Friday night, outside of Felix’s school, I heard the auctioneer’s song. “Forty-five,” Fred’s voice boomed out to the sidewalk. “I see forty five for this coconut cake, do I see fifty?”
I was late for the fundraiser dinner, and I’d forgotten about the cake auction; no one asked me to bake for it because my son is not in the grade that’s raising money.
The first year we were a part of The Free School, my love for cake was not a known quotient, and my cake barely sold. The almond paste wonder was bought on pity, when a woman at our table saw how crestfallen I was that my cake couldn’t climb past ten bucks. The next year my passion for cake was assumed and the cake I made sold for more than a hundred dollars. I was sitting on top of my cake world.
“What is cake, but a shape for our hopes and dreams?” Jack asked in a dance piece he made about cake a long time ago.
Cake was the shape of my hopes and dreams for much of my life. I used to spend ages pouring over cookbooks as people’s birthdays approached, trying to think what flavors to combine to show my love for the birthday girl or boy. I wanted the cake to represent everything human, both the real stuff, and all of our potential. This is you, this cake, this is what I think of you and this is what I want you to be, shining and happy and delicious with a lot of candles on top.
I can’t eat sweets anymore. Over the summer, hypoglycemia declared itself on the fifth of July, after a few glasses of lemonade and too many pieces of cake.
Ignoring my sweet tooth was pretty rough at first, but a bigger problem was what to do with all this emotion I have wrapped up in cake and cookies. I’m a baker. This is how I glue myself to the world, with sugar and butter and flour. This is how I fix myself when I feel low. How I fix others. Oatmeal cookies, especially, were a repair kit. Am I me anymore if I don’t bake? I didn’t want to think about it or write about it or talk about it. But Friday, the situation arose.
I walked up the stairs to the dinner and wondered hmm. How am I going to be about cake? Okay, I thought. I’ve been doing fine for almost half a year without living and dying by cake.
The room at the top of the stairs was crowded. One of the students paraded a cake around the room. I crossed its path when I spied Jack. He was sitting at a table with a slice of cake on a Christmassy platter. Picture a classic wedge of cake spilled on its side, thick with white frosting, four layers divided by a generous raspberry filling. Lovely as it was, it didn’t call to me the way other sirens have.
I sat down to eat the dinner Jack saved me, and I was shocked that I didn’t want the cake. Sugar just feels too wrong now. Every once in a while I will have a bite of something but mostly, I know that it will either punish me immediately, and leave me completely jangled, or the next day, and leave me more than exhausted.
This lack of temptation is confusing. I love cake. I love sweets. Or rather, I have loved sweets. I no longer do, and I’m kind of glad for the divorce. I don’t have to feed the demon that wants more and more and more. My energy levels are more stable.
All of you who are still in love with sugar: don’t huff at this declaration. I have been around the block with sugar. I don’t mind if it still has you wrapped around its finger. I would rather not be separated from a whole realm of food, but there it is. A summer’s worth of jams sits down in the basement, ready to jump under other people’s trees. Sweet stuff just doesn’t work for me anymore. And guess what? That’s okay.
Not so okay that I don’t have to write about it. But way more okay than I ever thought it would be. I thought I’d be nothing without pouring my heart and soul into baking. Turns out, I’m still here.