Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Take Me to Your Cake Lady!

Or: The Official Call-out to Find Southern Cake Ladies.
Or: I'm Writing a Book!

I am very pleased, happy, and proud to announce that, by the forces of serendipity, good luck, and clean living, I have signed a book contract with Lark Books! This summer, I will be researching and writing a book about the lives and recipes of Southern Cake Ladies. This is an idea that has been germinating for quite some time, and there will be more information about it to come, but for now, I will just say that I really do feel that it was a magical alignment of the spheres that led me to this point, aided by the support, advocacy, and general awesomeness of Lark Books in general, and Nicole McConville in particular. I'm very grateful, very honored, and very excited to take on this project, and I vow to put my heart into it, to do my very best to represent the beauty and depth and breadth of what it means to love people in this one particular way.

I need your help.
All my cake ladies live in Georgia.
I need more.

I need names, phone numbers, and directions to the women in the backwaters and big cities of the South who are making cakes for their families and loved ones; the women who hold the culinary secrets passed down to them in deathbed confessions by the matriarchs of their families. I need introductions to the women who brought their recipes to Chicago, Detroit, and New York City when they moved there mid-century to build a better life, and the women who know the history of your hometown because they've made every single birthday cake for sixty years. Rural and urban, young and old, professional and labor-of-love, of every one of the many cultures- Black, White, Latina, rich, poor (you get the picture) that make up the South- I want to meet them, interview them, bake with them. Jasper and I (and hopefully Gracie and Susan) are going to Texas and New Orleans and Alabama and Miami and Virginia, and everywhere in between and beyond. We're going on a soul journey to hang out with Mountain Cake Ladies, Piedmont Cake Ladies, Atlanta Cake Ladies, and Bayou Cake Ladies. I hope to spend some time camping and hanging out in rivers, lakes and streams, too, along the way.

So... I need your help, in two ways.

1) Would anyone like to lend me a camper for this very worthy endeavor? Something like this, perhaps:

Just putting it out there.

2) But very most importantly: take me to your cake ladies! Below find a brief questionnaire. I would be so grateful if you would fill it out and return it to me if you know a special Cake Lady that you think I should meet. Also, please pass the questionnaire along to friends and family who you think might be able to put me in contact with special Cake Ladies. Really, y'all, this is going to be amazing. And don't worry, the Cake Shop will be in very capable and competent hands during the days when I'll be on the road, and I'll be there to bake your wedding cakes on the weekends.

Cake Ladies Questionnaire!
Copy it! Print it! Hang it on bulletin boards! Fill it out! Re-Post to your blog and your facebook!

And please return it to:

Jodi Rhoden
Or mail to:

Cake Ladies
225 Haywood Road
Asheville, NC 28806

My name is Jodi and writing a book about Southern Cake Ladies for Lark Books. I am seeking contact information and introductions for Cake Ladies to interview. If you think I should meet a cake lady from your town or community, please fill out and return the following questionnaire to me at the address above. Specifically, I am interested in meeting and interviewing women in and/or from the Southeastern US who bake cakes; professionals and amateurs, young and old, of every racial, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic background. I am interested in women for whom cake baking is a meaningful part of their family and community lives, and livelihoods. Please note that I am only interested in women who bake traditional, scratch-made cakes. While cake design and decorating using boxed mixes, fondant, and food coloring is a worthy discipline, it is not the subject of my study. I am interested in traditional table layer cakes of the various cultures of the American South.

Your Name:
Your Address:
Your Phone:
Your Email:

Cake Lady Name:
Her Address:
Her Phone Number:
Her email (if applicable):

What is your favorite cake that she makes?

What is unique about her or her story?

Please give some biographical information- (age, ethnicity, etcetera)

May I contact this person and let her know that you referred me to her?

Are there any barriers that I should be aware of (language, literacy, disability, geographical access, etc?) I am committed to meeting a very diverse group of women, and I will work to accommodate special needs in order to do so.

Jodi Rhoden