Decline of A Family Tradition

carrot-cakeIt began innocently enough..in the heartland of America as families gathered together to celebrate the 4th of July. I attended a typical American cookout at the home of my favorite relatives Patricia and Wayne Campbell.
A scene out of a Norman Rockwell drawing took place before my very eyes as a gathering of Aunts,uncles,cousins ,spouses & their children were present to celebrate the ultimate in Americana.
A festive atmosphere and good cheer were prevalent as we enjoyed all that has become tradition in America,as well as my extended family. We caught up on the lives and times of one another and shared family traditions as well as summer fare.

Perhaps it were the recently announced end of a family tradition in brewing, as Anhueser Busch a long standing family run St. Louis institution had just been sold to a Belgian conglomerate In Bev?

For what ever reason clearly absent from the feast was one of our beloved family traditions, my aunt Pat’s renowned Carrot Cake.! It had become as familiar and comforting to me as Cardinal baseball,cold Budweiser,and the unmistakable voices of summer, Jack Buck, Harry Carey & Mike Shannon that echoed throughout the Midwest on the powerful KMOX a St Louis broadcasting tradition.( That is until the Cardinals bought an ownership stake in a low powered local station and moved their broadcasts to maximize revenue for the new ownership.) another Midwestern tradition gone to hell in a hand basket.

Yes perhaps these events could be pinpointed as contributors to the news we were shocked with that day. When asked ” Aunt Patty, wheres the Carrot cake”? my kind loving aunt looked me in the eye and announced to the friends and family gathered at the kitchen table that day, that ” IT REALLY WERE NOT CARROT CARROT CAKE SEASON”. the statement spoken in her soft uplifting voice somehow hid her guilt in the object surrender of yet another tradition?

Can it be attributed to the disintegration of such long standing time honored institutions that she herself had witnessed fall by the wayside? Were it simply the fact that age were creeping in and surrounded by several generations of family she was simply tired? It were none the less disheartening to this author and other family members within earshot that day.

I have tried repeatedly but could not let this go. for the sake of tradition as well as my selfish love of sweet confections, and knowing this sweet woman whom i have admired and loved my entire life would never lie to us,I decided rather than hurt her feelings, I would investigate further this shocking news.
Perhaps it were true? I lied to myself as i tried desperately to recall events and holidays from my youth and tie a season to her production of this delightful treat.
Alas I could not. It had been a year round source of enjoyment that i held close to my heart,and identified with my aunt.

Did she not realize the cake itself were like a fabric holding together my memories of childhood with the present? My cousins and I sharing the common bond of childhood and family over a piece of cake.
Try as I might I could not let it go.!

using my Agronomic background and the Internet I set off on a journey of discovery. were there a decline in carrot production occurring? were there some new strain of bacteria or fungi that were infecting the carrot crops worldwide leading to god forbid…..Carrot shortages? what would be next….Carrot rationing?
I set out to do some research.perhaps i could save at least one tradition or find an alternate source so my aunt could carry on? did she not realize that in addition to tradition this cake provided beta carotene that the body metabolized to vitamin A? did she not know it helped our vision,was rich in fiber,anti-oxidants & minerals?

Sadly i learned that my Aunt was indeed making exscuses. indeed my instincts were correct. there were no Carrot shortage! there were no Carrot Famine!

as I researched the subject it turned out that quite the opposite were true.

Carrots a member of the Parsley family were quite healthy in their edible benefits, but as a crop as well.

It turns out the United States was the 3rd largest producer of Carrots in the world. trailing only the Chinese and the Russians in total production according to The Food industry National Portal I researched on the web.

Perhaps it were my aunts strong sense of Patriotism causing this new stand on carrot cake? I realized we had recently elected a democrat as President? I knew this troubled her as well.

That argument was quickly dispelled by pointing out that instead of boycotting Carrots, the patriotic thing on her part would be to increase production?

did she not realize that actual production in the United states had exploded?

in 1990 American Carrot production was equivalent to $251.7 Million .
in 2004 that production had sky rocketed to more than $518.00 Million .

A thriving domestic industry! and During these tough economic times , could she not see it would simply be wrong to abandon this one thriving industry?
As our days are consumed with Bank failures, Insurance company and brokerage bailouts, the sinking auto Industry , and real estate mortgage crisis’s. Could she not see the benefits to continuing to bake that cake?

Just yesterday as an act of kindness and as the gift i would enjoy most, my aunt and uncle came by to present a Carrot Cake to me as a Christmas present. Needless to say this author was overjoyed!

As we exchanged gifts and sat visiting, we admired her latest addition to what has become a holiday and family tradition, the talk drifted to it’s origin, at least within our family.

I sat nearly in tears as my uncle described the original recipe circa 1963. In the food section of the St Louis Post dispatch, Or was it the long defunct Globe Democrat another failed St. Louis tradition?

Regardless I had to choke back the tears as Uncle Wayne shared how tattered and discolored the recipe had become. He described the scene captured on the back of the recipe…. the final piece of the world famous St. Louis Gateway Arch being carefully lifted in place.
I was struck by the symbolism and tradition shared. much like the Arch stands as a “Gateway to the West” for the world to admire. as it remains a source of pride for St. Louisans. I wondered to myself why my aunt failed to see the correlation? That Cake had become as much a Gateway to our hearts and family as the Arch were symbolic to our regional and national pride.

I decided at that very moment it were now my mission to see this delectible treat live on for the next generations of our family, as well as next 4th of July’s get together.

I call for action by family and friends to appeal to her sense of tradition and family……..Save this Cake!

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~ by onthedarkside on May 6, 2009.

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