Yes, cupcakes are all the rage these days and this is both a blessing and a curse. All those chic and cutesy little cupcake-only bake shops sprouting up here and there (though not yet in Maine, to my knowledge) have delivered the discriminating among us from those boxed cake-mix confections our well-intentioned co-workers offer up on holidays and birthdays or worse (shudder), those spongey, fakey grocery store yuck-bombs that, admit it, we’ve ALL resorted to at least once in an emergency.
And yet, just as it is with any popular bandwagon you might unwittingly find yourself riding, the cupcake’s swooning popularity feels a bit sour. Here come the passionless opportunists churning out cheap knock-offs, cloaked in fancy packaging with bright colors. Here come the big brands with their over-marketed offerings, direct from the factory farm to the factory baking facility to the supermarket. Here come the legions of semi-homemade suburban mom’s who dutifully do and seek out and consume whatever it is they see on TV. “Yummo!”
Quite a lot has been written about cupcakes lately – from fans and detractors alike. I was aware of it, the way I’m aware of the bickering of crows on my early morning walks with the dog. It was just so much ugly noise. And then I found a recent article in the New York Times about cupcakes and I couldn’t ignore the din any more. I had to add my own voice.
After a bit of background on the fight in some school districts to ban cupcakes over concerns about the amount of sugar and fat in the diets of American children, the author observes that all this cultural agonizing over cupcakes, “has led some to wonder whether emotional value, on occasion, might legitimately outweigh nutritional value.”
When you serve cupcakes, everyone is special. A cupcake is a gift, neatly and deliciously wrapped. And everyone at the party gets one. You don’t share a cupcake (unless you’re weird). And you don’t have to wait awkwardly while uneven and imperfect slices are passed around the table (“I only want a little sliver!” “No, no. I couldn’t possibly eat that much!”). Cupcakes are democratic. They’re the sort of simple indulgence that still feels decadent. This is why I love cupcakes.
My parents were macro-biotics when I was growing up. And I hated it – something in me knew better. I remember being in my grandmother’s kitchen watching her make dinner and asking why she and my grandfather didn’t eat the way we did. Her response has stuck with me ever since. She said, “your grandfather and I believe that everything is okay, in moderation.”