat down at the bench with my giant cup in both my hands, I heard the clanging of oven shelves, as she put her massive cake into the oven to bake.
It didn’t take long for the smell of apple and cinnamon to fill the kitchen and begin wafting through the house – soon enough my younger brother stumbled out into the kitchen half asleep, investigating the smell. I made him a big cup of hot chocolate, as he staggered over to greet nan the same way I had done earlier.
He asked her why she was baking so early, and she replied simply saying that she was awake and in a great mood, and decided that today was going to be a baking day. A baking day? Now we’re talking. I asked what else she would be baking today and she stood there with a confused expression on her petite, wrinkly face. At that point I realised that she had only intended to make her apple crumble, and then she realised that same point and then leant in and whispered, ‘we make something else, but we do it together instead – just me and you!’ I grinned for ear to like a kid on Christmas morning.
Without hesitation the bowls were in the sink being washed and she started having a conversation with herself whilst she looked out the window as her hands swirled through the soapy water in the sink. I stood beside her with a dry tea towel, waiting eagerly to help dry up in preparation for the next mysterious creation.
As soon as she pulled down the jar of cocoa, I got excited, ‘mmm chocolate!’ And nan just smiled at me and winked. I help sift flour, and crack eggs and do all the mixing, and then she says ‘right, now you put that one aside and we make another batter’. Um, what?! Another batter? Another cake? This just got even better! we went through the process again, but instead of cocoa, adding orange zest and juice. I was in control of the wooden spoon, which also entitled me to the licking of the bowls as well – I did all the work, I get the bowls!
Then something magical happened, she pulled out a big cake tin and poured in half of the chocolate mix, and then half of the orange mix, and then more chocolate and more orange. I couldn’t understand what was happening! Mixing cake flavours, this was madness! Cakey, chocolatey, orangey madness! As I stood there licking one of the wooden spoons, she yanked it out of my hand and grabbed the slobbery end, and used the actual handle to swirl all the mixtures amongst each other. I had already decided this was going to be the best cake ever as I’d never seen her make one like this before. I was far too excited!
I watched her intently as she carried the cake tin over to the oven. She opened the door and the smell of apple and cinnamon enveloped the entire kitchen, like some kind of delicious cloud bomb.
Mabel stood up and looked at me, clearly noticing my excitement and eagerness to have some nice hot cake, fresh out of the oven. ‘You have to be patient, darling, but guess what we still haven’t done yet?…’ I could feel my pupils full dilating in anticipation, ‘we still have to whip cream. You know you can’t have apple crumble without a big dollop of cream!’ OH MY GOD, YES!! ‘And if you help me clean up, I’ll let you lick the beaters!’ The really was becoming the best day ever; just when I thought it wouldn’t, *BLAM* she drops a bomb that I didn’t see coming. *BLAM* a second cake! *BLAM* and whipped cream! I don’t actually think she finished her sentence before I had bowls in the sink, soaking in the warm soapy water.
She washed, and I dried and when she handed me the last thing to be dried, I slowly place it on the bench, and slowly turned back to her. She looked at me and giggled. ‘Oh alright, already. Come on…’ And she rolled her eyes as she took my hand and walked me over to the fridge. She opened the door and handed me two big cartons of cream. I placed them on the bench and she opened the pantry to get the vanilla and the icing sugar. She held onto the icing sugar a little longer and she handed it to me, waiting to lock eyes with me. As I looked at her, she winked again, confusing me somewhat as I placed it on the bench. Mabel foraged around in the cupboard and pulled out two more bowls – a big one and a small one, and a small sieve. More trickery!
As she plugged in the electric mixer, she asked me to pop the life off the cream containers and pour both of them into the big bowl. I struggled with the first lid, and as it popped off, a small bubble of cream splattered out the top and all over my face. I stood there shocked, and Mabel began laughing at me, before coming over and wiping the mess off my face. I didn’t really know what was so funny, but if nan thought it was funny, then it really must be, so I started to laugh as well, even though I wasn’t actually sure why.
She measured out some icing sugar and pushed it through the sieve as I stared in amazement. Cream icing?! This I was just getting more and more crazy. Nan looked at me, ‘for the sweetness’, and then dropped a few drops of vanilla into the mixture as well, ‘for the yumminess!’ Then turned on the beaters. I stood there completely fixated on the cream swirling around the beaters and the ripple patterns it was making. I so desperately wanted to stick my finger in to taste it, and without promoting, I heard ‘don’t even think about it’, in a very stern German voice. I glanced sideways and slowly moved away from the bowl.
Mabel let out a small chuckle and put her free arm around me, and switched off the beaters. She must have sensed the desire for me to grab those beaters and race off to a corner to savour the creamy delights like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and as she pressed the button to eject the beaters, I feel my hands start twitching in anticipation. Just as she turned to hand both the beaters over to me, my brother casually strolled into the kitchen, half asleep and nan just handed over one of the beaters to him. He didn’t really understand what was happening as he just looked too confused. I was beside myself, and stood there with my mouth gaping open in sheer disbelief at what was happening. He took two or three licks of the beater, and then tossed it into the sink and walked off. Still standing there holding my beater with my jaw on the ground, I just wanted to scream. HE DIDN’T EVEN DESERVE ONE!! YOU JUST WASTED THAT ON HIM. HE DIDN’T EVEN WANT IT!! Mabel must have noticed my gaping mouth and my ever-increasing death grip on my beater and stood behind me with her hands on my shoulders, and leant in, whispering, ‘he’s your brother and you have to share’. She kissed me on the cheek and gave me a tap on the bum, ushering me off to go and enjoy my cream-covered beater.
I walked off to the lounge room, standing behind the couch licking he beater watching a cartoon on television. it wasn’t long before i heard the ‘ding’ of the oven timer, and without hesitation, literally ran into the kitchen with anticipation of what was about to come out of the oven. I walked in to see the oven door open, and nan pulling out a baking dish. She placed it on the bench and the smell of the hot apple and cinnamon-y, buttery crumble filled the kitchen. There were plates and forks already out in preparation. The kettle was steaming, and the teapot sat next to it, waiting to be filled.
Mabel handed me the wet tea-towel, suggesting I go outside and wipe down the outdoor setting. I walked out the back door, wondering why she had asked me to do this, and as I wiped all the grime off one of the chairs, I felt a warming glow on my back, only to turn around and look up to the sky and see the sunshine starting to peek out from behind some dark rain clouds. Standing there momentarily enjoying the sunshine, I heard a rather shrill voice coming from the backdoor. As I shielded my eyes to see who it was, I saw nan walking towards me holding a serving tray – containing some small plates, and the apple crumble. Following nan, mum walked out carrying another serving tray with the pot of tea, and some teacups and milk. The serving plates were all set down onto the outside table, and my brother walked out, his arms full of throw blankets.
Before I knew it I was parked on one of the chairs, wrapped in a throw blanket, with cake in one hand and a freshly brewed cup of tea in the other. I looked over and both mum and nan had their sunglasses on and their thongs on, kicking back in the sunshine, and crisp winter air.
It truly was, one of the most perfect Sunday mornings I ever had, and one of my favourite memories of Mabel.