Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ruth Easterling's Better-Than-Sex Cake

Charlotte's Ruth Easterling, who died at age 95 this week, was an unforgettable legislator who brought an undersized frame and an indomitable spirit with her when she came to Raleigh nearly 30 years ago.
She and I arrived at the General Assembly the same year – she as a first-term Democratic representative in 1977 when there just 19 women in the House, and I as a Raleigh correspondent for the Greensboro Daily News. Carl Stewart of Gastonia was speaker that year, the first of two terms he would serve, and he named her to the powerful Appropriations Committee – a panel she would chair years later under Speaker Jim Black.
Ruth Easterling made an impression right away, supporting ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, opposing reimposition of the death penalty and voting for the right of the governor and lieutenant governor to run for and serve a second successive term.
Former Rep. Jack Hunt of Lattimore in Cleveland County was one of many admirers of Rep. Easterling. Folks marveled that this small, white-haired woman – she stood just a little over 5 feet tall – could make such a significant impression on people. In the 1980s when she was in her 70s, she served on the House Rules Committee, which Hunt chaired. On the last day of the session, Hunt’s wife, Ruby Hunt, had made one of her delectable Italian Cream Cakes to be served at the final rules committee meeting.
Hunt loves to tell the story how his secretary brought Ruby Hunt’s cake into the meeting room, and everyone oohed and ahhed over how good it was.
Then Ruth Easterling piped up: “Well, I make a pretty good cake too, Rep. Hunt.”
Jack Hunt said “I’ll bet you do.”
Easterling said, “You know what the name of it is? It’s called “Better-Than-Sex” cake.”
Hunt said, “Well, if it’s got that name, it’s got to be good.”
“Oh,” Easterling shot right back, “It’s not THAT good.”

(By the way, here’s a recipe for Better Than Sex Cake the Observer printed in 1988, sent in by several readers:
Barbara Crouch of Statesville, Helen Brown, Carol Tate, Meredith Moore and Judy Warren of Charlotte, Gwen Brown and Gaye Edwards of Mint Hill, Mary Jane Reel (no address) and Sarah Horne of Spindale, sent Better-Than-Sex Cake recipes in answer to a recent request.
Better-Than-Sex Cake
1 box yellow cake mix without pudding
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple
1 cup sugar
1 package (6 ounces) vanilla pudding mix (not instant)
1 carton (9 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
3/4 cup flaked coconut
Prepare cake by package directions. Spoon batter into a 9-by-3-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees until cake tests done, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine undrained pineapple and sugar; heat and stir until sugar dissolves.
Remove cake from oven and, using a toothpick, punch holes all over surface of cake. Ladle pineapple mixture over cake. Make pudding by package directions. When it is thick, spoon it over cake. Chill cake well.
To serve, top slices with whipped topping and a generous sprinkle of coconut. Keep cake refrigerated.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack - please don't be offended by this criticism of an otherwise lovely tribute to a wonderful person. But why on earth didn't you notice on rereading what you wrote how exceptionally inappropriate your choice of the work "undersized" was? It is a judgment word, implying both that there is an acceptable size, which she failed to meet, and that you are a qualified judge of it. It may have made for a cute lead, but you could have done better, for yourself and for Rep. Easterling. "Pintsized" is trite, I realize, but at least not judgmental - and parhaps that very triteness should have indicated to you that it was kind of a tired lead anyway?

petitetoo said...

I'd rather be undersized than right-sized.

Jack Betts said...

The criticism of using 'undersized' is certainly a valid concern, and I thought twice about using it. Here's why I did: her size, compared to the force of her personality and persuasive ability, was part of what made her so effective. And it was also a part of what made her remarks about her cake recipe so funny. You're right, though; there was surely a better way to make the point, as there often is in this business. Thanks for point it out.

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