When we moved to the States, twenty some years ago, communication with our far-away relatives and friends was fairly limited. Most would send letters…in envelopes, with stamps. My grandmother sent pale blue aerograms, neatly tri-folded, addressed to us in her slightly obscure handwriting. (Surely they don’t even make aerograms anymore?)

There were obscenely early trans-hemispheric/oceanic phone calls on our birthdays, that lasted less than ten minutes and mostly consisted of ‘hi’ and ‘how are you’ repeated many times because the connection was tenuous. And honestly, what can really be said in such a short amount of time?

This week I marveled at how technology has changed the way we communicate.

My second cousin (he’s technically my dad’s cousin but a few years younger than I am) has ‘friended’ me on Facebook. So, though I haven’t seen him in at least eleven years, I have gotten to see pictures of him, his parents, and sisters at his recent wedding. Which is nice and slightly weird – having access to people’s personal moments without the need to exchange a single word with them.

I’d changed my (Facebook) status update this week to say that I was making a cake. My ‘cousin’ commented, wondering if I was making one of his mom’s recipes.

His mom, my great aunt Joey, is something of a kitchen goddess. She has published several cookbooks over the years. And when we used to visit, she was always busy in the kitchen; making sure there was enough to eat, I suppose. I remember she usually wore an apron over her dress (I’m pretty sure she never wore slacks). There would be baked goods resting on the countertops. And her own canned goods neatly lined up in the cupboards.

My cousin’s comment reminded me that Aunt Joey probably had a chocolate cake recipe like the one I was looking for this week. Plain, old-fashioned, with cocoa frosting. So I responded to him that I’d love one of her recipes if he could find one. Which was a slightly odd exchange with someone I hadn’t seen or spoken to in more than a decade.

Next time I logged onto my email, there was an email from him. With several scanned pages from two of her cookbooks.

Incredible, and incredibly kind of him.

(Now if only he’d translated it!)

Aunt Joey Pienaar’s Chocolate Cake (which received 1st prize at a Pretoria, South Africa, show in its day…apparently)

4 eggs
1 tbsp milk powder
1 ¾ c sugar
½ tsp salt
2 c flour
½ c cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
½ c oil
2 tsp baking powder
1 c hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs and vanilla until frothy. Add sugar, bit by bit, and beat until mixture is a pale yellow color.

Sift dry ingredients – twice – in a medium mixing bowl. Mix oil and water in a separate bowl.

Slowly add flour mixture to egg mixture while beating on low speed.

Add water/oil mixture and mix with a spatula until well blended.

Pour mixture into two round cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until done.


250 g powdered sugar
4 tbsp butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp cold water

Cream the butter and gradually add the powdered sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add water and beat until light and fluffy.

I shall have it at the ready next time the artist disappears.

One thought on “Technology

  1. see this is what i’m talking about–your fascinating life! i only just found out you were from south africa right before the photo session!!


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