Tomato soup . . . what?

Yeah… I know what you’re thinking. It’s a weird name for a blog, right? Tomato Soup Cake?


Why, that’s just disgusting!

But you know what? There really is a cake made with tomato soup, and it’s not the least bit disgusting. In fact it’s oh, so delicious….rich and spicy, filled with nuts and raisins, layered with cream cheese frosting. My mother’s mother made this for her little ones years before I was even born and now my family has it every Thanksgiving and Christmas, year after year. We love the stuff so much that my Nana’s original handwritten copy of the recipe hangs beautifully framed in my mother’s kitchen. My sister and I have tried to improve on it, tried to somehow get around that addition of canned tomato soup, but it just doesn’t work, doesn’t taste the same. The Tomato Soup holds the batter together, and lightens the cake. We always go back to Nana’s recipe.

Recently, I wondered why on earth anyone would ever create a cake made with tomato soup. In my mind canned tomato soup is one of the most odious of foods. The sight, the smell conjures up images of elementary school cafeteria..bowls of the lukewarm orangey-red soup served alongside greasy grilled cheese sandwiches and limp green beans. I don’t think I have ever actually tasted the stuff- I never could get past the smell! How could such a delightful cake come from such a substance? and what on earth would possess someone to ever conceive of including it in a recipe? Well, as it turns out, Tomato Soup Cake was an invention of necessity. As I am sure you know, during the Great Depression many ingredients were not readily available to homemakers. They “made-do” with what they had…and they survived. But occasionally, there was a really creative gal who didn’t just survive, she thrived. I think of that depression-era homemaker standing in her kitchen, wanting to make a cake for her family, but missing a crucial ingredient. Maybe she went through her cupboards to see what she did have, and laid them all out before her….flour, baking soda, sugar, raisins, nuts, spices. A bit if this and a bit of that, and a humble can of Tomato Soup. When there were no eggs, she came up with things like Tomato Soup Cake.

And I have been thinking how Tomato Soup Cake is sort of an analogy for my life over the last ten years or so….if you will permit me to wax philosophical for a moment (if one can be philosophical about something as mundane as Tomato Soup). All my life I have desired to be a wife and mother, a homemaker. Through the 70′s and 80′s when no self-respecting young woman admitted such aspirations I held onto that dream. I married and we began to fill our house with children. I worked a few years while my husband was attending graduate school, and then, oh joy of joys, one day I quit my job and started on my career. I decorated and sewed, cooked elaborate meals and baked bread. I babysat to bring in extra money and we adopted some more children. I gloried in my immaculate house and beautifully dressed children. Then sadly our marriage began to deteriorate…and in August of 2000 my husband left our home. Although we are still married, we are legally separated. Although I will never divorce my husband, I doubt that we will ever live together as husband and wife again.

In a way, I feel like that depression-era homemaker….standing in her kitchen wanting to make something wonderful but lacking an essential ingredient. I want to make a solid Christian home, a haven for my family, a foundation for my children, a welcoming light to this sad and lost world. But how can one do that with a failed marriage, with this very, very human and flawed single mother in the leadership position? I am lacking an essential ingredient….or am I? I look at what I do have- the flour and sugar of a solid faith, tried over decades; the spices of creativity and humor; the fruits of blessings, children, friends and a cherishing church family. At His prodding, I pull from the back of the cupboard something not quite as tasty… a dusty forgotten can of humility, self discipline, submission to His will. Reluctantly added in, somehow it binds and leavens the mixture. It may not be the chocolate layer cake, or the Boston cream pie that I had originally dreamed of, but it’s good. It’s solid and sustaining.

God knows best. That is what I am learning. He always gives us “enough”… enough to accomplish the work He has given us, with enough left over to share. Enough to be content, and even enough to be joyful! He is teaching me to walk in Philippians 4:8 day by day, and to rejoice in this beautiful life He has planned for me.

Come along… walk beside me.

Cuz I sure could use the company.

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