BYOBC Bring Your Own Birthday Cake: a Restaurateur’s Rant
One of the few advantages of doing the laundry is that I claim whatever flotsam I find floating around in the pockets of my family member’s dirty clothes. Bus tokens? Mine now, thank you very much. Refillable, works-in-a-hurricane, butane lighter? Wonderful, thank you. Gift cards? Terrific. Chanel lipstick? Oooh, very nice. This is now mine. Actually, I think this is mine anyway. Mega blunt? Lovely, cuz the old glaucoma has been acting up lately. Best of all is when I find money. I often collect a few bucks in coins clanging around the washing machine after a spin and, occasionally, I might even launder a $20 bill. My kids are clearly too lazy and, apparently, too well off to check the pockets of their clothes before dumping things in the laundry bin. I see my laundry-related monetary gains as well-earned rather than ill-gotten; rather like really poor wages, a lousy bonus or a crappy tip. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who has ever unfurled a teenage boy’s sweaty sock before tossing it in the washing machine is deserving of generous cash acknowledgement.
When my children were very young I was still working as a lawyer. Notwithstanding the gruelling hours at work and the punishing lack of sleep, I would come home from the office to feed, bathe and read bed-time stories to my children. When they had all toddled off to sleep I would sew curtains, knit sweaters, hang wallpaper, de-louse the cat, clean the eaves, milk the cows, churn the butter, thresh the corn and weed the driveway by flashlight. And then I would bake cookies. I didn’t want my kids taking Chips Ahoy cookies to school in their lunch boxes; they were going to have homemade treats if it killed me. I couldn’t have the stay-at-home moms, with their sly stink eye, judging me like they were some kind of corner office senior partner. And then I would do the laundry.
When my oldest son was still in primary school, when he was maybe 8 or 10 years old, I began collecting the quarters I found in his school clothes. At first, I didn’t think much of it; he did get an allowance after all. But then the coins started adding up to more than his allowance. What was going on? So I asked him: “what is going on?”
“You know how I always ask you to buy Oreos for my lunch?
“And you know how you never do?
(And I am thinking to myself that I stay up all night making homemade cookies instead of buying Oreos because I am guiltily and stupidly competing with the perfect, cookie-making, vacuuming-in-pearls-and-pumps, stay-at-home moms because I feel bad about working when I really should be home with my children making forts out of the dining room furniture, or hunting for fireflies at dusk, or whatever good, non-working mothers do.)
“Well, I found a way to have Oreos at lunch.”
“Really? How so?”
“At lunchtime, I trade my homemade cookies for Oreos. Plus 25₵. Per cookie.”
“What did you say?”
“Well, everyone else brings Oreos. I bring homemade cookies. I want their Oreos. They want my homemade cookies. They have lots of Oreos but I don’t have very many homemade cookies, so I trade one of my cookies for one of their cookies plus 25₵. It works out well for everyone.”
I am floored. Flabbergasted. And then I am strangely and immensely proud of my enterprising, evil genius son as well as my genius-mad cooking skills. The plain fact of the matter is that delicious homemade cookies trump store bought cookies every day of the week. Or, at least every school day.
Some of my children are more impressed with my baking skills than others, at least from a culinary and non-monetary perspective. In my home, as in many homes I expect, when you are having a birthday you may request your favourite birthday cake. My youngest son chooses chocolate layer cake, my oldest son asks for cheesecake and my daughter, who doesn’t like cake (at least, I think she’s my daughter, but it’s hard to imagine any progeny of mine not liking cake), gets a double batch Rice Krispie cake with fresh raspberries and chocolate sauce. One time, my oven decided to die as I was about to start preparing my son’s birthday cheesecake. The only answer was to run out for a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake. So I said to my youngest, who was about 6 years old at the time:
“Hey buddy. Wanna come to the store with me?”
“Well, it’s your brother’s birthday dinner tonight and the oven is dead so I have to go buy him a cake.”
“What?” [Cue a sharp intake of breath – a gasp really – a scary movie soundtrack and a small child’s horrified expression.]
“You’re going to get a ‘store-bought birthday cake’ mom?”
“Uh, no buddy, I just need to get some birthday candles and balloons!”
“Let’s go mom!”
When we get back from our bogus, maintaining-a-child’s-innocence, utterly unnecessary, birthday candle and balloon expedition, I frantically google ‘no bake cheesecake recipe’. A short time later, baking crisis averted and faith in mother retained, the homemade birthday cheesecake is presented and devoured.
Doesn’t every parent strive to maintain traditions and illusions? Doesn’t every parent want to preserve their child’s innocence? Don’t we all have Easter egg hunts for our adult children? No? Well, surely, Santa still puts presents in their Christmas stockings? No? Well, for sure parents still produce their child’s favourite birthday cake. But here’s the thing. Even though my son wanted Oreos instead of homemade cookies when he was little, he would turn up his nose at store bought cake. No one likes store bought cake. And I mean no one. No one likes vanilla-ish sand with blue-tinged, hydrogenated so-called frosting. Nothing in the food kingdom is naturally blue, even blueberries (which are purple). Blue is not an appetizing colour. Why would anyone want to put a blue, flower-shaped blob of petrochemical-topped sawdust in their mouth? Normally, of course, no one would. So why do people still bring these atrocities to restaurants when they are celebrating someone’s birthday? That’s no celebration, that’s an abomination. Please, do not BYOBC (Bring Your Own Birthday Cake).
At our restaurant, the desserts are all made in-house. Cakes, pies and cookies are made every day, from scratch, with real butter, cream and vanilla beans. Even the ice cream is house-made, hand-turned, creamy wonderfulness. And if you want a birthday cake, we will even make one for you. Carrot cake? Sure. Banana cream pie? Why not. Chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich? Of course. We even know what sacher torte mit schlag is and how to make it. And we’ll put a candle on it. And my operatically-trained son will sing you a ‘Happy Birthday’ that will bring the house down. There are trained, experienced and highly qualified chefs in our kitchen, please don’t insult them (or your guests) by serving a grocery store birthday cake atrocity. God forbid any of our other restaurant customers think that we had anything to do with your tawdry taste in confectionery. Do you love your daughter as much as I love mine? Well, you quite obviously don’t or you wouldn’t ask her to choke down cake-shaped, oleaginous gloop.
Why do people think it’s okay to bring a birthday cake to a restaurant? Would you bring your own tablecloth, wineglass¸ salad dressing, BBQ sauce, chair or chicken breast? No? Well of course not! So don’t bring a crappy ass, insulting birthday cake that you bought at the corner store and on which some pimply-faced teenager scrawled a misspelled felicitation like “Happy Birtday” or “Congatulations” just because you want to save a couple of bucks. In for a penny in for a pound; since you’re already buying dinner just suck it up and shell out a few extra dollars for a proper birthday dessert that truly acknowledges and shows your love for your family member or friend. If you insist, and ask really nicely, we can even make you something out of Oreos…