The Last Thing I Loved: Snack Cakes on the Kitchen Floor
Bekkie Jean Murphy indulges in her former love of snack cakes.
Nothing will taste as delicious as a cheap snack cake in my memories. Growing up, we hardly had them in the house. Now that those days are over, I don’t want them. Sometimes, I pass an assortment of these desserts stacked in an aisle at the grocery store, and my childhood-self convinces me to indulge in my nostalgic desires. I drop them in my basket proudly; I’m grown and don’t care who sees my snack cakes. The cashier furrows her brow as she scans my haul and places them in a plastic bag.
I hide the cakes from myself behind my salad spinner — reminiscent of my mother placing them behind the canned green beans to prevent her children from eating all in one day. She hardly succeeded in her endeavors.
My sisters and I would ask for a snack at midday and follow our mother to their hiding place. Once we knew where they could be found, there was no stopping us. A snack cake for dessert after lunch, a snack cake for dessert after dinner, and one right before bed formed the holy trinity. That was the diet we wanted, at least. There were never enough to be shared with everyone in my family, and the abandoned box could be found hanging out in the trash by the time we went to bed. Our willpower was questionable, but we didn’t think about it back then.
All these cakes were enjoyed standing on the kitchen linoleum with our hand cupped under our mouths to catch any of the chocolate flakes. On occasion, we savored our cakes sitting on the floor and followed our meal with drawing pictures in the middle of it all. Our parents stopped questioning why we were there and walked around us to get to the refrigerator.
Today, the moment finally comes where I rip into the cellophane surrounding my reward for a hard day’s work. I bite down, and I am consumed by immense disappointment. The cake is dry, and the chocolate coating crumbles from around it. The cream center is the only thing to save the taste, but there is not nearly enough to make up for everything else gone wrong. My childhood-self begs me to continue eating her favorite treat, and I abide because saying no to a child is hard when you know you can make her happy with such a simple action. The chocolate flakes rest on my palm, and I lick each piece individually to hopefully find the taste in my memory. I eat one a day for the rest of the week. My willpower is still questionable, but I don’t think about it.
In my disappointment, I lay in bed searching for the best petit fours in Atlanta. I devised an itinerary to eat at a different bakery every day, and through this search, I hoped to recognize the taste in my memories — hoped to quiet my childhood-self. The itinerary sat on my desk for a month, and I checked two bakeries off the list before I finally threw it out.
I imagine a world where I can fly to a rural village in the French countryside — where the world’s best and least-known pastry chef would bake me a cake that would invoke the taste for which I searched. In this place, I could return to my childhood and sit on the kitchen floor all through the loving work of my pastry chef.
I can’t afford a plane ticket to that village, though, and all I am left with is torn cellophane and the aftertaste in my memories.