An American in Durham: Let them eat cake!
I begin my post earlier than usual this week. It’s Monday, around three pm, I’m at Starbucks and working on my second pastry. I’m really trying to read for my essays, but it’s been one of those weeks, though it’s only just begun.
When I’ve had a bad day, I can be soothed by dissecting a slab of cake, preferably chocolate, in order to get icing with each bite. Starbucks is an excellent haven for my Monday Blues. I pretend I’m back in America, ordering liquefied desserts masquerading as coffee, such as the Crème Brule Latté. In America however, chocolate cake is not sold in Starbucks as it is here. This would be too obviously a dessert. Brownies, scones and muffins can parade as snacks or breakfast food. Evidently, America has a need for something sweet around four pm, but is afraid to admit it.
Starbucks, in its marketing genius, has acknowledged this need as the Duchess of Bedford did two centuries ago in England. The Victoria Sponge Cake was introduced then, and now Starbucks have given America cake pops—a very American analogism to cake at British teatime. Like many popular American foods, no utensils or dishes are required; cake pops can be eaten in mid-air off a stick. Cake in lollipop form suits Americans well, as they are also unwilling to acknowledge the richness of their food, or more specifically: eat a slice of cake in public. Admirably, British people have no qualms about doing this.
Thus, I ate my slice of Chocolate Yule Log with ease on Monday. When I first arrived in Durham I was, with exaggeration, shocked to see people eating cake in coffee shops at four or five in the afternoon. “Won’t you spoil your dinner? Isn’t cake supposed to be for after you’ve finished all your veggies?” my inner child protested. But then I had my first slice of afternoon cake at Café Continental during Internationals’ orientation, a magnificent chocolate truffle creation. I discovered that four is a much better time for cake than after dinner; it’s a surprising and private treat, like finding a ten-pound note on the street. I have even seen a few students have cake for breakfast at Continental or Flat White. As Bill Cosby famously said in a routine, “eggs, milk, wheat, that’s nutrition!” If you have no idea where this reference came from, you are probably not American. Nevertheless please Google “Bill Cosby Chocolate Cake” for a continued study of the topics covered in this reading.