I went to the grocery store yesterday. I ran there alone to grab a few items to restock a household that has been existing on stocking stuffer food, Christmas presents from places like Harry & David and Hickory Farms and, if I’m being completely honest, canned goods that have probably been here since before we moved in seven years ago. It was time for some fresh produce … and foods that don’t taste like peppermint, gingerbread or pumpkin. (Not that I’m knocking that delicious trinity.) So I popped into the neighborhood store intent on grabbing fruit, vegetables, milk, a rotisserie chicken and, of course, a king cake.
I’m just going to assume you know what a king cake is.
Fine. (rolling eyes) It’s a “sweet, sugary and iced Danish type dough that is braided with cinnamon inside and a plastic doll underneath. King Cakes are made of a cinnamon filled dough in the shape of a hollow circle. They have a glazed topping and are sprinkled with colored sugar. Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in New Orleans during the Carnival season.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.)
King cake season starts right as the Christmas season ends (January 6) and runs through Mardi Gras Day. And here it was … January 11th, 5 whole days into the season … and my poor children STILL hadn’t had any king cake yet this year.* By New Orleans standards, this oversight puts me only a few clicks above Joan Crawford. (Please get that reference.)
To preserve my reputation as a loving mother, I went to the bakery section of the store to find the king cakes. There were two kinds. Which meant I had a decision to make. And this was an IMPORTANT one. Because it was about cake. To help me decide, I opened the boxes to examine the cellophane-wrapped cakes inside. Even though they were marketed as the same size, one was clearly bigger and more icing-laden than the other. “Well, THAT was easy,” I thought, placing the cake into my basket.
Then I saw something new on the shelf.
The store was actually selling individually-wrapped slices of that same delicious king cake. For years, I’ve been wishing stores, bakeries and coffee shops would package them this way (for the closet king cake eater on the go). “Finally!” I said aloud in the grocery store, probably to the dismay of several confused passersby.
I reached down to grab two that I could put into my kids’ lunches this week. “They’re gonna LOVE this,” I thought, praising myself for being an innovative genius. But in the middle of the applause in my head, I heard the familiar sound of a needle scratching across a record. (Please get THAT reference, too.)
“There’s only one left?!!?” I said, resuming my public conversation with myself. But then I smiled. If I was a cartoon character, a lightbulb would have appeared over my head. I picked up the single piece of cake and tossed it into the basket next to the full cake. I didn’t think about it again until I was in the check out line and I overheard the cashier talking to the bagger. “We still have some of these?” she asked.
I looked up from my phone to see her holding the individually-wrapped slice of cake. Then I interrupted them, “Well, you DID. That’s the last one. Of course, I have TWO kids so I really wish you had one more.”
“So what are you going to do with this one? Just let them fight it out?” the bagger asked, laughing and giving the cashier a why-is-this-woman-even-talking-to-us kind of look.
“No,” I explained very matter-of-factly. “That one is now for ME. Problem solved. But I need to eat it in the car on the way home.”
The two young female employees both looked at each other like *I* was the crazy one. “Why??” one of them finally asked.
I sighed before answering. “Because …” I spoon-fed the young fools, “if no one knows that I already had a piece, I can guiltlessly partake of the big cake with everyone else.” (And yes. I did say partake.)
I got it. I know YOU get it. The two mothers behind me got it. They even commended my efforts and decided to buy themselves Snickers bars for their own ride home. But I don’t think the two employees got it.
Of course, I could have mothered either one of these young girls. They’ve never had to give away their own food because a child is looking at it in a yours-looks-SO-much-better-than-mine-and-I’m-going-to-have-a-meltdown-if-you-don’t-let-me-have-it kind of way. They’ve never had to deny their children seconds while they secretly shove another helping/slice/scoop/hunk into their own mouths in the kitchen. And they’ve probably never had to pretend that one piece is “plenty” because they’re such ladies that they “couldn’t eat another bite!”
Please. It’s cake.
Who doesn’t want seconds?
So there. I confessed. Now, everyone knows about the extra slice of king cake I ate yesterday. Well, except my family.
Can YOU keep a secret?
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*Correction: After this post went “to press,” my daughter assured me that, prior to the cake purchased in this story, she had already had king cake once before this year. Further, she informed me that she had gotten the much-sought-after plastic baby within it. Guess we’re buying the next cake.