Drew’s Notebook: Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

On the necessity of an occasional sweet addition

Originally published June 11th, 2024 on Uncle Drew’s Substack – Please subscribe there.

As a big-hearted and large-framed socialist, a good dessert always provides me with an opportunity to organize.

After my annual physical on Thursday, during which the tardy physician almost exclusively lectured me about portion control, I went to HEB to pick up a red velvet cake. The treat served two purposes – I wanted to thank my church members for hosting a youth & young adult fellowship night later that evening, and I sought a temporary reprieve from medical professionals – and countless members of the broader society in which I live – who believe that my fatness is a deleterious drain upon my health.

Over homemade oven-roasted pizzas, we laughed in Leander. Folks shared their summer plans, and we informally discussed church goals. Toward the end of the evening, the gracious hosts pulled out the red velvet cake. Eyes lit up and smiles widened. I used a knife to cut generous portions as one of our members caught us up on the score of the contest between the Mavericks & the Celtics. People licked cream cheese icing off of spoons and chatted about other desserts they enjoy. Two community-oriented boys nearly shared a seat as they played a video game and polished off their slices. We all soon departed, with the cake lying in wait as a breakfast treat for three very deserving people.

A few days later, I caught up with my dear friends and their two-year-old daughter at their home. As we finalized our plans, I knew I wanted to get something from Randalls to add to the spread. A red velvet cake with a chocolate candy flag jumped out to me as I entered the bakery. It drew to mind the red velvet cupcakes I got for my friend – whose house was the destination for the evening – for her birthday several months prior. She subsequently told me that red velvet cake was one of her favorite desserts – a thought that undoubtedly informed my decision-making for the church gathering and this chill Sunday hang.

As a vibrant & brilliant child ran through a fun water contraption, three adults finished sharing life and work updates. I suggested that we go inside to enjoy the cake, and all four of us soon sat around the kitchen table. A toddler’s wide grin awaited me in between bites; after she completed her portion, she looked to her mother’s plate and retrieved the half-slice that was left. She kept alternating between preparing bites for herself and her mother. The sweet red flakes were soon the only things left on our plates, but the joy that they spread flowed through various rooms of the house.

As my 33rd birthday approaches in less than a month, I find myself feeling ever more contemplative by these simple, impactful moments of life. Their necessity and levity impart great perspective at every turn. I have dedicated my life to fighting against the insidious effects of American racism upon Black children; this work precedes me and will succeed me. A cake shared among my community offers a literal and symbolic reminder that sweet moments along an arduous journey are to be savored.

In times of grief, as represented by the banana pudding at my paternal grandmother’s funeral, and times of celebration, like the chocolate cake at my college graduation, I can point to the incredible bonding potential created by food. I have forged deeper connections with family members, church congregants, community organizers, and dates over the complex notes of salty, sumptuous, savory, and sweet portions that arrived during any given meal. I found contentment in my identity and clarity in my life’s mission as people raised forks to their mouths and lowered them back to tables.

I am ultimately grateful to be a Black socialist minister who has the resources to provide meals & sweet treats to my community – as we all labor toward building the mass multiracial movement that is focused on achieving dignity for all people living in the twenty-first century.

I look forward to sharing food with even more comrades in due time.