How a butternut cake describes a small, Southern town

Published 10:49 am Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What do you do there?”  I have heard this question for 35 years while living in a small town in Southwest Georgia.  My Atlanta friends can’t help themselves as they try to think of living in a town smaller than their subdivision.
“Where do you go to eat?”  I thought that an odd question to ask a man who owns several Hardee’s Restaurants. As I reached for another piece of the take-out food across their kitchen table, I informed them that we have places that offer take out as well.
The truth is that small town living has become easier for those that like a close touch to the outside world. The small television with only three fuzzy channels in my youth has given way to nearly 200 options on our cable and satellite. I can watch anything my big city friends can see.
My phone and laptop connect me anywhere in the world.  Depending on your business, your office can just as easily be in Donalsonville as it can be in New York City.  And as for the essentials, there is now a Dollar General in every small town in America.  Just ask Wal-Mart.
Shopping is much easier now as well.  It’s true that I can’t buy a Sunday suit in my hometown, but I can order it custom made on Joseph A. Banks. I can purchase almost anything imaginable on Amazon in the time it takes you to go through a traffic light in a major city.
It really is more than modern conveniences that have caused me to live my adult life in a small town atmosphere that I hated growing up. It is the people.  Not in just my hometown of Donalsonville, but in Bainbridge, Colquitt and Blakely where I can just as likely know as many people at the coffee shop as if I were at home.
You have a chance to really make a difference in the slower pace of life we have chosen. It is often the small things that people remember the most.
Shortly after I moved to Donalsonville, a lady learned that it was my birthday and inquired behind my back as to what my favorite cake was. Butternut was the correct answer and on Sept. 13 of each year I had a beautiful butternut cake worthy of any fancy city bakery.
When Jeanne Jones found out that my Grandfather told me it was one of the best cakes he had ever had, two cakes started appearing on my birthday; one for me and one for him.
After Jeanne passed away, I realized that on my next birthday I would at least have the wonderful memories of two decades of delicious cakes delivered each year. Yet, on that next birthday there was another surprise.
Miss Mary Goodwin appeared at our backdoor with a Butternut Cake.  “I have never made one,” she said.  “I don’t know if it will be any good.”  Anyone who ever had one of her cakes knew she made the best in town.  It probably weighed ten pounds and I savored every single calorie.
When Mary was no longer able to make my cake, another person showed up at the back door with yet another Butternut Cake. Kathy Fox has faithfully delivered a Butternut Cake each and every birthday since. Planning to freeze most of the cake for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I confess that I ate it all.
We love our way of life here in ways that others will never understand. Sometimes a Butternut Cake just says it all.

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