This is another love letter to cake.
Troy Bike Rescue, aka TBR, is a collective of people who want to make bikes and biking more accessible. They run a DIY bike shop with special hours for youths to work on/earn a bike, and there's another location downtown in the summer months to sell bikes and bike stuff. Apart from these efforts, friends of TBR have gone on big bike trips, as far away as Rhode Island. I've never ridden the whole way but I will always ride a little and show up with a griddle and make pancakes at a campground.
The goodwill surrounding this group is a balm, and the fundraiser, Bike Fest is wildly anticipated. We have a burrito bar, using recipes from MOOSEWOOD COOKS FOR A CROWD for inspiration. The cake auction is a great way to generate funds, and more good feelings.
There was no Bike Fest last year because of the pandemic, and the year prior, it was on Zoom and focused on performing, rather than sharing cake. I used my son’s toy tractors to explain flour farming & milling.
This year, we were invited to include performances with our cakes, which I welcomed. I always perform a little anyway, grabbing the microphone from our droll auctioneer to enthuse over bakers and their projects.
I knew I’d make Lisa Donovan’s Chocolate Church Cake, but figuring out the skit took consideration. Should I get my kids and husband to be props? Frost them with words, or tape paper pancakes on them? I wanted to be goofy and serious, to write something about cake being a wall we build against an absurd world. I wanted to write about gun violence, and the battle for women's bodies. I thought of making a link between the birds & the bees, and using cake to teach us about each ot her and our need for peace and agency. I was trying, as ever, to put too many ideas together, but I did write a small thing and had my husband dance as I read it.
Once upon a time a mother had a family. And she knew she had to protect them. So every day when it was time for them to leave the house she dressed them up in cakes. She put pancakes in their bellies and she wrapped pancakes around their arms. She packed snack cakes in their lunch boxes and gave them hats that were chocolate cakes stacked high to the sky. In this way she frosted her children and mate, giving them a sweet armor against the world and its offenses.
This was before many many things happened that were very wrong, but not when the world was perfect. Because of course only a cake can be pure as the driven snow and free from animosity. Only a cake can deliver hope without blindly trapping us in a Pollyanna-ish conviction that all will be well.
Cakes are made of hopes and habits, thoughts and prayers, dreams and disasters. This cake comes to you hot off the mystic press, struggling voraciously to hoist you higher than your midday estimations. This cake will lift you as the sun does each morning, inviting you beyond every day struggles, the personal ones, as well as the broad social ones that can't stop knocking on our doors. Please wear my cloak of cake as if you were my loved ones, because you are, and carry our best wishes for the world into each mouthful.
Other cake shows featured local honey and an intoxicating mugwort smoke spritz fighting settler colonialism; a rainbow cake for Pride that had a soundtrack and a Stonewall brick; the spirit of rhubarb appearing in the flesh. Here’s a video I took of the cakes. They went for outrageous amounts of money as we riled each other up. Mine raised $400, and several others raised over $200. The bidding is just a spectacle because everyone shares.
This all took place on a shady hill that’s next to a former church. Oakwood Community Center is at a corner of one of the busiest intersections in Troy, and traffic roared beyond our bliss. Kids ran around and kids served food and because we all believe in the idea of bikes we were able to make magic.
This included a moment of silence for John "Host" Lynch, a TBR member who was killed last year riding his bike. He got his nickname because he made people feel so welcome. John would have been behind the scenes to make sure everything was taken care of, cooking and cleaning, running tortillas from stove to buffet line.
I really noticed he wasn’t with us, especially at clean up, but I had another lovely someone help. My friend’s toddler wanted to be with me. "Tell me a story Amy. Tell me a story," he kept asking. In the room where we served dinner, I told him a few lines, Once upon a time we were in a house and we had too many shoes. We didn't know which ones to wear but finally, you put on a pair of shoes and I put on a pair of shoes and we walked out into the field. The field pushed us up to the sky and the sky pushed down on our shoulders so we could see everything. What do we see?
I interrupted the story to bring silverware into the kitchen and my helper stood on a stool and washed by my side. He loved the water and his job until he remembered I didn't finish the story. Then we left the kitchen and I told him a little more in the big room. The story is never going to finish. I am always going to be telling it, even though I won’t have the gracious prompts of a new-eyed listener who needs another story of what this world can be.
I hope I will always be feeling grateful that I have people around me who believe in each other. I hope you have people that let you seek and find magic.