Friday, May 10

Nicole Taylor Takes the Cake

Lemon-coconut stack cake. Photo by Nicole Taylor.

SFA guest blogger Nicole Taylor is Brooklyn-based writer and radio host with Georgia roots. You can follow her on Twitter at @foodculturist. 

“Let's do a cakewalk!”

I over-zealously emailed this suggestion to my CSA (community-supported agriculture) group as a fundraising option for a farmer wiped out by Hurricane Irene in the late summer of 2011. Silence ensued.
I remember my first experience of musical chairs and numbered, layered confections at the Thomas N. Lay Community Park in Athens, Georgia. The centerpiece of the fete was a long table of grand, stout, tall, showstoppers: coconut filled, chocolate covered, and vanilla laden. Popular radio tunes from the boombox filled the air while kids strutted in a circle to win desserts. The songs stopped, and the winners swooped up the prizes.
Young ladies do the cake walk in Van Cortlandt Park, New York City (date unknown). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

According to narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, cakewalks began as a pastime for southern slaves, where individuals mocked the ballroom-style strides of their masters and the best dancers were gifted a cake. After emancipation, the plantation dance became popular in white Northern nightclubs and was then labeled a dance style.

The cakewalk—both the dance and the game—has almost vanished from pop culture and grade school carnivals. I'm ready to do it again. With the growing movement of food swaps and blogger bake sales, I’m predicting a comeback of the entertainment that put smiles on the faces of young and old, black and white.