Monday, November 23, 2009

The Cost of the Cake

A funny thing happened at the cafe this morning. I was paying for my chocolate cigar and when the barista rang me up I saw four digits flash on the register. Wow, twenty-one hundred dollars for a chocolate cigar. I guess I shouldn’t have asked her to douse any white powder on top of it. She laughed. “Oh, is that what reads on your side?”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “I see the dot now, but I never noticed a three decimal place on a register before.”

Maybe I’m not so observant. Maybe I was starving for my morning sugar rush.

I mulled over the sweet treats that could warrant hefty price tags. First on my mind was Miss Havisham's wedding cake. A single slice would probably ring in at two grand. Also J. Peterman’s Christie’s bought cake from King Edward the VIII wedding and maybe even the bit of Napoleon I snuck off Ann Bancroft’s plate in Fair Harbor when I was five-years old, dining with my mom during our annual vacation on Fire Island.

Okay, so maybe that last one doesn’t weigh in as high on the fiscal scale, but the memory was golden.

I have another child memory that probably better captures the irrational exuberance of sweettooths. It happened at an elementary school bakeoff in which two dads tried to show off who had the deeper pockets. The bidding war started over a single brownie then moved on to a whole dish and then ended up being over a whole table. I remember the wild joy gleaming in Sister Mary Ellen’s eyes. She must have been thinking how awesome it would be for her, a transfer nun/schoolmarm, taking the competition. Sister Ruth, the unhabited wonder Queen of Sheeba of our school, was not about to go down without a fight. She kept pestering Mr. Langone to throw a few more bills into the bid.

“It’s for a good cause,” Sister Ruth kept saying.

And Mr. Langone obliged. Nobody saw any money come out of either Mr. Langone or Mr. Fernandez’s pockets. They raised their hands as I imagined big-time bidders at Sotheby's might do bidding over a rare painting.

At some point Mr. Fernandez scrunched down to look eye to eye with his daughter Marisol. I really didn’t know her all that well, she was a second-grader, but she glowing with hope that her daddy would do whatever it took for her class to win to coveted pizza party. He nodded as his daughter pulled at the elbow of his Burberry's sleeve and you just had that feeling he was done. He was probably thinking what a waste, three hundred eighteen dollars worth of Betty Crocker. It would rot his daughter’s teeth, put a hole in his stomach, and would only be a harbinger of things to come.

Mr. Langone dropped out at three hundred and fifteen dollars. You could see the sweat cooling on his forehead, but what a relief. His bratty kid Charlie didn’t say goodbye to his dad when he shipped off.

I was ambivalent with regards to the whole matter. None of my folks were wasting their coin on this competition. I wasn’t even into these cheesy baked goods. I brought my A game to magazine sales.


  1. Overpriced snacks are the curse of the civilised world - far worse than global warming and so forth.

  2. Wow, our bake sales were just little crappy things moms sold on Election Day.

  3. Magazine sales had more underhanded stuff going on. Maybe I'll do a post on one of those episodes.