After her mother’s death in 2007, Nancy Spiller discovered her mother’s teaching credential buried in the midst of a recipe box. Her mother had taught for only one year before marrying and having four children. Spiller realized that she had probably been her mother’s best and only student in the kitchen.
Compromise Cake explores Spiller’s life in the suburbs of Northern California in the 1960s, learning to cook by her mother’s side, as remembered through the recipe box. It touches on lineage, and industrial changes; it is a meditation on men, women, marriage and the concept of compromise.
What emerges is a portrait of a woman whose hopes, dreams, and desires for herself as a career woman, writer, and artist were stifled by the pressure to pursue the conventional female role as wife and mother, but found expression through her daughter, an author and artist. This is a memoir that extends beyond Spiller’s relationship with her mother, and is universal for all mothers and daughters, and what, as they say, is baked into the cake.