I remember it well. Every time I see icing roses on a cake, I immediately travel back in time to a summer when I was around age 10. I would spend my summer days at work with my mom, usually perched atop a filing cabinet in the front window of the animal hospital, or playing on the intercom system pretending to be collecting clients’ past-due bills. One day, a staff member had a birthday and the celebration was made complete with a beautiful store-bought cake. My child-eyes settled on the pink rose decorations, and being the youngest person at the “party,” I was of course offered my pick of the cake slices. I eagerly selected the one with a huge pink rose balanced on the top and carefully retreated to a corner seat of the boss’s office to indulge in this heavenly treat. I first ate the cake part, then the icing, saving the rose for the last bite. And even though I had been meticulous up to this point, the rose was to be devoured in one swooping solitary bite. I closed my eyes, raised the fork to my lips, and…
A fleeting second later, I knew something was dreadfully wrong. What had posed as a sugary sweet, delicately shaped flower of butter cream icing was revealed to be something far different. Worse. Way worse. It had the consistency of cake icing, but it tasted like…like…airplane glue!
(Allow me to clarify. If I had ever tasted airplane glue, I would imagine that it should taste exactly as this icing flower tasted. I would expect absolutely no difference. But no, for the record, I have never actually tasted airplane glue. That’s just gross.)
That single icing rose left an indelible impression on me, to say the least. Twenty years later when I started my cake business, I would remember that pathetic excuse of a decoration as I carefully piped butter cream roses for my cakes. I was single-handedly going to insure that no other person had to suffer the airplane-glue of cake décor. Not if I had any say in the matter!
Now that you understand my disdain for abhorrent crap cleverly disguised as dessert, let’s move into the present. I have a sweet tooth. Got it from my grandmother, or at least that’s her story. And I’ve seen her go after dessert, so I’m not doubting! I have gone through most of this life loving chocolate. (Um, actually, I’d swim in it if I could. Throw in some cream cheese, and I would be perfectly happy to drown in it. But that’s just me.) However, I never knew how duped we were in our sweets until recently.
My friend Jessica shared with me that Kit Kat bars tasted 100% better when she was in England than they did here. Why? Once again, it’s because of the fillers and crap that other countries don’t bother putting into their foods. But here in the good ol’ USA, we do. We add wax to our chocolate and artificial colors to just about anything that will stand still. And we call it candy, dessert, snacks, and treats. I had no idea how prominent this fact was until I tried organic dark chocolate and organic lollipops.
Seriously. Without all the added colors, preservatives and extra petroleum-based fluff, food can taste good. Really good. No, I don’t mean like McDonald’s-French-Fries good. Waaaaaay better. Get past what we are mired in every day. Reach above it all and insist on something better. Taste and see. When real fruit is used to flavor candy, the result is amazing. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a lollipop kind of girl. Hard candy really isn’t my thing, but I remember getting all excited when I’d go with my parents to the bank and the teller would send me one of those green suckers with the looped stick. Cute, but pretty tasteless. (The sucker, not the teller.) Of course, I didn’t realize then how tasteless it was because I had never had anything better. But now I have, and there’s just no going back.
Now, while I’m on the subject of artificial colors, I’d like to point out that refrigerated pie crusts (the ones in the box where you can roll them out if you need to, or use as-is) have artificial colors. If you’re like me, your first thought is, “Really? They make an artificial putty color for pie crusts?” Sort of. They use Red 40 and Yellow 5. Now, I can’t remember the last time I made a pie crust from scratch and said, “It’s almost ready. It just needs a little more orange!” So I’m tempted to lose my manners and ask a very serious “What the _____?!” It’s flour and water and some butter, for Pete’s sake. No one expects it to look like anything else. Besides, I’m going to bake it to a near-brown anyway. So why the extra colors?
In the end, I may not know why, but I certainly know why not. I am just pleased as punch that following through on the why not has led me to some really sweet treats! Now, go buy some SunSpire almond butter cups, or some Green & Black’s dark chocolate, or some Yummy Earth suckers. Hurry…Halloween’s coming! 🙂