Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Life in Cake has moved!

Check out our new and oh-so-beautiful blog layout, now integrated with the Short Street Cakes website here! My wonderful friend Michael Frey (the LA-based designer who you might remember from my posts about his wedding earlier this year) created it. Thank you, Michael, and I look forward to seeing y'all over at the new and improved My Life in Cake!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mississippi Delta

Here, on the eve of my departure from New Orleans to head back to the mountains and home, I'm realizing that book tour really is very similar to band tour. Duncan often affectionately refers to my book and various other extracurricular pursuits as my "band," and, while I've never actually been in a touring rock band, I imagine that life on band tour is very much like mine has been this past week. I've had many meals consisting of bad coffee, sour cream & onion potato chips and beef jerky, and listened to more than my share of christian radio in the bible belt. I've also made it through hours of driving listening to some of the best country stations I've ever heard- old songs I haven't heard in decades, played by warm and interesting DJs who truly love the music. I've felt addled from driving long stretches through miles of cotton fields and small towns, and felt joyful from the oases of welcome at my gigs in between. Touring can also be lonely and taxing, and I'll be glad to get home to my boys, but in the meantime I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to visit some of my favorite places, meet new friends and old, and share this book, so long in the making, with them. My first stop was Oxford, Mississippi, at the beloved institution Square Books.
I had first been to Square Books in Oxford when I was in high school, because my brother went to school at Ole Miss. I loved that bookstore immediately. Later I returned to Square Books on a road trip with my friend Elliott, and now I was there as an author. That felt really good, and it made me think about the importance of bookstores in the life of a town. So just a little side note about buying local: local bookstores are in peril right now due to the rise of internet book sales and electronic book readers. While these things are an inevitable and sometimes useful aspect of technology, please remember that, like buying food locally, buying books locally is an investment in the health and well-being of your community. And even though, like local food, local bookstores can be more expensive than big box alternatives, that is because when you source locally, you are paying closer to the true value of the item, rather than having the burden of the true cost invisibly passed off to other communities or workers. At any rate, we had a wonderful event at Square books. The owner, Lyn (on the far right in the picture below) was gracious and very helpful with my first official bookstore signing. I met a lovely young woman named Jane (second from the left) who came to meet me and wrote about it on her cake blog. Highlights include the compare/contrast between myself and Paula Deen, where she deems me to be cooler. She also later tried her hand at Mary Moon's Fresh Coconut Cake, and blogged about that, too. She had some wonderful things to say about food and community, and her blog is a very ambitious attempt to bake 99 different cakes, and blog about it, in one year.
The woman on the far left was a student at Ole Miss who interviewed me for her class.
Also in attendance was my new friend Ace Atkins, a writer of Southern mystery novels, and also my dear friend Carrie-Welles' cousin (the South is truly like one big small town). We had a great time, and he gave me some advice on the writing life, and alot of good words about the Cake Ladies book.
After that, I hightailed it to Natchez, Mississippi, a very quiet town on the Mississippi River. My wonderful friend Mindy's wonderful Mom owns this wonderful bookstore there, Turning Pages Books. She made some cakes for the signing!
Then, there was New Orleans. I arrived at the home of Cake Lady Elyse Manning, also my BFF. Elyse's house is like a home away from home for me, and I felt so happy to be there. She is truly a woman after my own heart: on every surface there are stacks of books like this:
Elyse is now working at the fabulous Satsuma Cafe in the Bywater, which is funny because I wrote the entire Elyse chapter of Cake Ladies while drinking coffee in the Satsuma, before she worked there. By happy accident, there happened to be other houseguests at Elyse's house this weekend: Justin and Nick of the Compass Green Project rolled up about an hour after I did, and we became fast friends. These guys, originally from Iowa, are travelling the country in their bio-diesel truck with a greenhouse on the back, teaching school groups an others about bio-intensive agriculture.
So, while Justin and Nick provided us for the weekend with ample tomatoes, herbs, peppers, and composting facilities from their truck, we taught them to bake. Saturday morning, Nick and I baked two pineapple upside down cakes for the book signing that day at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, while Elyse made a Myer Lemon and Dark Chocolate Trifle, AKA a Gold and Black Whodat Saints Trifle! I had so much fun teaching my friend how to bake. Here's a link to my recipe (even though we baked the one from the book).
And here is Nick, triumphant with his first-ever cake from scratch:
And then we went to the signing, which was the culmination of this trip. Michele Burton-Oatis and Melissa Woods, the Cupcake Fairies featured in the book, were there with many family members and friends.
We had a wonderful day. It was so great to see these women, whom I have come to love, thriving so beautifully with their business and their families. It was great to be in New Orleans, and it was great to eat these exceptional cakes. It was wonderful to introduce this book, which I love and believe in, to folks that had never seen it. And, the presence of a flasher exposing himself in the back of the museum notwithstanding (this is New Orleans, after all) we all had a great time. I love this city, and I always find it hard to leave. I love the people, I love the food, I love the landscape. I love the ladies that go to brunch on Sunday dressed in gold lame in honor of the Saints. (and I love that every business has a sign telling customers to "be nice or leave").
I love kids who love cake:
and I love being here, and I love this book that has made it all possible. And now I get to go home, to a life that I love, and I feel grateful.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sugar Skulls at Short Street Cakes, and more Dias De Los Muertos Celebrations!

