Tres Leches en El Dia de Los Muertos

~for Rebecca Lynne Kellum Vanega

What I will set out for you, sister, is the cake you never made for your husband.
The recipe you printed wasn’t good. I found it on your desk days after your eyes flashed into death.

Three milk cake, it said.

Probably some gringa’s sorry attempt to recreate her magical Nicaraguan vacation.

Cake after cake I’ve made, searching for what is most luscious, most possibly the taste
that drove your search on the computer that day, months before you knew you were dying.

And they’ve all tasted ok, a bit dry, too coarse, not subtly sweet enough. Until now.

Silvia Barajas Ceja wrote her recipe down, said to have only happy thoughts while we bake, or the cake will be ruined. She has a story to prove it.

And the symmetry of the recipe promised life, promised unities, dualities, trinities, even pentacles of sweetness:

Of course, preheat the oven to the ever alchemical 350 degrees.

In the first bowl, combine what is dry: one cup of flour, one cup of sugar, one tablespoon of baking powder.

In the second, what is wet: the whites of five—yes, five— eggs, one for earth, one for air, one for water, one for fire, and one for mother space. Beat them into white peaks. Into their yolks in another bowl spin two more liquids: a half cup of milk and half-teaspoon of vanilla, liquid incense.

Thoroughly spiral the dry and wet into one, divide them again into two buttered, floured, circular pans. (You will want two. One to eat warm right away and one to chill for three hours. Silvia says it’s better cold. And patience has proven this is so.)

Be sure the oven window is clean because you won’t use a timer.
You will watch the discs rise, golden, done. Pull them from the heat.
Drop them upside down upon two plates.

Puncture the underbellies with countless holes. They wait to receive.

Now, in a third bowl, make a triskele of milk from mothers we’ll never know, and drop your purist snobbery: one 14 ounce can of La Lechera sweetened condensed (Yes, La Lechera. Don’t substitute, says Silvia, and I say, don’t think about the corporate corruption of Nestle. Remember: it will ruin the cake.), one 16 ounce can of Carnation evaporated, and one cup fresh milk—whole, not 2%. Lastly, add a teaspoon of vanilla, to marry the three. Blend them slowly, smoothly.

Lick the spoon. Again. Again. Then pour this cloud over each golden, swallowing sun.

The wet and the dry, again, one.

And I will whip the cream with unmeasured sugar and dollop your wedge and forget the berries as you would. This cake is about milk, after all.

I’ll leave it somewhere you will find it. Where are you?
You have whispered you are the blue in the outlet. I will turn on the light,
leave the cake on the table. This is the one you seek.

Fly into my eyes. We’ll eat.

2010

5 Responses to “Tres Leches en El Dia de Los Muertos”

  1. Nun in abiding says:

    Amazing as always. This author has been most busy. And I hope she enjoyed her cake in the electric blue of you.

  2. jmarie says:

    Ah, so beautiful. The way you string words together is as amazing as the way you paint.

    • wordweed says:

      Thanks, Jen….ah, I see now that this is the poem you were talking about…when your comment came through into my email account, I thought it was for another poem instead…no wonder you looked at me strangely when I began to talk to you about the other poem… thanks for your kind words.

  3. Brian says:

    Loved these words for Rebecca. Sometimes I know she is near. I hear her laughter and see the smile in her eyes. Unique to her. Im sure Rachel nor anyone else will read this. Just thinking about happy times. Rebecca made us happy and we took it for granted then but, are nonetheless so greatful now to have known her. She broke drearyness for her smalltown Missouri friends.

    • wordweed says:

      Hey Brian,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I miss my sis every day, so it is heartening to hear the way she touched your life too. I hope you are doing really well and that your eyes are smiling too.

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