Warning: this post contains self-realization and some extremely tenuous metaphors, as well as a fairly ridiculous call to action. It’s long-winded and crazy, kind of like me. It starts out with a depressingly blatant personal history, but I promise that it gets much more interesting if you hang on just a paragraph or three. Thanks, the mgmt.
Those of you who know me well know that I have been struggling with an eating disorder since 2001. I’ve been through all manners of calorie restriction and over exercise, and my weight has fluctuated from 103 to 150 lbs and back again. I’ve relapsed three times, and it’s caused me to miss out on some incredibly important life experiences as well as lose friends and life dreams.
I feel like this last year and a half has been my time of healing, despite the constant struggle between my desire to be “normal” and my desire to be thin. I finally feel like I’m starting to find a balance–and that balance began when I became a vegan in August.
As crazy as this might sound, until this year I never tried my own cookies. Since the days of baking giant bowls of cookies every night for my friends at the University of Florida, I have always relied on others’ feedback to direct my recipes because I was too afraid of the calories. And as crazy as this might sound, since I’ve become a vegan–often considered an “extreme” way of eating–I’ve found a balance with my diet. And in finding that balance–in realizing that enjoying a cookie doesn’t mean that I’m “cheating” or that by eating less than 130 g of protein or more than 200 g of carbs I’m not going to suddenly lose my ability to fit into my favorite jeans–in finding that balance I’ve finally, for the first time, tasted my cookies. And I realized: I’ve been missing out.
I’ve been missing out, and I’ve been looking at my own body in reference to the fitness models I’ve idolized the same way I imagine that cookies look at cupcakes. (Don’t run away–I promise that this metaphor will make sense!) Cupcakes, like models, are a beautiful, elegant ideal, perfect for display. Cupcakes, like models, can be dressed up in a million different ways, the perfect, gorgeous compliment to any main event. Cupcakes, like models, are meant to stand alone, a decadent “mine-all-mine” experience. The cupcake trend just makes sense.
Or does it?
Which brings me to my point: I hate cupcakes.
Okay, I realize that the above is an extremely inflammatory, potentially future-friendship-killing, slightly exaggerated statement with a number of exceptions (like the amazing chocolate cupcakes I once shared with my friend Ian over an exceptionally paired glass of Malbec at Sweet Surrender before going to Marie’s Crisis to sing show tunes in the Village)…
So let me qualify: I don’t hate cupcakes. I just really don’t understand them. They’re not good. I mean, I get it; they’re mini cakes. Everyone gets one, and no one has to worry about getting the smallest piece because your father, who wields a power saw just fine while tinkering in the garage on the weekends, suddenly develops a mean lack of depth perception and scale as soon as someone asks him to start slicing a birthday cake. But isn’t sharing the cake part of the experience of eating a cake? Cake is about celebrating a big event or a milestone or a “just because” together. Cupcakes take the reason for cake out of cake.
And, frankly, cake isn’t all that good. In fact, if the words “fudge” or “ice cream” are not included, or the otherwise bready, cloyingly sweet “confection” isn’t covered in icing and sprinkles, I don’t recommend wasting your time eating it. (And don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about: at least half the kids at your class birthday party in elementary school licked all of the frosting off of the Publix cupcakes your mom sent you to school with, and then threw away the bready hunks wrapped in cupcake paper on their way out the door to recess.)
I understand that there are some incredibly talented cupcake artists out there, but honestly, I’m less impressed by those who can dress up a cupcake in all sorts of icing swirls and gum paste bells and whistles, and more impressed by people who can bake something that other people want to eat. Call me crazy.
That’s why I love cookies. No, cookies don’t (usually) have the visual appeal of cupcakes. You can dress them up with frosting and sprinkles, but they’ll never reach the same height of elegance associated with their cake-y cousins. But who needs that? Like a model who stands isolated on the pages of a magazine, a cupcake will never be a part of the communal, down-to-earth, just plain tasty experience that is a batch of cookies. You can share them, you can save them, you can savor them. No one seems to mind that they’re not all the same shape–though they’re all made from the same batter, every cookie is unique. And even in their uniqueness, they’re all-and pardon my colloquialism, but there’s really no other word for it–just yummy.
The more I think about it, the more I see the parallels between myself–a uniquely shaped cookie–and the fitness models I aspired to be. And I realized that I’d rather be able to fit in the cookie jar with my uniquely shaped friends and family than be displayed behind glass in someone’s artisan bakery. I’m not going to let go of my health–I’m going to continue to find the balance–and if that means sharing a vegan cookie with my brother in between my green juice and my roasted tempeh, then good. I’m not going to miss out on the experience of being human because I’m worried about how I’ll look in my cupcake wrapping. (I told you the metaphors would be tenuous!)
And so, my promised call to action: I think it’s time to buck the cupcake trend. It’s time to say unto the food industry: You can have your Cupcake Wars and your Magnolia Bakery and your trendy little personal cupcake box. It’s time to say, “I’ve got a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies in the oven, and I’m perfectly okay with that.” And so I say: DOWN WITH CUPCAKES, UP WITH COOKIES!
(And if you’re with me, I’ve got some vegan chocolate chip cookies I’d like to share with you!)