Take my Cake — Please

“I can resist everything but temptation.”
—Oscar Wilde

Today is the birthday of my cube mate at work. When I arrived this morning, she alerted me to an Irish whiskey cake she had made and brought to the morning news meeting. “Better go downstairs and get some while it’s still there,” she said.

It was getting rave reviews around the office. “It’s like you bought it at the store,” someone said.

“I made it without eggs and without milk,” she said.

“You made a cake for your own birthday?” I asked.

“Yep,” she said. “And there’s a coffee cake that someone brought in, too.”

I thanked her, but I decided to abstain. I’ve been trying to train myself to understand that, just because food is there, it doesn’t mean I am responsible for eating it. If there are sandwiches left over after a meeting, I do not need to take one with me if I have already had one. If there is a slice of pizza left, I do not need to eat it.

I will always curse my upbringing: “You don’t leave the table until that plate is clean.” Oh, how often did I hear that? I swear it’s the reason I have an almost pathological refusal to waste food, and why I am so utterly frustrated by people who pick at the edges of their lunch or leave just a single bite behind. If I can’t take it with me for later, I need to consume it. I cannot, I must not, trash it.

It’s a difficult reaction to change. There are surely implications for world hunger and the impoverishment of countless of my countrymen to consider!

While downstairs on my way to a meeting, I happened to see both the whiskey cake and the coffee cake on the table in the newsroom. Is it the cake, I wondered, or the whiskey that’s Irish?

I saw napkins and crumbs. I saw people licking their fingers. I avoided the siren call.

There were donut holes there on Friday, too, but I didn’t take any of those either. I don’t even like sweets that much. A plate of cheese and crackers, and I’m the play thing of temptation. But with cake I felt safe.

However, a few minutes later, at the meeting, someone mentioned that the birthday girl should go fetch the cupcakes someone else on staff had made for her.

Cupcakes, too?

Naturally the baking dish was placed directly in front of me on the conference table. While my boss delivered a highly insightful presentation about packaging news content for the web, I was forced to cope with the insidious fragrance of processed sugar and vanilla. And rainbow sprinkles.

I backed away from the table as fast as I could when the presentation was over. Eric, 3. Cake, 0.

I was nearly through the day, there was about a half hour left before I was going to leave, and the birthday girl plunked down a large brown paper bag on the desk next to me. She had just returned from shooting some video somewhere for a story that was going to run on the site later on.

From the paper bag she procured a white box. Another cake. This one was a two-layer lemon cake, with a lemon curd layer between, dusted with a light glaze and lemon cake crumbs.

When life gives you lemon cake, what are you supposed to make? I had dutifully abstained all day long. How much cake can fate fling at one man? How much flung cake can a man be expected to ignore?

I not only took a slice, but I cut myself the largest one.


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