Originally published in the Lebanon Reporter on April 12, 2007
There is a cake in my house. A cake is not frequently present at the Hutheson’s. For Easter, however, my wife made one - three layers of carrot-infused, cream cheese-frosted goodness. It’s delicious. We shared it with our neighbors, left some with them, but we were still left with way too much cake.
It is sitting in our laundry room, where it is ten degrees cooler than the rest of our home. We use the laundry room-entrance to our house as the main way we come and go. That means I walk by this cake several times each day. When I do, it beckons me. I'm not exactly sure what it says, I guess I don’t speak it’s language. From its sultry tone, however, I know it is promising pleasures of the flesh - immediate gratification with no mention of the post-pleasure guilt that will surely burden me afterward
It is not too great a temptation when others are around. In the presence of witnesses, I exhibit a respectable amount of restraint and self control. A modest-sized helping for post-Easter dinner dessert. Maybe a second piece later that night as an only-on-holidays, semi-indulgent snack.
When I'm alone, it is a different story. They say that character is what you do when no one is there to watch. Such is the case with cake character. I don't have much cake character.
When left alone with a cake, I fold like a cheap card table. I give in to temptation - cake for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between, until there’s nothing left on the cake plate but scant traces of dried frosting. I can get by with this behavior when I’m left alone for several days. Upon my wife’s return she’ll assume that it got stale and I throw out a good portion.
When time alone is short in duration - a four hour trek to the mall, a girls night out - the staleness assumption doesn’t work. A half a cake can’t disappear in the time it takes to see a chick-flick at the local cineplex.
That’s why I developed abilities as a cake shaver. I can exercise surgeon-like knife skills cutting a cake in ways so that the casual observer won’t recognize that any of the cake is missing. For example, the maximum-yield cake shaving can occur when there is half a cake. This classic technique is accomplished by extracting a paper-thin slice that spans the entire exposed surface-area of the cake. It’s not a pretty slice but it results in a satisfying portion.
Even cake shaving has its limitations. You can get by with two, maybe three shavings but anymore than that and even the most geometrically challenged will look at the misshapen portion and figure out that what was once a half-circle is now a half-oval.
Intellectually I realize that cake shaving might be a symptom of a more serious problem - cake addiction. But I’m not an addict. I can quit anytime I want. It’s not like I cake shave at work. OK, so maybe I occasionally cake shave at work - all those darn office parties. I’ll quit one day but this is not a good time. There are two family birthdays coming up this summer.