The Cake Chronicles: Part Two

 “Easy” as Cake

Our not-very-smart missionary woke up at 2:30 AM and for some reason, sleep eluded her for the rest of the night.  This left plenty of time for her to ponder the deep questions of life, such as how to make a cake without sugar.  When an idea suddenly hit her, she realized just how silly she could be.  She had plenty of sugar!  Didn’t one of the Neno ladies give her a short piece of sugar cane on her second day back to the village?  And hadn’t the same lady given her a long stalk the previous day?

What if the sugar cane were chopped into tiny pieces (after being peeled, of course), then boiled it water?  The reduction would certainly be very sweet and could be used to make milk to put in the cake (make milk = use dry milk powder).  She was impressed and excited by the sheer brilliance of the plan.  At least it seemed like brilliance at about 4 in the morning.

At 6 in the morning, however, in a state of exhaustion, while waiting for water to boil to make coffee, she still considered the idea a pretty smart one, so she set to work.  Did I mention that our unnamed missionary has never actually peeled, cut and eaten sugar cane?  She has only eaten it when it is handed to her, already prepared.  Sugar cane is really not that exciting to her…just sweetness without flavor, and she tries to drastically limit her sugar intake while in the village, in an attempt to boost immunity.  Sidenote on “eating” sugar cane, in case you have never had the opportunity: you put a chunk in your mouth and chew it and suck it to remove all the sweetness, then spit out the tough fiber that is left in your mouth.

The Neno people make sugar cane prep look super-easy.  Although they boast what my brothers might call “mad knife skills”, our missionary thought she would at least be skilled enough to accomplish the task, although obviously not as gracefully.  She also depended on the convenience of a cutting board, instead of hacking it into chunks in the air, just inches above her knee (Sometimes her Neno friends scare her just a little.  Their idea of “knife safety” is not exactly what she was taught.  But that is another story for another post).  The missionary tackled the sugar cane optimistically, although tiredly.  That cake would going to be in the oven in 45 minutes at most.

She quickly realized that processing sugar cane is much harder than she ever imagined.  It is an especially bad idea for an inexperienced person to attempt such a task at 6 AM, pre-coffee, after about 4 hours of sleep.

And she doesn’t don’t have a heavy-duty large knife (machete) like the Neno people use.  Good thing for her allergy-affected fingers, she gave up on the whole sugar cane idea quickly and decided that resourcefulness and ingenuity are overrated, right up there with cake.  Cake isn’t even healthy, after all.  The Neno people could just wait until her boxes arrive.

Nevertheless, deep down in her little heart, our missionary did feel a little sad that she couldn’t make cake for her dear friends who appeared to be craving it like crazy.  Despite a busy culture immersion and study schedule, she really does love baking, especially when the results guarantee big smiles, delight, and a quickly emptied cake pan.

Lest anyone think these villagers are asking too much by hoping for cake after cake, you need to know that they themselves are most generous.  They are always blessing the not-very-smart but very grateful missionary with food gifts, (all homegrown and organic, at that!) such as manioc root, oranges, the world’s tastiest bananas, or freshly-caught fish from the river.  She appreciates their generous hearts, and the delicious, healthy additions to her diet.

And our missionary will have her turn to give back.

Come back next week, when you’ll hear our missionary say, “Wait just a minute!  The sugar cane plan was a total flop, and I still only have this one measly cup of sugar, but here is another sweet pantry ingredient…a whole container of it!  This idea will work for sure!  Tomorrow is Cake Day!”

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