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Inviting Writing: Break-Up Cake

Was your New Year's resolution to write down that food-related story that's been knocking around in your head, and send it in to Inviting Writing? I hope so! Maybe you've just been waiting for the right topic to inspire you. Well, the subject of our next series is something that most people, unfort...



Was your New Year's resolution to write down that food-related story that's been knocking around in your head, and send it in to Inviting Writing? I hope so! Maybe you've just been waiting for the right topic to inspire you. Well, the subject of our next series is something that most people, unfortunately, can relate to: breaking up.

To have your story considered for publication, please e-mail your submissions to FoodandThink@gmail.com by this Friday morning, January 21. We'll read them all and pick our favorites, which will appear on the blog on subsequent Mondays. As a reminder, we're looking for true, original personal narratives of about 500 to 1,000 words. The rest is up to you!

Here's my own tale of heartbreak to get things started:

Break-Up Cake By Lisa Bramen

The words that launched my first real relationship were, "I bet you'd make a decent girlfriend." I should have known right then that the romance wasn't destined to become my last.

I was a junior in high school and had recently moved to a new city. Dave, my wooer, was 18. He was a high-school dropout who worked as a cable installer in my former hometown, about an hour's drive from my new one. So he wasn't Lord Byron. He was funny, at least to my 16-year-old sensibilities. And he was cute, in that skinny, feathered hair way that was fashionable in the 1980s. I was bored and lonely in an unfamiliar place. Aside from his other character flaws, I overlooked the fact that Dave had already been in a relationship with my close friend that had ended badly (this was a breach in the Girl Code that a third member of our clique would later repeat.)

Dave drove down to see me most weekends in his black Camaro. We would drink coffee and eat french fries and hot fudge cake at Bob's Big Boy. Then he would blast the Beastie Boys or Guns N' Roses on his car stereo and drive around the parking lot doing donuts. The local police did not like him much. Neither did my parents, but—maybe out of guilt for moving me away from my friends in the middle of high school—they didn't forbid me from seeing him.

Although he did little to deserve it, I did my best to live up to Dave's prophecy and be a good—I mean decent—girlfriend. About six months into the relationship, for his birthday, I told him I would make him a special dinner. I think my parents were even going to be out, so we could play house and have a romantic evening alone.

I had never cooked a full meal on my own (unless heating frozen taquitos in the toaster oven counts), so I'm not sure what I was thinking. In any case, I decided to start with the cake. I had also never baked a cake on my own, but I was undeterred. No mix for me—I borrowed one of my mother's cookbooks and set to work. Three hours later, the kitchen looked like a bomb exploded in the baking aisle, but I had produced a lovely chocolate cake.

I was also nearly out of time. There was no way I was going to be able to prepare a meal before Dave arrived. I decided I would take him out to dinner and then we could come back for cake. As I waited for the sound of Dave's V8 engine to draw near, I sat at the kitchen table admiring my handiwork. I imagined how impressed the birthday boy would be.

He was late—this was not unusual. Maybe there was traffic on the freeway. Maybe there had been a cable emergency. Then he was really late. By the time my parents returned home from their evening plans, he still hadn't arrived. I tried calling his house, but I got the answering machine. In the days before cell phones it was a lot harder to track a person down if he wasn't home. I left a message, trying not to let my voice betray my annoyance. What if something had happened to him? By the next day, when I still hadn't heard from him, I was wavering between fearing he was lying unconscious in the hospital and hoping he was.

Two days later I finally reached him. Now the emotion in my voice was unmistakable. Dave didn't have a good excuse for standing me up. He hemmed and hawed. We argued. He told me he couldn't fall in love from an hour away. I yelled, "but I spent three hours baking you a cake!"

There was a pause. Then he said, "I thought you were making me dinner."

Those were the words that ended my first real relationship.
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About Lisa Bramen
Lisa Bramen

Lisa Bramen was a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.com's Food and Think blog. She is based in northern New York and is also an associate editor at Adirondack Life magazine.

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