Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beneath the marzipan

I did not notice the waitress cut up our cake after we had stuck a knife into it on our wedding day, but I remember going through a dummy run of cutting the cake before the reception began.  Our wedding cake had two tiers arranged bigger to smaller.  

‘This'll be an interesting shot,’ our photographer said in the lull between wedding and reception.  ‘I’d like to get the candles' reflection in your eyes.’  She asked us to hold empty wine glasses up to one another as if by way of a toast.  Then asked that we hold the sharp edged cake knife, which she managed to get from the kitchen, over the dark red fake rose in the centre of the top tier of our cake.  

After the wedding we kept the smaller top tier to eat another day.  It has travelled with us in an old cake tin my husband’s mother gave us after the wedding.  

It was she who took responsibility for the cake in the first place.  She who baked it, and she who organised a friend and neighbour to ice it, one thick layer of marzipan on top of which she stretched the ordinary sugary icing.  It was she who chose the single artificial red rose as an embellishment, she who designed the shape and size.  

I look forward one day to opening the lid of the cake to see what lies concealed beneath.   But I cannot imagine doing this yet.  Some have joked that if we were to open the cake tin, it would signal the end of our marriage, after over thirty years.  Others reckon it might be like an omen. 

No one imagines that the cake will be edible, or that it could taste good.  Though a friend once told me, a couple of years after their wedding, her mother took their cake, peeled off the by then yellow icing and recovered it.  They then ate the cake at the christening of their first child - a tradition, I understand -  but given our irreligiosity and our failure to christen any of our children, we have not been able to take such an opportunity to cut our cake.  

I had considered the occasion of one of the wedding anniversaries, the big ones, maybe the first, the fifth, the tenth, twentieth, all those multiples of five would be a good time to get out the cake, to cut it up and see what lies beneath but as the years go by I become more and more reluctant to take a look.  

The cake stands, still heavy, sealed in its faded tin.  The paint on the tin is pale red and yellow, a traditional hunting scene, hounds, horses and men in red breeches with riding crops, leaping over logs in pursuit of a fox.  In places the paint is worn down to a faint silver glow.  

About twenty-five years ago my husband sealed the cake tin with silver masking tape after we'd endured a plague of kitchen moths and weevils.  I was worried they’d get inside.  

Even then I did not have the heart to look.  I peeled away the fat little bug bodies clinging to the underside of the tin and wiped the whole thing with a damp cloth.  After my husband had sealed it, I sprayed the tin with insect spray.  I've not looked at it since. 

Today the cake sits in the far topmost corner of the kitchen pantry, a place that's difficult to reach and each year it waits for some decision to determine its fate.  I do not want to die without looking inside but I’m superstitious enough to think I should not look yet.  I fear it might be like the surgeon who cuts open a body only to discover it's riddled with cancer - the looking signifies the death knell.  

 If I outlive my husband then I might look, but not while the two of us go on together, or at least not yet, not while we are still in the busy rush of our lives.  It’s too soon to see.


Birdie said...

I would keep is sealed, too. :-)

River said...

My mum kept the top tier of my wedding cake for our first anniversary. She wrapped it in plastic and froze it. I think she kept it a while before freezing, because when we thawed it, the icing was mouldy in spots. Mum said the cake itself would be fine, so the icing was all cut off and the cake sliced. It was awful. Completely inedible.

Joanne Noragon said...

Perhaps it should be buried or cremated with the last of you. We sent my mom off with her favorite teacup, among other things. It just seemed appropriate.

Jim Murdoch said...

The TV and film director, producer, screenwriter etc JJ Abrams bough a box of magic tricks at Tannen’s Magic in Midtown Manhattan about thirty-five years ago. It’s a real box with a question mark on the outside with unidentified tricks rattling around inside. And he’s never opened it to this day. Kept closed, “it represents infinite possibility,” he says. “It represents hope. It represents potential.” And who would want to give up those things?

Knowing is overrated. I used to be heavily into knowing stuff. I remember pressing girlfriends to find out how far they’d gone with those who had preceded me and being told and wishing I’d never known because once you know something you can’t unknow it.

Carrie and I didn’t bother with a wedding cake. I can’t remember if I had one the first time. Typical of me I know but I really can’t remember. There’re no photos of my first wife and I cutting a cake so probably not. I’ve lost touch with everyone who was there so there’s no one to ask and I really don’t care one way or the other. The only thing I have that symbolises that marriage is a paper knife I bought on Arran at least I’d always assumed that was where we bought it but as we didn’t go to Arran until 1979 now I’m not so sure now. I tell my daughter that’s where she was conceived. It might be—the dates work out—but it doesn’t matter.

My daughter used to be into symbols. She hung onto everything. Bus tickets. Bricks. Junk. I don’t know if she’s still like that but I do know their garage is so full of stuff there’s no room for an actual car so I imagine she still has every soft toy I ever bought her boxed up somewhere. (When she came to live with me when she was seventeen we had a lot of catching up to do and by the time she left she had a bed covered in soft toys.) I’m not like that and I do regret tossing a lot of stuff like the comedy tapes I wrote and recorded with my mate Tom in our late teens: irreplaceable. Embarrassing too but I’d’ve still liked my wife and daughter to hear them. My reduction of Romeo and Juliet was fun: Romeo was perpetually stoned, Juliet was an Australian nymphomaniac, her father was an angry Scot who spoke in spoonerisms and Prince Escalus was voiced by an incontinent Elvis Presley. I think I whittled the whole play down to about fifteen minutes and we did everything. Tom was far better at voices and he even added an echo to Elvis’s voice which made him sound like God; he was good with electronics and I remember him explaining the concept of digital music to me when we were about fifteen.

Pearl said...

Hmm. This just makes me wonder what happened to the top of my wedding cake.

I suspect we ate it that night. Might be the reason why that first year was so incredibly difficult...


Anthony Duce said...

At this point, why tempt fate? I'd hide it somewhere to be found by a future generation.. Attach a sealed plastic envelope with this story inside. In a hundred year, who knows?

Kass said...

Don't look at it.
Dorian Gray

Unknown said...

I am amused by Kass's comment. 50th anniversary or the first anniversary after one of you is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Cheerful soul, am I not?