Falling Flat

Did you watch Cake Boss? Or the Holiday Baking Championship at Christmas?

Me neither.

I tried Cake Boss but couldn’t do it, and not just because of Buddy’s New Jersey accent—because of the caliber of cakes these “amateurs” put out. It’s nothing I relate to. Same with the holiday baking show: I knew when the contestants threw together a cranberry meringue pie or a white chocolate, pear, and fig morning bread at a moment’s notice, it was over. Amateurs, indeed. But back to Cake Boss.

I’d love to learn cake decorating, and if my second attempt (see? I’m not totally unrealistic.) looked anything like the cakes on TV, I’d do it. And the beauty of being a glass-half-full person is that in my mind, my cakes would look like that, with fondant smooth as glass and roses so realistic your allergies would flare.

How I imagine it looking.

But here’s what would happen:

First, there’d be stacks of unfrosted cakes reminiscent of the Leaning Tower of Pisa that were too lopsided/stuck-to-the-pan-to-come-out-cleanly/homely-to-be-resurrected-with-frosting—your pick—to bother with. The cakes that were salvageable would be lopsided/homely when I was finished with them.

My fondant would look like a patchwork quilt and my roses would be mistaken for globs of frosting that dropped when the decorating tip fell off the bag. Oh, they’d taste fine, as long as you ate with your eyes closed.

How it would look. As you can see, I’d give up on the roses altogether.

But that’s not what keeps me from trying—what keeps me from trying is my family. They’re polite. To a fault.

I’m not sure if they’d encourage me because life’s just easier that way or if they’d genuinely desire being force-fed cake for the rest of their lives, but here’s how it’d go down:

My cake would sit magnificently on an elevated plate in the middle of the table—no dessert in front of the TV tonight!—like the turkey in that Norman Rockwell painting. Once it had been duly admired, I would cut it, serve it, and pretend not to see the sideways glances when they eyed Mom’s creation, their looks of pity and disbelief. I’d ignore their praise spit out in short bursts, belly laughs threatening to escape. But still, I’d know. A mother always knows.

So I’ll keep my cakes in my head, where they’ll always be perfect, and stick to knitting. Because I do a mean garter stitch.


(Images: CC:Flickr)

Me, Only Better

It’s been said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. For the sake of argument, I’ll pretend that’s true (though really I don’t, because I spend an awful lot of time with the Target cashier and know nothing about her). Now, if it was true, and we could choose those five people…well, now we’re talking.

Who would your five be? Here are mine, in no particular order:

Carrie Heffernan from “King of Queens.” Is she a little brash? Maybe. Sarcastic? Perhaps. But you’ve got to hand it to her—the girl speaks her mind; in that regard, she’s my alter ego. And I know for a fact she uses MAC lipstick.


Mother Teresa. To counteract the Carrie Heffernan qualities.

Erma Bombeck. A healthy mix of the two.

Betty Crocker. I love watching “Top Chef,” but “lemon vanilla crème with mint puree and hazelnut sable” for dessert? C’mon–give me brownies any day.

Bill Gates. Not for his philanthropic nature or even his business sense. For his technological know-how. Recently my husband told me to stop using data on my iPhone because we’d almost reached our limit. He texted this to me, which I found ironic—I thought texting was data. I rest my case. Actually maybe I don’t need to channel Bill Gates. Maybe an average fourth-grader would do.

Sure, It’s Funny. But Am I Allowed to Laugh?

The other night I saw a Jack-In-The-Box commercial promoting their breakfast burritos. The tagline was, “Burritos so big they make everything look smaller.”

I stared at the TV, then rewound it.

Yep. I saw it again.

Little people, dwarves, midgets—call them what you will—holding burritos the size of bricks.

Initially it was more surprising than funny. The funny came the second time around.

But was it funny? Was it allowed to be funny? If I’d seen it in public (like in those grainy newsreels where crowds gather outside the appliance store’s plate glass window to watch catastrophe unfold on the town’s only TV) instead of in my own kitchen, would I have shook my head and muttered to strangers, “Well, that was in poor taste,” or would I do what I did in private: Say “Ha!”?

Likely I’d walk away silently, and when I got home I’d find it on YouTube to show my husband. Because taste aside, it was funny. Maybe just not a public kind of funny.

I’m not sure when the societal shift occurred, when we were deemed boorish for laughing at Blazing Saddles, et al. Is it because we’re perceived as laughing at people, people who are different than us? Because I’m here to say, I don’t discriminate. I laugh at myself more than I laugh at strangers.

I also laugh at Asians, blacks, and gays. I laugh at Russians, Hispanics, and Native Americans. I laugh when people do or say funny things, regardless of their income or religion or where their parents came from.

But that commercial made me squirm. My “Ha!” was a “Ha! How clever! But can they do that?” not a “Ha! Midgets!” Okay, maybe some of it was the midget part, because it was unexpected. I felt bad, though, because those little people weren’t saying or doing anything funny. They were just being themselves.

And for me, that’s the difference, and why I felt bad: It’s not funny when people are exploited. But give me cowboys waiting in line at a tollbooth in the middle of the desert—or better yet, around a campfire eating beans—and I’ll laugh every single time.