When the sun was over the yardarm, we trudged our sunburned selves back down Indian Wells Highway to her house. Interesting grown-ups were drinking their pink gins in the library; to the left was the parlor, filled with mysterious objects under glass domes and always as hushed as church. We'd race each other to the shower (her updatirs bathroom had a skylight with an old metal chain) and then back downstairs, avoiding the room where our parents were happily occupied with people other than ourselves. So it went, summer after summer. Our winter lives were harder, schools and cities changed; almost as soon as we got settled somewhere, we were moving again.

My grandmother died and the house was sold, but for years and years afterward, whenever I returned to Amagansett, I felt at home. This was where I belonged. Anytime I walked down that half-mile of road to find the ocean glittering at the end, I was a child. Now although it looks the same, it feels different. The village has been discovered, and people I don't know are everywhere in their expensive cars. I can't find myself there anymore. But I can bring back some of the old feelings whenever I go in my kitchen. Out of all the delicious things she made, Bigmom's sponge cake is my favorite, and she taught me the fundamental rules of baking: Never run in the kitchen when a cake is in the oven, and close the screen door softly or the cake will fall. She tested its doneness with a straw from a broom. We held our breath when she carefully opened the oven for a look; I didn't dare speak lest the cake fall. It was a layer cake with simple white buttercream icing, and over the tope she poured melted bitter chocolate in lines and streaks and dribbles. It was a Jackson Pollock of a cake, and the smooth bitter chocolate on top combined wiht the sweetness to make a taste rather like life itself.

Get the recipe for Bigmom's sponge cake with buttercream frosting

More Ways to Bond Over Food


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