Monday, November 05, 2018

The Birthday One

As we continue the Food Memories journey we come to January, where there is a birthday at the beginning of the month. This is followed with at least one birthday a month except for April (which gets Easter), June (which gets our parents' anniversary), and July (which has 4th of July). As an adult with my own family, all the other months have either one or more birthdays for a parent or sibling or one for my spouse or kid or myself. That's a lot of birthdays!

Those of you who are regular readers know that birthdays are a thing for me...I love them. That could be due to my enjoyment of a party, the joy of a celebration of someone I love, or...most likely...cake. I love cake and baking cakes and decorating them. A slice of cake and a cup of tea makes me really happy. Another reason I like birthdays is that the celebration is focused on one person. Growing up in a large family it's perhaps understandable that having the focus on one person in a positive way was rare. This was before the time when parents thought that building self esteem meant lots of compliments and little prizes. Self esteem wasn't much of a consideration. Building character was, and that was supposed to lead to self esteem I guess.

So a birthday was a celebration of the birthday boy or girl, a  way to let them know that you were glad they had been born, and a day to feel special. In our family when I was young, you were able to choose your cake and sometimes the whole meal. There was usually a birthday party with friends and then a birthday dinner with family. Since I enjoyed cake baking, after I was old enough to bake cakes without help, I became the family birthday cake maker. We had the usual layer cake, in different flavors and with all sorts of icing.

My older sister particularly loved a coconut layer cake.

My Mom had a spring birthday and usually had a strawberry shortcake birthday cake.

Sometimes I tried things like making a single layer that was a number. There was at least one decorated like an animal...a frog I think. With so many to make, my memories of any one in particular is sort of fuzzy.

I do know that my favorite was chocolate cake with chocolate icing and it was often baked in a heart shape. My older sister baked this one for me a few years ago...and it's chocolate cake!

At some point in time we started using Grandmother's special plate for birthday cakes. It's a little small for the job, but so pretty. It's pressed glass with little points on the edges, plus a luster finish to the glass that gives it a rainbow effect when the sun hits it. I was lucky enough to inherit it and I use it myself for cakes now and then.

The children's birthday party was fun and usually included games like pin the tail on the donkey or hide and seek. All the kids in the family would be there, not just the friends of the birthday honoree. When the older of us were old enough, we were the organizers of the parties. My Mom probably breathed a sigh of relief once that happened. A house full of her own children was challenge enough...imagine adding a half dozen more neighborhood kids!

I think my favorite birthday party besides my own was the one in late spring for a younger sister. We could have it outside and let everyone run around the yard and be as noisy as they wanted!

When my own children had birthdays they usually chose the cake and that seemed to change from year to year. Until they were school aged, birthday parties were usually just family and maybe a friend or two. Even when they went to school the parties were pretty simple for a few years. Later we had things like a movie party at a local museum or bumper cars at the fun center but the number of kids invited was fairly small. A favorite of my daughter was one at a raceway when we lived in Berkeley and, as a teen, one in the old farmhouse that included silly string and concluded with an Indiana Jones movie. The birthdays were more about friends and fun than food. Still cake and ice cream was never turned down...even mini-cakes like the one below that I made for a friend.

Max liked pies, but really he would eat almost anything so cake was fine with him. Sweetie prefers pie or cheesecake for his birthday and my California sister prefers pecan pie for her birthday, so it doesn't even have to be cake.

What are the birthday food traditions in your family. Wanna share?

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