From now through Wednesday, November 2nd, Short Street Cakes will host our 3rd Annual Dias De Los Muertos altar to celebrate Day of the Dead. We have blank sugar skulls for sale ($5, with a portion of proceeds to benefit COLA- Coalicion de Organizaciones Latino-Americanas), a table with icing, glitter, and sequins to decorate the skulls, and an altar where participants can leave offerings to the souls of the departed. Please feel free to join us, and bring your family to participate in the sacred act of honoring the dead.

From Wikipedia: "Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it attains the quality of a National Holiday. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl. In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures."

I first learned to make sugar skulls two years ago from Suzie Millions, and I blogged about it, along with the recipe and more history of the holiday, here.

The lovely and wonderful Miss Glo will be hosting her altar again this year in the back courtyard at Mayfels on Tuesday, November 1st, starting at 5pm, and we will be bringing the altar at the Cake Shop there to join in the festivities. You can see photos of last year's celebration here, and read the write-up of the festivities from this week's Mountain Xpress, here.
Also on November 1st, Nuestro Centro, Asheville's Latino Community Center, located at 441 North Louisiana Avenue, in West Asheville, will be hosting a Noche de Alteres/Dias de los Muertos Celebration. I feel grateful and excited to be part of celebrating the season of honoring the loved ones who have passed on. I feel we need their guidance now more than ever. It also feels really wonderful to continue to root the Cake Shop in a community where we are building traditions and have moments throughout the year to come together and remember the cycles of the seasons and our souls. Each year that we celebrate Dias de Los Muertos, I feel more grounded in our families, our community, and our rich and beautiful history. Much love and many blessings, Jodi

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cedar Grove Pig Pickin: Cake, Music, and Homemade Love.

