coffeecake: voting for perfection

The crowd delicately coiled behind a dirty white minivan, weaving through a red Camry and back around a blue Lexus.
Without realizing it, we had wrapped ourselves around the quintessential American symbol: cars the color of the American flag.
The wait promised to easily exceed an hour, and I wondered who was the lunatic that assured me early voting at this unknown, dilapidated poll was a guaranteed twenty minutes.
Probably the same lunatic that spoke to the lady with the walker, the couple with the frustrated four-year old (we just started, kid) and the aunt and her overly enthusiastic nephew, whose high-pitched voice and pimple-laden face made me question if he indeed did qualify as a first-time voter.
These folks were my neighbors for the morning, and when we’d be done, we’d end as friends, regardless of whom we wanted on our ticket.
In fact, our stance on healthcare, Iraq, or taxes never even came up.
We had other platforms to discuss on this uncharacteristically chilly Florida morning and they began with our youngest representative sitting in the bright green umbrella stroller:
“I’m hungry”, cute nameless child wailed.
“We’re almost done” her mother lied.
“Sit tight and before you know it I will get you something to eat.”
Those of us around the child knew that if her inquisitive blue eyes weren’t buying it we shouldn’t either, still, we longed for her mother’s words to be true.
There was no telling when we’d have the privilege to perform our civic duty but a snack sounded tempting to every one of us just the same.
“What I’d do for a cup of coffee,” Aunt X grumbled to her nephew loudly enough so we could all commiserate.
“Such a windy morning, yeah, I could go for a hot coffee”, a man (looking very much like Joe the Plumber) chimed in.
“Dunkin’ Donuts hazelnut,” someone begged behind me.
“I think there is a Starbucks on the next corner,” another voice promised, even though that corner wasn’t going to help us much in this line.
I started salivating just thinking of a cup of Joe, more specifically, my home-brewed marroncito coffee, which is Venezuelan for “little brown one.”
My days are fueled by a steady infusion of this drink, made in my reliable espresso machine; using only the finest Venezuelan beans my husband faithful hauls back from his business trips there.
Securing this coffee is no simple feat: the brand I favor is reserved for restaurants and local bakeries which boast huge Gaggia machines that nurture the country’s obsession with this addictive drink. Years of string-pulling with the right people have secured us our tasty caffeine, making me fortunate enough to partake of it here in Florida. Even though I already had consumed my allotted two morning cups all this talk of coffee had me buzzing for more.
The child, still glued to her stroller, looked up at us indignantly.
She seemed shocked that we could be so selfish as to distort her request for food by digressing into some obtuse adult adoration of a beverage other than apple juice.
“Mom!!!” she wailed much more forcibly.
“I said, I’m HUNGRY!”
Her mother, (who looked as if she could use a marroncito herself), began searching frantically in her purse.
She was a good mother.
I knew this because she had a very big purse.
All good mothers have big purses, magic bags that house any given item a restless offspring may desire.
She was sure not to disappoint.
The child (and I) watched in anticipation.

Her eyes squinted as she bravely groped the inside of her bag.
Suddenly, she stopped, as if stung by something, but instead of a scream of pain a warm smile spread across her sleep-deprived face and her hand made its victorious exit.
A gold package glittered as it left the cavernous confines of leather hell and sparkled in the bright sunshine.

It was a bag of Teddy Bear Graham crackers.
I wasn’t impressed but you’d think the girl won the lottery.
She squealed with delight.
“GIMME, GIMME, GIMME,” she demanded.The proud mother handed over the bag that was surely to be gobbled up in a matter of minutes.
Still, a couple of minutes of sanity was better than none.

I looked at the mother and smiled. She looked at me and returned a grin. We’d done it again, our exchange seemed to confirm.
I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me, but we were both mothers (my sleep-deprived look must have given me away) and therefore her victory was mine as well.

I leaned over to her and whispered, “What we need with our pretend coffee is a good coffeecake.”
“With lots of cinnamon”, she bounced back with a skip in her voice. Under the crunch of her daughter’s snack, waiting in our early voting line that would stretch out a couple more hours, we closed our eyes, not to envision a day with John McCain or Barack Obama, but simply one with the perfect coffeecake.

The Perfect Coffeecake

¼ lbs. soft butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat butter and one cup of the sugar until fluffy.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Stir in sour cream and vanilla.
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and stir into batter until smooth.
Spoon half the batter into a greased 9-inch square baking pan.
Combine the remaining sugar, nuts and cinnamon and sprinkle 2/3 of it over the batter.
Top with remaining nut mixture.
Bake 50 minutes or until done.
Serve warm.
(Makes 16 servings)

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