Comforting Words: Sponge Cake

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sponge Cake

Before we head to our assigned areas, every morning the chaplains and student-chaplains at the hospital where I work gather to hear a report of the previous day’s on-call shift and share a reflection and prayers for the day ahead.

This morning’s reflection was about sponge cake! I could not resist sharing this with you, not because of my love of food rather as it was such a ‘sweet’ (pun intended) inspiration.

Sharing from the book “My Grandfather’s Blessings” by Rachel Naomi Remen, the chaplain leading our reflection read from a chapter where the author told a story about her grandmother.

Remen’s grandmother grew up in Russia (I believe) at a time when the people were facing one of their most difficult periods and many, including Rachel’s grandmother, went hungry. People would share whatever they had with each other and this lesson remained with Rachel’s grandmother for the rest of her life; it is also one that she passed on to her daughters and grandchildren.

Years later, the family migrated to the United States and along with the memories of sharing another thing was passed on – a recipe for sponge cake.

Rachel tells the story of her grandmother saying to a child who was terrified that he/she had accidentally broken an egg in a house that had very limited food, “Great, today we will have sponge cake!”

Maybe I do not have the details accurate but I know I am bang on with the moral of the story. You must understand that this story is coming from someone who was diagnosed with a chronic, life-limiting disease at the age of 16, yet continued to lead a full and successful life as a medical doctor and educator.

The impact of the recipe was so vivid in Rachel’s life, particularly when the doctor gave her and her mother the news about the disease. Hearing the news, Rachel’s mother said to her, “We will make sponge cake!”

In your life and mine there are many broken eggs. Truth be told, I think there are days when it seems that my greatest achievement is breaking some eggs.

Eggs are every dream and hope held; it is the potentials and the possibilities we see in life, including hopes for a happy, meaningful and long marriage or relationship, a new job or promotion at the one you now have, debt-free living, a life-enhancing relationship with your parents, your children’s success in school or living an addiction-free life.

When these dreams can go awry or your egg(s) is broken, the temptation is to sprawl on the floor right next to it, wailing and cursing the Universe for what it is doing to you. “What the f… am I to do now?” has often been my cry, “That was the last fr…ing egg I had!”

Grandma Remen’s advice to her daughters, and now to you and me, is do not be sidetracked by broken eggs. She invites us to instead make it the main ingredient for this evening’s supper and invite the neighbours!

I feel so blessed by this story and I am so grateful to the chaplain who shared it. Baking was not my forte in cooking classes but who cares! I am making a sponge cake today! Email me if you would like the recipe.




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