An extract from my first novel 'Pickle to Pie'.

Glenice Whitting

Here is the extract from my book Pickle to Pie showing how the scripture cake recipe was used in the last century to teach children how to behave.

 

Suddenly she calls in English, ‘Fredi, where you be?’

Even though I sit very still she sees me.

‘What you do?’

‘I’m playing.’

‘Playing. Always playing. I make cake, come help me in kitchen.’ I run inside and quickly climb onto a stool in front of the scrubbed wooden table. Grossmutter is the best cook and always lets me lick the wooden spoon. She puts a large mixing bowl in front of me. I groan when she hands me our family Bible. It smells just like her old boots.

I love the bright coloured pictures of sunburnt people in long dressing gowns with towels wrapped around their heads but the words are so scratchy and hard to know. The thin pages with shiny gold edges keep sticking together and I’m not allowed to lick my fingers. Inside the black cover are a lot of names. I can see mine.

Grossmutter takes her mother’s cookbook down from the shelf, opens it where a postcard marks the page and says, ‘Today we make Scripture Cake. Two cups butter, Judges chapter five, verse twenty-five. Look it up, Fredi.’ I put my finger on the place and slowly read, ‘He asked water, and she gave him milk: she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.’

‘Very goot. This from Deborah’s song of praise to Gott and mit Gott’s help when friend ask you for water, like Deborah, you give him more.’ I wished I had a friend. I wish someone would come to play and if they wanted a glass of water I’d give them milk. And if the milk was going sour, I could do what Grossmutter does and sweeten it with baking soda. Grossmutter puts the butter in the bowl. ‘Now sugar. Jeremiah six, twenty.’

To what purpose cometh there sweet cane from a far country.’

‘Here people have sinned and Gott is very angry.’ Grossmutter says, shaking the wooden spoon at me. ‘You must always obey Gott’s laws. You must always obey my laws. People must have laws or they sin and get into much trouble. One cup water, Genesis twenty four, sixteen.’

And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, no man had known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher with water. What is a virgin, Grossmutter?’ She looks hard at me and quickly says, ‘An angel. Beautiful angel. Make goot wife. Abraham looking for wife for Isaac.’ She taps the Bible. ‘You remember Isaac, don’t you? Gott give him Rebecca. Maybe mit Gott’s help I find you goot wife?’

‘I don’t want a wife.’

‘Later, Fredi, much later you want wife and may Gott bless you mit beautiful angel.’ I’m glad I made her smile. Grossmutter doesn’t smile very often. She is too busy looking after sick babies and me. She is always washing, ironing and cooking; always cooking. She tells everyone how proud she is of Grossvater’s round tummy and says that it proves she’s a good cook. Now she taps the bible saying, ‘We take honey, Genesis forty three, eleven.’

Carry down to Joseph as a present, a little honey.’

‘Joseph lose his family for a long, long time. When he find them he so happy and ask them to live mit him.’ I know my father’s name is Joseph so I ask, ‘Will my father ask me to go and live with him and Mother one day?’

‘You live here mit us. This your home.’

‘But—’

‘Read!’

I wriggle in my chair. I like to make cakes and love eating them but I want to go back to my cave and play with my soldiers. ‘Can I go now?’

Grossmutter peers at me over the top of her reading glasses. ‘Cakes not make themselves. Find Isaiah ten, thirteen.’

I know better than to disobey so I quickly continue, ‘As one gathereth eggs, have I gathered all the earth: and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.’ I can tell Grossmutter wishes I wouldn’t keep opening my mouth and peeping because before I get a chance to say anything more she firmly says, ‘Pinch of Salt, Leviticus two, thirteen.’

And every … oblation ... What does that mean?’

‘Sacrifice to Gott.’

And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt.’

‘Salt sting but is goot. Salt and water heals wounds. Gott’s love heals souls. Spices to taste, First Kings ten, ten.’

There came no more an abundance of spices as these which the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.’

‘Hrummp,’ grumbles Grossmutter. ‘Solomon wise King but Solomon a man. Too much spice no goot. Two teaspoons baking powder. First Corinthians five, verse eight.’

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’

Grossmutter stares at me. ‘Truth, always the Truth. Gott will know if you not tell the truth.’

All I can think about is that God must have been looking the other way when I pinched the peaches off Grossvater’s tree and threw the stones in the garden. He found them when he was weeding and asked , ‘Wo kommen die denn her – where have these come from, Fredi?’

‘The birds must have eaten them,’ I replied.

Ja, Ja,’ he said with a grin and kept pulling out weeds. Now Grossmutter is looking at me and saying, ‘Three cups flour, first Kings four, twenty-two.’

And Solomon’s provisions for one day was thirty measures of fine flour,’ I read.

Grossmutter nods her head. ‘Solomon wise man. He say love better than hate. Forgiveness better than ointment for soul. Now we mix. Proverbs twenty-three, verse fourteen. Follow Solomon’s advice for making goot boys.’ I squirm in my seat as I read, ‘Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from hell. I’ll be goot, Grossmutter. I’ll be very goot.’

She laughs and ruffles my hair. Tucking a stray hair into her bun she says, ‘Always remember, Fredi, religion goot but all that counts is how you live.’