German Chocolate Cake
by Jenna Grace Cooper
When my mother made German chocolate cake,
She would beat the eggs.
She would prepare the garnish on the granite counter,
With a wooden rolling pin, I crushed the pecans.
She whipped the batter until small lumps formed.
Then we would combine the wet and dry
In a large glass bowl, poured
Brown like chocolate ribbons.
Baked in two nine-inch pans,
We would eat with two forks at once.
After warm coconut flake on our tongues,
A glaze would form in her eye, a memory would return.
1. What piece did you choose to imitate? I chose to imitate the poem, “Noodles in Broth,” by Hong Junju.
2. Why did you choose this piece? I chose to imitate this piece, because I was compelled by imagery provided in the narrative poem. I enjoy cooking, and I often did it with my family. So, this poem relates heavily to watching my parents, mother especially, bake goods around the holidays. I would always try to help, and my mother always let me crush the pecans with a rolling pin. So I wanted to encapsulate a moment in which I could transport my reader to the same feeling of nostalgia.
3. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style? I learned the simplicity of the poem and the act of cooking. This poem has a strong sense of nostalgia and associations with family. The emotions related to cooking are present in the strong imagery the poem has with the sights and smells of the noodles in broth dish. The Chinese culture, the family is one of the most important aspects of life. That feeling is present throughout the poem and magnified in the final four lines which describe gulping soup together at once in one bowl and the emotional result of that cultural act.
4. What did you learn about your own culture while writing? While German chocolate cake is not German, my mother’s mother and grandmother always made her a German chocolate cake on her birthday. When reflecting on my relationship with food, I noticed I always have an affinity towards sweets and baked goods. I enjoy eating them warm and with my family on a shared plate, similar to the Chinese. We would “dig in” as soon as it came out of the oven. I learned that like the Chinese, family and traditions are some of the most important aspects of my life. My mother continues to make me homemade German chocolate cake, and she often gets emotional since the death of her grandmother.
5. Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts? The culture of the poems is reflected in the narrative. Both capture a short moment in time, filled with family, joy and warmth. I think that the DNA manifests particularly with the repetition of pronouns such as he for chef Cui. It makes it more familiar and provides a sense of casual encounters. For my poem, I tried to embody the same repetition patterns with the use of she when referring to my mother. I then inserted a pronoun for myself to insert myself into the narrative and create a more personal attachment to the story which is true to the tradition. The DNA is embedded in the imagery with each personal touch of the chef or baker to the final product and the result, without that description it would distant to the reader.