Book Post: Emergency Contact

Don’t just read Emergency Contact…Experience it!

I read Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi during my ongoing deep dive into literature set at college. A big part of writing is identifying titles that are comparable to your own works. This book was a fun read along my journey to discovering some for myself.

Here we go, no spoilers: Penny, the introverted aspiring author, wanted to escape her hometown–and maybe more importantly her mother–by heading to college. Sam, the not-quite homeless aspiring documentation, wanted to cut ties with all of his vices, which also means all of his friends. But when Sam has a panic attack that forces Penny out of her bubble, their paths are suddenly intertwined. So they become each other’s emergency contact, the one person they can call or text for anything. The only problem? When two isolated people finally have someone to confide in, relationship boundaries can get a little fuzzy.

Sam enjoys baking, and what he bakes is directly linked to his mood. If the cases are sparse at the coffee shop where he works, buyer beware. If the cases are full, it’s safe to make eye contact with him and even have a conversation. A happy Sam is a baking Sam. I can relate. 

There’s no doubt about it, I cook because I care. Therefore, I cook for the people I care about. I can’t remember a time I didn’t do this: German chocolate cake for my dad’s birthday, M&M cookies for the trumpet players in my section, cheesecake for my husband, pineapple upside down cake for my father-in-law, cinnamon bread for Papa, white chocolate cranberry cookies for my mom, gooey butter cake for my sister-in-law, carrot cake cupcakes for my brother-in-law, donuts for my other sister-in-law, giant ginger cookies for my daughter’s godmother, chocolate cookies for the best friend…you get the picture. 

Because I know how I feel about cooking for others, I feel exceedingly special when someone takes the time to bake for me. My Grandma Dorothy would make the best cinnamon rolls every time I visited and lemon meringue pie on my birthday. My amazing friend, Alison, has on multiple occasions–my wedding shower and several birthdays–made me the most delectable chocolate raspberry cupcakes. I’m talking so good I dream about them. So many tasty desserts. However, one of my absolute favorite recipes, which was first made for me by my mom, and then passed down so I could make it for others, is a chocolate sheet cake.

Coincidentally, sheet cake is Penny’s favorite type of cake. So while reading Emergency Contact I obviously wanted to make it and eat the entire thing. Actually, sharing is more appropriate, because it would be socially unacceptable to not allow anyone else in the house to partake, especially when some of them are children.

The idea of the cake is significant in the story, because it represents the way people who care about us show us they care about us by noting seemingly insignificant details about us, and then later making it known that they remember said details. It’s how you know someone is paying attention. It’s like when my five year old son used his iTunes gift card to purchase a song for me on my birthday, because he noticed I was playing it on Spotify a lot. It makes your breath hitch a little.

For Penny, the detail is the cake. She claims she likes it made from a box, which to Sam, and myself, is sacrilegious. To ensure that no one has to ever eat sheet cake from a box, I will bequeath my sheet cake recipe to all of you.

The Cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 T Cocoa
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 cup water
  • Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  • In saucepan, heat butter, cocoa, and water on low until the butter is melted.
  • Add milk, egg, and vanilla to the dry mixture. Mix well.
  • Add the cocoa mixture. Mix well.
  • Pour into sheet pan.
  • Bake at 400 * F for 20 minutes.

The Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 T Cocoa
  • 6 T Milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 5 minutes before the cake is done, heat butter, cocoa, and milk in a sauce pan to boiling.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Dump powdered sugar in a separate bowl and add about a half cup of the cocoa mixture. Stir until smooth. It will be thick. This is the only way I have found to make keep my glaze from becoming lumpy.
  • Add the rest of the cocoa mixture and mix well.
  • Pour hot glaze over hot cake.
  • Enjoy!

Happy baking.

There you have it. As you read Emergency Contact, take the time to consider the little things you can do to show your favorite people you care. Maybe even show your love by making one or more of them a sheet cake from scratch. They will not be disappointed.

If you haven’t already read Emergency Contact, what are you waiting for? If you already have, why not pick it up again? Either way, take my advice when you do–don’t just read it, experience it!

Want information about purchasing this book from Neighborhood Reads, a local Washington, MO book store? Click above!

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