Cooking Up Wonderful With Some Help From Friends

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Here’s how it happened, as best as I can remember.

Drinking an incredible cup of fresh-brewed coffee (made by me, so a rare delight), I was reading blog posts by writers new and familiar to me. I was thrilled time and again to read a terrific short story, a wise poem, a heartfelt life story that moved me to tears. This is the way most days begin for me. I cherish this time, guard it with strict boundaries, and occasionally even brew a fresh pot of coffee to enjoy while I read.

Then it happened.

I came upon a marvelous post by the talented Gail Boenning that stuck with me the entire day — and the following day, too.

She had me at bread. She had me again at small town. And then, the ultimate: the child’s experience of visiting Jerry’s Bakery with her father.

This is the kind of story that changes the world by inviting you into a specific time and place so you feel it in your own heart, mind, and body. One reader at a time, this is the kind of story that grabs your heart, fires up your imagination, lands you in a distant time and place so you yearn to be that kid, in that small town, walking with your father and waiting for the draw bridge to come down.

With this description, Boenning has my admittedly small culinary abilities straining to figure out how to bring this delicacy into my life:

The baker makes a light, fluffy yellow cake, piles one slice on top of another with a layer of white icing in between, covers the entire square with vanilla-spiked, whipped butter, and powdered sugar (aka — frosting) and rolls the whole thing in chopped, salted peanuts. Oh my, my! What I wouldn’t do for a peanut square, right now!

I was totally, completely enraptured with the story. And the peanut squares.

As I said, I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

I remembered the bakery we’d visit after church and the doughnuts we’d buy. Sometimes, if there wasn’t time for doughnuts, my father would buy a pack of Chuckles jelly candies and dole a piece to each clamoring child.

I’d forgotten that memory until I read Boenning’s piece. I’ve visited my own memories of Sunday mornings countless times since her post reminded me I had them.

That’s the power of a great story.

That’s what happens when a terrific story is graced with an accomplished storyteller.

It sticks with you.

It drives a reader to share the post, to talk about how to come up with my own version of a peanut square, and to exult the joys of baked goods with bloggers and friends in the real world.

When a teenaged character needed to eat something indulgent and surprising for breakfast, I served up a peanut square. Her father comments on what she is eating and then has a nibble himself. Because that’s how good peanut squares are.

Since I hadn’t come up with my own version for direct personal experience description, I imagined what Boenning’s was like. Here’s the story with the peanut square discussion:

A cherished reader of my stories asked if I had a recipe for the peanut squares.
Not yet.
But I’ll be sure to share it when I figure it out.
And I will figure it out.

Boenning’s memory is so warm, so vivid, so real-feeling to me that I don’t want to seek out Jerry’s Bakery for myself. I want that bakery and that little girl’s walk with her father to remain exactly as they are. Reality would just mess it up.

So…reader trips over great story…has a new quest and also the center of a breakfast discussion for a story. And then another reader asks about the peanut square and the story ripples keep traveling further out into the world.

Nothing better than that.

Unless it’s a peanut square.