This is Keri. Keri and I were freshman college roommates at the University of Georgia. 17 years later, we are still best friends, and our children are like cousins to each other. Last year, due to a long, complicated, and of course very serendipitous turn of events, I met the Cake Lady Betty Compton through Keri and friends at the Anatoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, NC.
Last night, I returned to Cedar Grove, for a book signing I had scheduled to take place at the garden. I got to reconnect with old friends, like Meghan (pictured below) and I sold and signed copies of the book, both of which I expected.
What I didn't expect, however, is what an amazing event the community would come together to create. Completely unbeknownst to me, Betty's family and community was so excited that she was featured in the book, that they took my little book signing in the garden and turned it into a full-blown, country-style Pig-Pickin', Cake-Walkin', dance party. Betty brought her famous pound cake:
And eight other people brought cake for the cake walk, like this one, which was later won (and eaten) by Keri's son, who graciously shared it with the rest of his family, me, and Jasper.
The music group that Betty has been playing and singing with for the last 10 years, "Pickin' and Grinnin,'" not only provided the musical accompaniment to the cake walk, but they delighted everyone with their renditions of songs by Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and other traditional country and bluegrass artists. Betty herself, even though she was the guest of honor, managed to find time to sit in on a few songs.
And then there was the pig.
Betty's husband, Dwight, bought a whole pig, and her son roasted it, starting at 5am yesterday morning. Betty's sisters made the two hour drive from Nash County to be there. Friends and family brought side dishes: all manner of baked beans, breads, banana pudding, green beans, mashed potatoes, macaroni salad, green salad. It was nothing short of an extravagant feast, and it was delicious. I was absolutely blown away by the generosity of each and every individual that gave to this event, and it reminded me of some of the wisdom I had learned from Betty: "when you are in a community, you know each other's gifts, you wrap around each other's gifts." From the set-up, to the eating, dancing, celebrating, cake-walking, and clean-up, there was a natural and spontaneous sense of that wrapping around each other's gifts, and the responsibility was shared, and therefore lightened, by everybody. In this time of social and political uncertainty, dare i say, upheaval, I was struck by how the simple act of creating fun and celebration with your own head and heart, and the things and the relationships you have available to you, can create a richness that money can never buy. I think this is sustainability in its highest sense, and I think it is healing. The garden has a history of this healing; as Anathoth's website explains: "The story of Anathoth Community Garden began in 2005 after a murder occurred down the road from the Garden site. Cedar Grove United Methodist Church held a prayer vigil for healing and peace at the site of the murder. Mrs. Scenobia Taylor was present at the vigil and had a vision that she was to donate 5 acres of her land to the church for the healing of the community." This has become what Anathoth is today, and I experienced a little bit of that healing last night. Thank you to keri, Betty, Dwight, Anathoth, and the community of Cedar Grove, for wrapping around each others gifts. I am grateful to be a part of it.
And later that night, Keri and I enjoyed some cake:
The next morning, Jasper and I enjoyed that distant cousin of cake, the Pancake, and meandered around Hillsborough until we found the local bookstore, The Purple Crow. The proprietress, Sharon Wheeler, was happy to learn about the book, and ordered some for her store. So here's a footnote about buying local: most any bookstore you walk into will order a title if their customers ask for it, so asking for Cake Ladies in a store that doesn't carry it is a great thing to do. And if you want the convenience of online ordering while still supporting your local bookshop, you can order on and have it shipped to you through your local bookstore.
The end. xo

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall 2011 Book Tour: Pig Pickin' in Cedar Grove, NC

My friend Keri and the community of Cedar Grove, NC, home to one of the Cake Ladies from the book, Betty Compton, have put together the following event down east in Cedar Grove, NC to celebrate Cake Ladies.  This people of this community garden have been a friend to me and to the Bountiful Cities Project here in Asheville, and I feel so deeply honored to be in such fine company.  I feel so grateful, too, that the community put this together on their own, to celebrate this wonderful woman Betty who has given so much to their community.  I'm getting a little teary again.  

You Are Invited to a
Book Signing, Cake Walk & Pig-Pickin’ Potluck:
 At Anathoth Community Garden!
On Tuesday, October 18th
From 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Please bring a dish to share!

The book, Cake Ladies, Celebrating a Southern Tradition, written by Jodi Rhoden will be available for purchase at the event as well as one of the featured cake ladies, Betty Compton! Jodi and Betty will be there to sign your copy of this amazing new cookbook, featuring delicious cake recipes, inspiring stories, and beautiful photography.  Betty will be the guest of honor at the cakewalk with her famous pound cake. You can also bring a yummy cake to put in the cakewalk.
There will be live music with fellowship, fun and great food. 
Come join us and bring a friend!

Directions: Hwy 86 North from Hillsborough - 7 miles; take a left onto Carr Store Road; go 1 1/2 miles to flashing stop sign. Continue straight on Carr Store Rd. approx. 1 miles & take a left on Mill Creek Rd. & 1st right onto Lonesome Rd. The Garden is on the Right.
(In case of rain, the event will move into the Cedar Grove UMC Fellowship Hall at the corner of Carr Store Rd. & Efland Cedar Grove Rd. - next to the post office.)
For more info go to or call the church office at 919-732-8405.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cake Ladies Book Release Party, Sunday October 16!

Please join us for a cake-filled, kid-friendly, cocktail-licious celebration of the publication of Cake Ladies. This will be my home-town send-off before a few months of travel promoting the book, and I would love to see your beautiful face before I go. We're gonna raffle books, flowers, cakes, and t-shirts; Calliope Cut Flowers decorates, Miss Glo pours and Michael Tangelo DJ's. $3- $5 suggested donation for the raffle, no one turned away for lack of funds. Books will be on hand for purchase and signing; a few of the book's featured Cake Ladies will be in attendance, too! The venue is the lovely, renovated church on Forsythe Street, in the 5 Points neighborhood. From Downtown, go down Broadway and pass 5 Points, take a Right on Woodrow. Take you first left on Forsythe and park anywhere that's legal. Respect the space and the neighbors; we gonna have a good time!