Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cupcakes: A Little Bit of Naughtiness

Can cupcakes possibly be healthy? I think this question is important. To me, this question strikes at the very root of our food culture.

I think cupcakes are adorable little confections. A New York Times article calls them "happy-food." I think of a cupcake and I envision the joy of frosting, the pleasure of licking something sweet, the smile on my little niece's face when I hand her a mini-cupcake.

Of course, I do not eat cupcakes. I am much too fanatical, too wildly opposed to eating a food that lacks any nutritional value whatsoever. And cupcakes, decidedly and obviously, lack nutrition.

Perhaps this is why, as the Times article suggests, cupcakes get such a bad rap.

"Cupcakes," the article states, "have recently been marched to the front lines of the fat wars, banned from a growing number of classroom birthday parties because of their sugar, fat and empty calories, a poster food of the child obesity crisis."

And yet, I have to admit, this trend disturbs me. Have we lost all sense of perspective? Have we so messed up our relationship with food that we now consider even cupcakes utterly unhealthy?

What makes a food healthy after all? Isn't this question at least as much psychological as physiological? When we eat, do we not nourish body and soul?

A cupcake is a small indiscretion. (I love how cupcakes have become sex-symbols for some bakers, how the idea of eating a cupcake in the middle of the afternoon equates so perfectly to the idea of a mid-afternoon quickie...a little bit of naughtiness!)

A little bit of naughtiness...


So is it really so bad to eat a cupcake? (A cupcake, after all, lovingly prepared, is not FoodCrack.)

The time article states the question this way: "can emotional value, on occasion, legitimately outweigh nutritional value?"

I think so, on occasion. (I'm not writing an article in defense of cupcake gluttony. I'm merely saying, Hey a cupcake ain't so bad!) I take my cue from an unlikely source, Paul Pritchford, the author of Healing with Whole Foods.

Pritchford writes:

"Do not be so rigid or self-righteous about your diet as to annoy anyone. A bad relationship is more poisonous than one of Grandma's sugar cookies. If you desire such a treat, it is better to have it than stuff yourself with rice to suppress the desire. This causes mental anguish and arrogance."

This, coming form a guy who suggests, as an optimum practice, eating a small dessert only after a "meal" of a "celery and lettuce-based salad."

9 comments:

Steve said...

When I think cupcakes, I immediately think of the Hostess co., the bigest pusher of foodcrack out there. I remember watching the Hostess commecials as child, where animated twinkies and dingdongs would frolic and touch each other on the screen.

The local bakery in my neighborhood makes oversized, gargantuan cupcakes the size of a softball, that defy all notions of small, petite, sexually charged cakes. I never get them. I always instead buy their oversized, gargantuan doughnuts that, when eaten, offend any civilized person's notion of decency. Good thing I'm indecent and uncivilized.

Bert said...

Thank you for coming to the defense of cupcakes.

My fiance was baking cupcakes when I proposed to her.

Mathilde said...

I love mid-afternoon quickies...

I wondered why the cupcake is not part of the French culture at all. Does that mean they don't have mid-afternoon quickies? Or maybe they like "a lot" of naughtiness, the size of real cakes or the variety of patisseries...

Seth said...

Mathilde: Funny, I think the French would love the idea of a "little" naughtiness.

In America, anything more than a "little" is pretty much gargantuan and then all sexual metaphors go out the window. There's nothing especially sexy or "naughty" about eating a quarter pounder, french fries, and a large soda at McDonald's...No, that's not naughty at all, just terrible.

On the other hand, I like your French notion of "a lot"--it actually reminds me of the guy from Barcelona I wrote about in "Chocolate Alchemy"...I suppose the difference is the spirit of the eating...

Seth said...

Steve: To me, "indecent and uncivilized" is the mantra of FoodVibe holiness.

Unbearable Lightness of Frosting said...

This coming from one who openly lists "raw goat cheese" as one of his "interests," how surprising. :)

There is nothing sweeter in life than your own personal little cake neatly wrapped in paper, like a special little present just for you, all shiny and sprinkly and full of oooey gooey carbo-love! MMMMMM....

Stephanie said...

I equate cupcakes with all of the evil women in my office who are constantly conspiring to derail my diet. We have some occasion at least twice a week that calls for someone's novel adventure into the secret world of adorable baking. They were cute once.

Seth said...

Hi Stephanie. Your comment makes me laugh. I know what you're talking about: "someone's novel adventure into the secret world of adorable baking." That comment, actually, is adorable, if yo don't mind me saying...

Stephanie said...

And that is why I like you, Seth. You don't hold my adorable "issues" against me. :-)

(the adorable killjoy has now left the building)