Stone-Soup Cake

It was our year abroad. Thirty of us Americans were put in the dorm; scattered among the local Israeli students. Our dorm rooms were really a bit like apartments; each suite came with two bedrooms (sleeping two students each), a small living room and an even smaller kitchen.

In spite of the program’s intention to integrate us among the natives; we still maintain our group cohesiveness. We, the Americano’s (which is what we were called), had classes together, trips were planned and provided for us so we could see the country, and we usually met each other as a group for the weekend meal; the Sabbath.  We would have pot luck meals together, which was quite an enterprise and an educational experience.

Learning how to navigate in the ‘shuk’ buying our supplies and negotiating prices in a foreign language with what seemed to us color monopoly money; we would buy our supplies.  The cooking process was an innovative, experimental adventure for all of us since the cooking appliances provided were limited. We compensated by dividing up the menu among the group.

I would actually learn the basics of cooking from this experience; later on drawing on that improvising process; I actually became a caterer (but that is another story).  In those days, no one would have paid anything for my delicacies.   One of the men in the group, (who later would become my husband) decided his apartment was in charge of the cake. I was surprised; he had taken in such a ‘difficult’ task.  We only had electric burners for our cooking ware and I didn’t think he really had any of the supplies.

I wasn’t wrong either. Borrowing on the idea of a child’s story ‘stone soup’, he went door to door ‘shopping’ for his ingredients.  “We are making a cake.  What would you like to contribute to the cause?” he greeted each student who would answer the door.

Flour, sugar, one egg at a time, baking powder, and cocoa were given enthusiastically. His bag was heavy. Someone even offered him a wonder pot; a magical pot invented in Israel for baking on the stove needs, with an ‘angel cake’ design that funneled the heat around the cake.  His apartment mates helped him to bake the cake.

The hall that was used for group functions in the dorm; was made into a temporary dining room.  A buffet was set on the side with everyone’s offerings.  The table was set for dinner. Each apartment group brought their part of the meal, but somehow the chocolate cake stood out in its uniqueness, albeit it was just a plain cake without any icing or even sugar power. It was delicious. It seemed tastier than the offerings at the University’s cafeteria. It wasn’t too surprising.  It was: everyone’s cake.

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