We like to eat at my workplace. The team I am a part of actively seeks excuses to go out to lunch, to bring celebratory baked goods to share (Hooray! Did you hear? It’s Tuesday!), and to coordinate pot-luck feasts. While I appreciate the camaraderie and the good eats, it sometimes gets to be a little overwhelming and I find myself trying to hide when I see the pastry box coming around the corner.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that we had the occasion to go out for lunch on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday- my poor salad sat wilting in the fridge looking less appetizing by the day, and was pretty sad looking when I finally ate it today- and we have had three cakes to share this week- one for every day of the week thus far! On Monday we had a birthday celebration, Tuesday was a farewell, and today, well, today we happened upon a bake sale, so naturally we needed to buy an entire cake. I was managing to exercise my willpower pretty well until today when I heard the magic words that send me into a hypnotic, eating-everything-like-Garfield-eats-lasagna (with both paws and a wide open maw) state: carrot cake.
I love carrot cake. The moist shredded carrots, that velvety, slightly sour cream cheese frosting; it is perfection in a 9″ round pan. Carrot cake, especially when it is not homemade, is often the victim of poor handling and can be underwhelming and bland. I’ve had my heart broken by a grocery store carrot cake a time or two before, so when I saw that the cake purchased from the bake sale came in a commercial box and not the trappings that would have been provided by a home cook, I thought I was safe. And then I heard the rumblings:
“It’s so light,” someone whispered.
“Real cream cheese in that frosting!” I overheard.
“The nuts on the edge are candied,” was tossed over a shoulder by a colleague passing my desk.
I tried to console myself and reinforce my willpower (It can’t be that good, right? It’s just that free cake always tastes better than not free cake, right?), and I managed to hold out until three thirty when I walked by the open cake box. This was no grocery store hack job, this was the real deal. Yes, it looked light and moist, yes the frosting was a creamy, ivory color that only real cream cheese can provide, and yes, there were candied walnuts pressed into the outer edge of frosting, but the real nail in my coffin- the raisins.
No carrot cake is complete without the raisins. There should never be nuts in the batter and there should always be raisins. End of story.
As I cut myself a piece and sandwiched it between two paper plates for the drive home (I was determined not to allow myself the pleasure of devouring it until I had at least gone to the gym), I felt a little bit of me die inside, and I wondered if this was how Superman felt when faced with kryptonite? It is so hard, as a social creature, to resist the daily sabotages that pop up in an office setting. Someone is always offering a taste of this, and a bite of that, and not only is eating a very communal thing, but I also feel badly if, on Monday, I sample Sandy’s cookies, and then on Wednesday I turn down Marcia’s brownies. Nobody, and I do really mean nobody, wants to hang out with the Debbie-downer who eats only wheat germ and yogurt and glowers at everyone else with a superior sense of self-satisfaction while watching them happily roll around in their cream cheese frosting.
I know my officemates already think I’m a little weird for being a vegetarian (meat is the base of the Hawaiian food pyramid, the next level is pineapple), so I’m careful to not appear too wheat-germy, but when you really get down to it, I’m a rolling around in the frosting kinda gal at heart. My hope is that I have a savior in the office- someone who was willing to take one for the team and bring what was leftover of this beautiful cake home to share with their family. I know it will be hard to resist if, when it’s time for elevensies, I open the fridge and see that tasty treat is up for grabs; there is no contest between it and my usual snack of oven-roasted almonds, and I can already taste, in my mind’s mouth, how it will compliment my morning tea. Although I gave in to the siren call of the cream cheese today, I at least prefaced it with a trip to the gym, and my hope is that I won’t fall victim to it again tomorrow.