Let them eat cake
Friday October 26th 2007, 9:25 am
Filed under: Life

Janknitz gave very valuable information for the allergic in her comment on the Stitches East post, for those who might miss it. And what she said reminded me…

The day I turned into a new teenager was the first day in many Decembers to come of driving out to western Maryland to a Christmas tree farm to chop our own.  Mom and Dad called a bunch of their friends who had kids that more or less coincided with ours, age-wise, and from that first expedition made a party of it. They called ahead for reservations for a superb meal out afterwards, warming up near the fireplace from all that tromping through the snow at Mealey’s in Newmarket, Maryland. We always thought it was a really cool place: they served hot corn fritters with powdered sugar straight out of the fryer, a good old Southern food, and the tables had, instead of legs, old spinning wheels reconfigured to fit the part. I thought that was wonderful then; as a handspinner now, it rather horrifies me that those good antique wheels were–never mind. Dunno if they’re even still there that way.

My father loves chocolate, but he’s allergic to it, so we never had any in the house growing up, with the exceptions of Easter and Christmas.   It was definitely a special occasions food to me.  I remember one time Mrs. Marx, our neighbor, for reasons I don’t remember, gave us each–not to share, but *each*–a Droste chocolate apple that split up into apple-shaped slivers but were gloriously solid chocolate, as if to in the most visually ironic terms possible declare that it really was a health food, even before all this stuff about flavinoids and how dark chocolate kills the staph germs in your mouth and decreases cavities came to light. See, it really is good for you. If you eat the really good stuff, the really dark chocolate. Not that I digress.


Dad didn’t tell us kids we were going to Mealey’s, that first day. It was to be a surprise birthday party for me, and when we pulled up to this elegant place, smelling of pine and shaking off the snow, and then when everybody started singing, “Happy Birthday,” boy, was I. And then:

When Dad was plotting with the restaurant, they asked him what kind of cake they should make. “Oh, I don’t care; just anything but chocolate.”

And you know they remembered only that one word.

The staff brought out the biggest, the most chocolatey cake I had ever seen in my life.  Thick, decorative, beautiful chocolate icing on a gloriously chocolate cake.   For MY birthday! Remember, there were multiple large families involved; I was certainly not expecting to be the center of attention. And boy, did they bring in the chocolate cake to end all chocolate cakes.

I was in heaven. Dad was highly annoyed, at them, at himself for blowing it. I didn’t care. I did, but oh, I didn’t, look at that thing!

Dad, years later, happened to remark to me, talking about something totally unrelated, that I should never, if given a choice on something, say just the negative and expect people to remember; say what you do want.

Yeah, Dad. I remember. Can I have your slice, too, then?

I have to add other Christmas tree chopping memories: waiting for the last straggling family in our party to get back to the parking area with their tree, and while waiting, seeing cars spinning their wheels in the snow and helping Brad C push someone out. That was fun! So then we waited for more people to get stuck, and when the next one did, there were four of us teenagers pushing them out and happily waving “You’re welcome!” back to them.  The parking area had filled with snow while people were looking for the one most perfect tree out there in the woods somewhere; I don’t remember how many cars we pushed out of it, just that as soon as we started to, everybody wanted to pitch in, and did. Cool.

Then there was the year the tree–they look a lot smaller outside than in!–was, as usual, too tall, even with our raised roof in the living room; Dad decided to chop off the top and put it on the roof to make it look from the street as if the thing were growing right through the house. Good times.

5 Comments so far
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What a great story. We love chocolate too, glad they made the mistake, you had a great birthday. Love the top of the tree being on the roof, what a great idea. Christmas in the snow is lovely I have had a few. It is summer here so it is very different.

Comment by vicki 10.26.07 @ 6:30 pm

Great memories. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Amanda 10.26.07 @ 7:59 pm

I worked at Mealey’s in the 1960’s. You will be happy to know that those were not spinning wheel parts underneath the tables but the cast iron parts of old sewing machines.

I am pretty sure they have all been replaced now as the “new” Spanish owners have made the place a much more upscale restaurant than it was then. They still serve their version of hush puppies with whole corn in the fried dough and powdered sugar. But gone is the fried chicken, corn relish and home made apple butter.

My husband’s family had an antique shop on the corner from Mealeys for 40 years. We have a farm near by.

Comment by Norma 11.01.07 @ 1:24 pm

Oh, wow, good to hear from you, Norma, and thank you! Glad to know I was wrong on the old tables.

And now I feel like going and making a batch of apple butter. Not enough people, at least here in California, even know what that is. To me, it’s a reminder of home.

Comment by AlisonH 11.01.07 @ 2:53 pm

[…] It is to me. Chocolate it was. […]

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