When my aunt Florence died 19 years ago I went with my parents to the funeral home to pick out a casket. If you’ve never done that it is eye opening. There were at least 20 styles to choose from. From the very plain wood one like maybe you’d see in a Western movie to super ornate ones that Aretha Franklin might have liked. My father, the dutiful brother (when Florence fell. broke her hip and was in rehab for 6 months he visited her every single day), insisted on a pretty expensive one. I was surprised because neither of my parents families are much for post-life razzmatazz. None of my relatives on either side have gravestones. Although out of curiosity I have visited family members (they are all in Holy Cross cemetery), my families were not ever ones to visit the interred. On the German side it was probably out of belief that the soul is in heaven and the body left behind is nothing. On the Irish side, well, it was a bother and weekends were pretty much for other activities (drinking). Anyway, he selected a really nice casket that fell about halfway on the price list because he thought that’s what she would have liked. (He, by contrast, is currently residing in a wicker basket on my mother’s dresser). And I am sure he was right. At least he didn’t choose the nausea inducing one that had a frieze of the Apostles on the side. So Florence is buried in a really nice casket.
And right now she is turning in it. I made her cake for the birthday of the lovely Carrie, a young friend, and I defiled it. I deviated quite a bit from her recipe. I love this cake and to me it is the quintessential birthday cake. But I used pineapple-orange juice instead of plain orange juice (It’s all I had), coconut milk (I had to get rid of the shit), butter instead of oil and orange zest (which I usually do anyway but it’s not a part of her original recipe), and I added West Indian orange bitters. Florence was familiar with bitters but only the one that went in an Old Fashioned. The cakes did not rise nearly as much as one might want and the center was pretty sunken. I filled that in with frosting. You know, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Actually I doubt she’d turn in it. She was pretty calm in most situations and I doubt that this sort of thing would have upset her in the least. She was also life-long Republican. I’d love to get her take on the present situation. On the other hand, I’m probably better off not knowing. Speaking of turning in my grave.
In the end, after the misery of frosting the damn thing, the cake tasted pretty much like a sort-of-off version of Florence’s Orange Cake. It was good but too much frosting.